Unmasking A New Villain In The Fight Against Piracy In Nigeria


I think it is really ironic that when we talk about piracy in Nigeria, all we ever talk about are the marketers in markets like Alaba and elsewhere. To almost everybody in the Nigerian music industry, entertainment writers and even the government, music piracy seems to start and end with the local marketers in the retail markets who replicate people’s songs without paying any royalties to the musicians. Nothing can be further from the truth!

As an ardent follower of the industry and a stakeholder who has invested millions in the careers of many artistes in the last 2 years, I am of the opinion that we have all allowed ourselves to feed into the red herring and misdirection on piracy that are probably borne out of ignorance, fear or plain deceit by our leaders in this fight.

As we can all testify to, radio stations are a very big part of our entertainment and music life in Nigeria. With over 300 radio stations blasting music 24-hours a day, I continue to be perplexed that we are worrying about royalties from Alaba when the real money should be chased at the radio and television stations. Afterall, the law is very clear that royalties MUST be paid to the different copyright owners every-time music is played on air.

Radio stations by definition are major consumers of musical works. The programming of most radio stations is over 90% music. The main thing they are selling to the public is music. Listeners tune in to stations like Rhythm F.M. Wazobia, Classic FM, Eko FM, Inspiration FM etc mostly to listen to music. Businesses and advertisement companies also advertise on radio stations because they are reaching their target market with music. Radio Stations will die overnight without music to play for their listeners.   For us to understand the critical component of music to radio stations, try and imagine a Rhythm FM, Classic FM, Raypower or Wazobia FM without playing music for only one month. I guarantee you they will ALL be out of business long before then. Yet, what efforts are being made by these stations to pay the right royalties to those who use their talents and resources to create this music?

Now the irony of it all is that while these radio stations budget billions of Naira every year for salaries, fuel, transportation, repairs, equipments etc, they barely mention payment of royalties to the local artistes in their budgetary allocations. If they did, the artistes don’t know about it or have not felt it. I think the time is right for us to publicly challenge these radio stations on how much they spend as operating expenses every year and what percentage of that goes into paying for the biggest raw material(i.e music) they have been using to prepare their programming.

For those who may still need a context to understand how big this ignored elephant is, I will give the example of a CAR DEALERSHIP. The main thing the car dealership sells is cars. Now, imagine a Car dealership preparing a budget for the year with no budget for purchase of cars! Or imagine a fashion designer store preparing a budget for the year without providing any budget to acquire clothing fabric. Or better still, imagine a newspaper company planning a budget without providing for purchase of newsprint. Yet, that is what is going on in the boardrooms of most radio stations all over Nigeria. They simply take the music for granted simply because most of our artistes are ignorant and desperate for their music to be played.

So, the payment of royalties for music played on radio stations remained a big elephant in the radio room that we have ignored for years in this country and I think it is time that somebody starts addressing this gigantic elephant if we are ever going to have equity and fairness in this country.
While the fight against Alaba pirates is certainly a good one, I think a more rewarding war on piracy should be declared against radio stations and music-based TV programs in 2011. This fight is a much better fight for artistes and collecting societies because the chances of winning and getting paid is much higher than fighting phantoms and vicious faceless alaba pirates that no one can seem to identify. Radio Stations on the other hand, have names and they have identifiable owners. Radio stations are regulated by the government who can compel them to do the right thing. Radio stations are physical entities that can be picketed and boycotted. So, why are we leaving the elephant unfed in the radio rooms while we chase ghosts in Alaba? I think resources of the govt, artistes, lawyers and collecting societies should be focused on the radio stations and music-tv programs in 201. We stand a better chance of winning that fight!
So, I suggest that instead of Chief Tony Okoroji of COSON and Mr Mayo Ayilaran of MCSN tearing each other apart on the issue of who should be collecting royalties, they should come together to make sure our radio stations feed the big elephant in the radio rooms across the country. I also suggest that if the new NIGERIAN COPYRIGHT COMMISSION wants to write his name in history, he should ‘enter’ the radio rooms across the country with appropriate regulations and demand that the elephant of royalties to Nigerian artistes should be fed….
Of course, I understand many of the big names in the music industry are too afraid to confront the radio stations and demand justice because of their reasonable fear that their artistes may be blacklisted by these radio stations but I believe this fight can be depersonalized if the WHOLE industry joins in the fight with a concerted effort using all legal means at our disposal including machinery of state, Court Actions, Boycotts, Sit-ins and Picketing of any station that refused to do the right thing…

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