Ugodre Talks Figures: Kanye West, Akon… what do they all want?
It’s difficult not to imagine there is one grand strategy in all of this as Americans do not foray into territories that do not provide huge potential for making money.
Just yesterday, news filtered in that Konvict Music, the label of RnB mogul Akon had partnered with EME to represent Wizkid internationally. EME as you may well know is a record label co-owned by Banky W and discovered RnB star Wizkid and Skales. This is not the first collaboration for Konvict as they have signed similar deals with 2face and Psquare in the last six months or so. In addition, Koko master, D’Banj and the king of dance music in Nigeria, Don Jazzy similarly signed a major deal with Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music label.
This surely gives these artists a platform to reach an international audience, mingle with the leaders in the music industry and probably finally get into the mainstream and lucrative US market. They also get access to an advanced branding and marketing set up that knows how to turn an artiste, talented or not, into a brand worthy of attracting the ever growing advertising market in the US. Our stars also get exposed to quality music and video production, better song writers, seasoned managers and an all-round star treatment that they could never had dreamed of. But what do Kanye West and Akon want in return?
It’s difficult not to imagine there is one grand strategy in all of this as Americans do not foray into territories that do not provide huge potential for making money. Whilst details do not reveal their true intentions, the following may just be their reasons:
New Market– A lot of folks I speak to suggest that there is a growing appetite for a new kinda sound in the West and that Nigerian music fits that bill. They also attribute the popularity of Nigerian music to buttress their point. I disagree with these assumptions as Americans even with their knack for wanting something new are quite conservative and naive to sounds they cannot relate verbally to. Unlike in Europe where French-African musicians thrive, Americans find it hard to relate with music that is full of contaminated English. It is probably why Femi never wins a Grammy or even any Nigerian based locally. What then is the attraction?? It’s no other than Nigerians living in diaspora. Several sources indicate between 2m to 5m Nigerians live abroad. According to US official records about 1million Nigerians live and work in the US. Unofficial estimates may triple that figure.
That figure cannot be ignored especially for smaller record labels like Konvict and GOOD music. To compete with the likes of Sony Music, Interscope, Arista, Warner Music, EMI etc it makes all the sense that they play in a market where the big labels don’t have the appetite to scout. With popular Nigerian acts like D’banj and Wizkid, they can fill up Maddison Square Garden with Nigerians living abroad as well as their lovers, wives friends and well-wishers. Attracting a revenue base that even the big four record labels would yearn for.
Sell more records– Getting records abroad has never been a problem for local artists. For Kanye and Akon though, it’s a different ball game. These guys will use their networks to draw in revenues that will ordinarily be lost through leakages that are prevalent with a lack of a solid distribution network. The Americans are no angels, they know fully well the immense benefits selling records legally to Nigerians can bring. They will leverage on the back of a more advanced regulated US market to sell records digitally and physically reaching far more Nigerians than our local folks can ever get to. More than ever, Nigerian music will be prevalent on iTunes and other online platforms that serve as a hub for selling the world’s music. Soon, Wizkid, Dbanj, 2face, Psquare will hit a million downloads on iTunes on a regular. By the way one million downloads of a song can be worth $1m (gross).
Brand potential– Nigerians locally probably make most of their money from gigs and shows. However, they make more when they attract Corporates seeking endorsements for their brands. Akon and Kanye see this as a huge potential for making money too. Big western brands like KFC, Coca-Cola, Ford, Adidas, Nike, CAT, Ciroc, etc surely will use Nigerian stars as brand endorsement especially with the influence of big western starts like Akon and Kanye West. With Nigeria’s growth rate projected to be about 7.5% this year, it is hard not to think them and indeed the likes of Mcdonalds, Starbucks, Calvin Klein etc won’t come to Nigeria. The potential is there for major brand endorsement and with potential also comes big money.
There could be a lot more reasons for these guys to want to be associated with Nigerian music but surely the above is a stand out for me any day. Whether this synergy will transform the entire Nigerian music industry, only time will tell.
For now, it’s a win win situation for those who take the chance to join forces with them. For those who don’t, the scrap that remains may be sufficient to at least put food on the table.