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Africa's Music Industry Issues, Part II

TECHNOLOGY Give us some examples of how technology is changing Africa's music industry?

Ewedemi: The GSM has really helped with ring tones and caller tunes. As a result, artists are able to make money. The bluetooth technology, however, allows sharing of music without payments. But, things are happening. Like the latest Nokia phone comes out with an African artist listed as a ring-tone on the phone. The studios are cheaper to run because of software that replaced the actual analogue studios. With a laptop, a four channel consul, a keyboard and a microphone, your home studio is ready at average price of $1,500. In the West, there have been strong opposition, particularly by music publishers and record labels to the whole digitalization of music via ITunes, Rhapsody, and Amazon movement. Does that hold true for Africa's record labels/music publishers?

Ewedemi: For us in Africa, thatís not yet a big problem because most of the population cannot afford blue-tooth phones, Ipods, laptops, MP3s and MP4 players. We still sell lots of CDs and tapes. That is a futuristic problem for us.

DISTRIBUTION Technology has made it easier for African artists to produce, reproduce and distribute music directly to their consumers on the internet, bypassing all the bureaucracies/politics of record labels/music publishers. But, what are the pitfalls of such a "distribution" system?

Ewedemi: For the African, technology has reduced production cost with compact studios and softwares that can do much in little time. The problem is the payment system. We are just evolving an online payment system. So, Africans [in Africa] cannot buy online like that. . . I have said so many times that Africa needs to be at the world's table lobbying and pushing policies that benefit Africa's entertainment and fashion industries. What can African citizens within and outside Africa do to help develop their music industries to make them a force to be reckoned with; and earn a sit at that table?

Ewedemi: First, we need to step up to the standards acceptable internationally. You have to understand that even African banks are finding it hard to get serious recognition. So, the music and fashion industry has to be restructured like the other industries are doing.

INFRASTRUCTURE & LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY Sierra Leone's Chosan and Congo's Kaysha have said infrastructure is needed in the industry. Explain from the angle of artist, manager and record label the current infrastructure and the changes these artists speak of?

Ewedemi: The thing is, there is no structure right now. The definition of artist, manager and record label is subject to the personalities involved. Thatís where an organization like mine needs to step in to create this structure through worldwide consultation . . .experiment with it and share this structure with other African economies. Speaking of your organization, how do you propose to balance issues of accessibility with fairness and proper safeguards as NMIA, for example, tries to create an infrastructure in Nigeria's music industry?

Ewedemi: I guess this is where we have to learn from other creative economies, the structures and safeguards they have put in place to help as we restructure our industry. NMIA is open to music industry legislation and safeguards from around the world. Does NMIA include a Governmental Affairs body that can advocate and lobby for the interests of the industry within and outside Nigeria?

Ewedemi: That is perhaps one of our strongest arms because we are able to have the Government Corporations listen to us. We are presently working on a bill with some members of the Federal House of Representatives to move this industry further.

MUSIC AUTHENTICITY I find African musicians that create unique identities through the use of their native tongue juxtaposed with unique/African beats inspiring and authentic.How do we encourage African musicians to do more of this? I feel that the authenticity has a global appeal and frankly is where the money is, especially in the world music categories.

Ewedemi: I must tell you that the best Nigerian Musicians are fusionist, artistes who have being able to mix local and foreign elements together. The underground advice is rap in your local dialect, infuse a traditional rhyme or do a hook in Pidgin-English. I must tell you we know what the people listen to now.

HOW DO WE REDUCE THE HIP-SLOPS? Today, everyone is a musician. You got folks going into studios, spitting a little "hip-hop" and then releasing it to the masses. A lot of it are hip-slops and lack appeal inter-continentally and globally. How do we educate people and let them know just because you kicked it in the studio does NOT make you a rapper/artist/musician?

Ewedemi: Having been on radio for twelve [12] years I understand this [problem] very much. The structure we intend to create will also include trainings and certifications to get people on the right part of their creative destinies.

MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA There is no doubt that social media is making a huge difference today in how music is marketed i.e. blogs, myspace, twitter, facebooks e.t.c. Do you see these social media replacing the roles of record labels in terms of being the ones that filter the "flops" and declare, the "hits?"

Ewedemi: I must say that the social media is bringing people together and generating discussions around the industry. In Africa it takes you over two hours to download a song from the internet . . . and 90% of the populations can not afford to stay that long on the internet to download a song. We still rely on radio and TV to determine hits. Thank you Wale Ewedemi and congrats on your award and also having the foresight to build a Music Industry Association.

Ewedemi: Anytime . . . thanks for caring enough to want to know the issues from an insider.

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