Tuesday, 28 August 2012
Radio stations will not play music this Saturday
Coalition. The Nigerian Music Industry Coalition isa coalition of the key national associations in the Nigerian music industry. September 1, is being dedicated to drawing national and international attention to the widespread infringement of the rights of composers, song writers, performers, music publishers and other stakeholders in the music industry in Nigeria.
The Nigerian Music industry Coalition has indeed declared September 1 of every year as No Music Day, a day, once a year, to focus on the long struggle for the rights of all creative people in Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria.
Broadcast stations all over the country have been encouraged to devote sometime on September 1 solely to the broadcast of interviews, debates, comments, discussions, and other programs related to the rights of artistes and creative people, as a mark of solidarity with the Nigerian creative community. Similarly, all national newspapers and magazines have also been requested to do special features and editorials on the subject.
Top Nigerian artistes and key personalities in the music industry have been asked to make themselves available for interviews and discussions across the various media to make “No Music Day” memorable.
Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), the nation’s sole copyright collective management organization for musical works and sound recordings has declared an open day at its headquarters in Lagos for journalists who may wish to conduct interviews with officers and members of the society or update themselves with the processes of collective management of Copyright.
Anyone may ask: what is so special about September 1 that so much attention is being paid to the day? Those who know will say that the struggle since Nigeria’s independence for the respect of the rights of Nigerian creative talents came to a head on September 1, 2009 when Nigerian artistes in frustration asked all the over 400 hundred licensed broadcast stations and platforms across the nation not to broadcast any music for several hours. To a lot of artistes, on that historic day in September 2009, Nigerian artistes declared their independence and expressed a refusal to continue to accept what they consider a position of servitude and second class citizenry in their country.
While the request which may have been seen in some quarters as strange had limited success, it set off alarm bells around the country that the patience of the artistic community was about to snap and that it was about time that serious national attention was paid to the pervasive piracy and abuse of intellectual property rights that have devastated an entire generation of creative people in Nigeria.
No Music Day 2009 was preceded a week before by a huge rally of Nigerian artistes, big and small, from every nook and cranny of the nation. At the rally which held at the National Theatre in Lagos, artistes of all colours spoke out in condemnation of the seeming impotence of the authorities as the dreams of thousands of Nigerian artistes are buried under a huge pile of pirated tapes, CDs and DVDs awash and treaded in every market and on every street around the country in open defiance of the law and the rights of the owners of the works.
The big rally at the National Theatre signaled the beginning of a weeklong hunger strike campaign embarked upon by several Nigerian artistes. Day after day, at a hunger tent positioned at the National Theatre, artistes of all ages turned up, spent the day without any food or drink, and in solidarity sent a message to the world: “Enough is enough”. The determination of the artistes was such that a young reggae artiste fainted during the hunger strike and had to be rushed to a hospital where he was revived.
No Music Day 2009 would not have been possible neither would the hunger strike nor rally have been contemplated if the music industry had not resolved its issues, buried its conflicts, and come together.
Successive governments in Nigeria may be blamed for their little understanding of the goldmine that is intellectual property, and the near lackadaisical attitude to tapping this goldmine which can provide hundreds of thousands of jobs for the teaming unemployed young people in our country who are fast being turned into the devil’s workshop.
While the authorities take some of the blame, the music industry must accept its own failure. For too long, it was consumed by infighting, endless bickering, too many big egos, and fratricidal wars over nothing. With so much ego and rabid suspicion, it was impossible for the industry to agree on any initiative and to have the unity of purpose absolutely necessary to deal with the many challenges confronting Nigerian musicians and the investors in the industry.
As a result, piracy took over the industry. From selling music albums for the equivalent of eight dollars, for several years, new CD’s have been sold in Nigeria for as low as thirty cents. In other words, an industry that once sold music began to sell just plastic! And the result was that there was nothing to take home for most of the people who labored in the music industry. Consequently, all the international investors in the Nigerian music industry closed down their studios, packed their bags and baggage and left Nigeria. International music icons like EMI, SONY MUSIC, DECCA, POLYGRAM, etc, who used to employ thousands of Nigerians and contribute substantially to the national economy have fled Nigeria to greener pastures with their investments, leaving so many Nigerians in the unemployment market. The significant Nigerian investors such as PHONODISK, SHANUOLU, TABANSI, ROGERS ALL STARS, MELODY, ANODISC, BEN, AFRODISIA, etc, became shells of themselves and a lot of them withered and died.
It was only July 15, 2009 that hope began to return with the announcement that the music industry has buried its hatchet and has come together under the Nigerian Music Industry Coalition, a coalition of the key associations in the industry with membership cutting across age, geography and interest and with a clear agenda to address the different challenges of the industry. That was a turning point.
Since the formation of the coalition, the Alaba Market pirates that were once untouchable have been constantly raided, arrested and prosecuted following the close cooperation between the Nigerian Music Industry Coalition, the Nigerian Copyright Commission and the Police. In one day recently, during a dawn raid, more than 700 CD piracy machines were confiscated from Alaba market. The alleged kingpin of piracy in Alaba, known as “Alaba King of Pirates” alias “Eze Awalawa” is presently facing trial at the Federal High Court in Lagos for the piracy of the works of many Nigerian artistes such as Tu face Idibia, Wande Coal, African China, Buchi, Bracket, Osita Osadebe, Oliver D’ Coque, Olu Maintain, Plantasheun Boyz, etc. All over the country, a robust raid on pirates is taking place practically every day, from Aba to Uyo to Onitsha to Markurdi, etc.
It was also the Nigerian Music Industry Coalition that brought about the unity of purpose that led to the government approval of Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), one of the most important developments in the Nigerian entertainment industry in the last fifty years. Just two months after the COSON approval, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) the United Nation’s specialized agency for intellectual property in the world, sent a week long technical team to Nigeria to assist COSON with technical infrastructure and training. The unprecedented (WIPO) mission is proof that the world is once again taking Nigeria serious in the area of intellectual property. Other multilateral agencies such as the World Bank have pledged assistance towards the success of COSON. The full endorsements of COSON by senior government officials such as the Honorable Minister of Information & Communication, the Honourable Minister of Culture, Tourism & National Orientation and the Honourable Attorney – General of the Federation must have warmed the hearts of stakeholders in the music industry and given hope for a better future. COSON has held stakeholders fora across the country and working with the core users of music such as broadcasting stations is set to end the many years of trauma for stakeholders and is set to provide new income and employment to many in the music industry. Issues like mechanical rights which had never been dealt with in Nigeria are also now being addressed.
Of course, it is not yet Eldorado for the music industry. The Nigerian Music Industry Coalition must remain strong and Nigerians must say no to piracy as piracy destroys the economic fabric of our nation, discourages creativity and wastes the talent of our youth. Those who bring happiness to all of us deserve some happiness themselves. The Nigerian Music Industry Coalition ought to be commended for restoring hope where there seemed to be none. The way things are going, by the time No Music Day comes again, the Nigerian Music Industry would no doubt be a much improved industry and that is a good thing for our nation.