The shift in Nigeria toward digital platforms like iPods and smartphones for music consumption has done little to ease widespread copyright infringement and piracy in Africa’s most populous nation, according to AfricanBusinessReview.
These technologies only simplify illegal copying, said Iboro Otu, a Nigerian filmmaker and founder of ABillionMen, a media and production company that derives its name from Africa’s population.
The good news is that piracy may be astronomically helping to grow the audience for Nigeria’s musical artists.
For every song bought legitimately in Nigeria, more than 10 pirated copies are sold. Multi-million naira machines allow pirates to mass produce CDs quickly and cheaply.
Most of these CDs are printed in Alaba, Lagos, home to a large market that Otu describes as “controlled by pirates.” Unfortunately, he said, pirates are attractive to record labels due to their printing capabilities and the lack of alternative distribution channels.
“A single CD can feed up to 10 phones or 10 digital platforms, because it’s easier to transfer via USB sticks,” he said. “CD sales are actually lower now than before. In 2008, 8 million CDs were sold. Today it’s way less, particularly when you consider that we have more artists and music.”
Nigeria has no shortage of talented artists capable of making great music, but lack of structure and protection for their content prevents them from receiving the royalties they deserve, stifling careers before they have a chance to get started, the report said.
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Still, there are reasons for optimism. In 2010, 550 albums were produced in Nigeria. Today, that number could be closer to 1,000, Otu said.
He also welcomes advances in production standards, which have improved dramatically thanks to strong revenue from live shows and product placement in music videos pushing artists to excel.
Additionally, online stores like Amazon and iTunes have improved distribution channels, although the overall picture is still “very fragmented,” he said.
Perhaps the greatest positive is Nigeria’s live music scene, where Otu cites “tremendous happenings, producing a lot of revenue for the artists.” He estimates that Nigerian live shows generate more than $105 million annually domestically and internationally.
But what the industry really needs is investors, he said.
“We are beginning to show that we can export our content to Africans in diaspora. However, we’ve not been able to connect with organisations out there,” he said. “I understand their concerns in terms of investment, but the Nigerian entertainment industry and government is generally democratic and showing that we are ready for these kinds of partnerships. I think they are just a few years away.”
Diaspora Nigerians represent a huge and eager source of potential revenue, Otu said. One million Nigerians live in the U.K. alone.
“We need organisations like Sony and Universal coming in with the technical know-how and knowledge of the business side of entertainment, the framework that is working for them: the marketing channels, PR and media,” he said. “Then it is easier to get our finished product over there, promote it, and sell it.”