MTN Corporate Elite 2013: 10 Things

The end-year-office-party season kicked off yesterday, the 1st of December 2013, with MTN’s Corporate Elite 2013 concert at the Convention Centre of Eko Hotel and Suites. This is the seventh year in a row that MTN has hosted the event and man, did they put on a show. These days, I really can’t go anywhere without doing a little aproko, so here are my bits and bobs from the event.

1. Billy Ocean is a LEGEND. End of.

Our man is grey-haired now, being all of 63 years old, and he’s grown dreadlocks along the way. He showed last night, however, that his lyrics are eternal. Reeling out classics like What is the Colour of Love, Suddenly, When the Going Gets Tough, Get Out of My Dreams (Get Into My Car), the entire venue sang along; even the stuffy elite of the corporate elite. Suddenly was particularly tender as everyone, including yours truly held on to their other halves and loved up the atmosphere.

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2. Maxi Priest can saaaaaaaaaaaang!

We know him on this side of the planet for hits like I Just Wanna Be Close to You, Wild World, Just a little bit longer and the like, and he performed those songs to all our delight. However, I’d personally confined the man in the box of my mind to being a mere reggae artist. No people – the guy is an absolute rock star. Maxi Priest brang it and then he sang it. What’s more, after his set, he came to sit in the audience at the table right next to mine. So of course I famzed and he shook my hand. Said hand is currently in a vacuum glass glove, destined to remain unwashed until we cross over into the new year.

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Maxi Priest

3. The Madness that is Awilo

Weeeeeepah! We love Awilo Longomba. We’ve loved him since Comment tu t’appelles? in the late nineties/early noughties. However, he exploded onto the stage and stopped the music after only  20 seconds. “Why you no dennss?” he asked disappointedly, in his thick francophone accent? Then he bust a few bars and held the microphone out to the crowd but only got a muted response. Someone needs to tell him though, that it’s because we sing his music phonetically – we don’t know the lyrics. Praiz  eventually joined him on stage for their new song to close the set.

www.myspace.com/aayaproduction

http://www.myspace.com/aayaproduction (Photo credit: hansgd23)

4. The C.E.O. Dancers

Two of them, anyway. Since their introduction to the continent (you have to love the internet) on Youtube via Britain’s Got Talent, we’ve seen them in a few music videos. Last night, they were Awilo’s dancers. The one with the bleached, short hair seemed a little overwhelmed by it all every once in a while, with a puzzled look on her face, but there you have it – Simon Cowell’s sphere of influence spreads to a concert in Lagos.

5. Put the Effing Tablets Away!

So, Joe comes on stage and all the women are swooning. But not so much that they forget to whip out their mobile phones and iPads. You rush to the stage, your screaming at Joe, he reaches out to shake you, you grab his hand and quickly spin around to take a quickie selfie with Joe? Hian! Even worse, you’re recording the performance on your 20-inch iPad and it’s so fricking large it covers your face. Joe comes over to hold your hand. You give to him, you’re screaming, going nuts yet you don’t put the tablet down so you can actually see his face and look at him properly?? Come on! Live the moment. Carpe momentatis (fake Latin, don’t quote me anywhere, please).

6. It’s the “Corporate Elite”, but Come On!

I was seated at a table with a couple of old folks. I suppose they’re the ones that MTN was really throwing the party for. Sometimes, when you’re in the Lagos Elite, I suppose you are mandated by social etiquette to honour all the invitations that are extended to you. But how on earth do you come to a concert, the whole auditorium rises to its feet because their song just came on and you ask me to sit  because I’m blocking your view? B@%#$ please! Then you wrap yourself up in a shawl, put your head on the table and look miserable all night, punctuating your misery with intermittent sips of champagne from a water glass. Just go home, lady. Corporate/socialite elite or not.

7.The Love of Joe

Joe is so fortunate, from the Nigerian perspective, that it was his music that people in their mid-30s to mid-40s became men and women to, and I don’t mean that in a dirty way at all. If you were in university in the mid-90s onwards, chances are you jammed to Joe (and Puffy, Pac, Ma$e and Biggie…but well…). Your first car, with your first Sony Explode car stereo jammed Joe and you probably have a few memories of relaxing to Joe with your boyfriend/girlfriend at the time.

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Joe got up on the Murray-Bruce’s table. Grandma Murray-bruce gave him a queenly smile.

8. They Know Me?

It was the first time in Nigeria for Billy Ocean and Maxi Priest.  You can tell it’s an international act’s first time usually by how they harp on “Africa” in their ad libs, but that’s a digression. I reckon both they and Joe were surprised at how popular they were, how everyone sang along to their lyrics when they’ve probably never earned a dime in royalties from Nigerians buying their records. Reminds one of the time DMX came to Abuja about 10 years ago and reportedly flipped out, enraged at the volume of bootleg copies of his CDs on sale. Enter COSON? (I’m sure I just made their Board happy).

9. Nigerian Acts

I cannot end without giving kudos to the Nigerian artists that featured yesterday – Praiz, Iyanya, Davido, Saeon, KCee. The same crowd that got on its feet for Billy Ocean, Dru Hill and Joe went absolutely nuts for its local acts. I bash local artists a lot for lyrical content but I can’t know much about music if the music I complain about brings tens of thousands to their feet. So keep on keeping on fellas.

10. The Product is Nostalgia

What’s your selling point, as an artiste who peaked 20-30 years ago? It’s nostalgia. When Tevin Campbell came on, you should have seen them mamas with teenage kids now screaming the lyrics of Can We Talk. When JT Taylor did songs from his Kool and the Gang Days, there was this grandpa in a bowler hat going all groupie on the man. The point is, I think, if you want to live on your music for the rest of your life, it has to be worth listening to 20-30 years from now. And this is me harping on lyrics again. I may not know much about music but whine-am-whine-am-go-down-low will not be paying the bills in 2023. What memories can your audience make to whine am music? The product sold be memory-making music.

Tevin Campbell

Tevin Campbell

JT Taylor

JT Taylor

All in One Place:The Limericks of November

The Victorious Golden Eaglets

GEJ’s brought the rub of the green

The best footie days since my teens

MRIs or not

Three great goals, One shot

Our sorrows, tonight, they are lean

 

The Sacked, Unambitious $1m Ghanaian Minister

Ghana must go, so they went

And the last three decades have been spent

In doing stuff right

And fighting the fight

Of not letting government be bent.

 

Please stop referencing Ghana

And all Dramani’s Drama

While you eulogise

Our government denies

Being a republic of banana

 

Stella “Escapes”  Attack #Stellagate

She purchased those cars, not in jest

And also a bulletproof vest

The House’s report

Is just writing sport

Now sympathy trumps an arrest

 

Turned out the Beamer’s weren’t costly

And we were outraged unjustly

To questions about

Corruptional doubt

Our Prez has replied “robustly”

 

Birthday Blues

Twas Ol’Goody’s day yesterday

50yrs Oswald popped JFK

From school with no shoes

To buckets of booze

No surprise he was poorly today.

 

Christopher Kolade Resigned

Hear Chrissy has chosen to leave

Untainted, he’d have us believe

But all that is sure

SURE-P wasn’t more

Than an ace up ol’GEJs sleeve.

 

ASUU Wants Strike Pay

Did nothing for four months and one

It seemed like the striking was done

But they want to show

Much more than we know

The pen is a BROS to the gun.

Legislature Defections: Sitting Pretty or “Fidihe”?

Since the APC announced its absorption of the breakaway faction of the People’s Democratic Party – the so called “New PDP” – questions have been raised as to whether defecting lawmakers must now vacate their seats in the various legislative houses. This ordinarily should be the direction that the moral compasses of the new members of the APC should point to. If you asked your constituency to vote for you based on your membership of a party and then leave the party after your election, you should ask for their trust again.

However, the issue is legal and not moral. And the principal actors also realise this. In its statement after the defection, the PDP, through its National Public Secretary, Olisa Metuh, the PDP said the governors and legislators were free to leave the party, concluding with the following reiteration:

“We reiterate that the position of the law is very clear – that there is no factions whatsoever (sic) in the PDP.”

In his own press release, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka, the NPDP’s National Publicity Secretary, apparently in response to the nuanced “de-factionalisation” of the PDP, declared that the seats of defecting lawmakers were safe, citing constitutional and judicial authorities for his position.

Sections 68(1)(g) and 109 (1)(g), in virtually identical wording state that

A member of a House of Assembly shall vacate his seat in the House if – (g) being a person whose election to the House of Assembly was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected: Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored.

What this means, in plainer English, is that a lawmaker who switches to another party before the next elections will not lose his seat if the switch is as a result of a division (or breaking into factions) in his original party, or his original party merges with another.

The New PDP, as a result of concerted resistant from the Old/Real (?) PDP, was not registered as a political party by the Independent National Electoral Commission. There is also a subsisting court ruling restraining the New PDP from using the PDP’s logo or parading itself or its members as PDP. Does this mean, as Metuh has suggested, that there are no factions within the PDP? A court would probably need to rule on the point but I would suggest that common sense would recognise  that there has, in fact, been a split within the PDP since the machinations at its last National Convention.

Eze Chukwuemeka, in his press release, also cited a Supreme Court judgment from 1983 which ought to give the new members of the APC some comfort. In FEDECO vs Goni, Aniagolu, JSC (as he then was) said the following, on “cross-carpeting” and Section 64(1)(g) – equivalent of current 68(1)(g) – of the 1979 Constitution:

“The mischief which the framers of the Constitution wanted to avoid was carpet-crossing which, from our constitutional history, in the not distant past, has bedevilled the political morality of this country. They had however to allow for a situation where a political party, by reason of internal squabbles, had split into one or more factions. A split or division could arise without any fault of the members of a political party, resulting in a member rightly or wrongly, finding himself in a minority group which may not be big enough, or strong enough, to satisfy the recognition, as a separate political party, of the Federal Electoral Commission. For such a member not to be allowed to join another political party with his faction may be to place him in a position where his right to contest for political office will be lost. Such a situation is entirely different from the fraudulent and malevolent practice of cross-carpeting politicians of yester years who, for financial consideration or otherwise, crossed from one political party to another, without qualms and with out conscience. Such a practice had to be discouraged by the framers of our Constitution if political public morality of our country was to be preserved.”

This dictum is instructive, as it clearly recognises that a faction may exist even if INEC (then FEDECO) did not register the faction as a separate political party. Taken with the fact that the Constitution permits a departed factionalised legislator to retain his seat, I think the APC can safely put its feet up, at least until the next elections.

Interestingly, it appears one can switch parties whenever one likes and for any reason, without any consequence in the US Congress. See here and here.

SIDEBAR

1. As we are on the subject of elections, I recently stumbled upon some provisions of the Electoral Act of 2010 which bear some significance to the ongoing(?) elections in Anambra State.

Section 102 states as follows:

“Any candidate, person or association who engages in campaigning or broadcasting based on religious, tribal, or sectional reason for the purpose of promoting or opposing a particular political party or the election of a particular candidate, is guilty of an offence under this Act and on conviction shall be liable to a maximum fine of N1,000,000 or imprisonment for twelve months or to both.”

Juxtapose this with the following statement credited to Chief Arthur Eze

“That short man called Ngige, we gave him power and he went and joined Awolowo’s people; the people that killed the Igbo.”

And the following statement credited to Chief Dennis Agumba

“It was Chris Nwabueze Ngige that described the deported Igbos as destitute, just to please his godfathers from Lagos, who are funding his governorship campaign.”

Are these two men guilty of electoral offences?

2. The Parties who insist that they will not take part in the supplementary elections in Anambra State need to know (they probably do anyway) that boycotting would be an empty gesture.

“An election tribunal or court shall not under any circumstance declare any person a winner at an election in which such a person has not fully participated in all the stages of the said election.” – Section 141

If you’re within striking distance of Willie Obiano but refuse to take part in the supplementary elections, the court cannot declare you winner even if everything goes your way during the trial.

The APC-nPDP “Merger”: 5 Things

Although it’s a bit of a misnomer, as the “New PDP” neither ever acquired a distinct corporate personality nor was recognised as an actual political party, but a “merger” with the All Progressives Congress (APC) was announced today. As the news spread on Twitter, a hitherto latent pragmatism also spread with it.  Suspicions about the leanings and probity credentials of the APC leaders gave way to acceptance that Nigeria isn’t yet ripe enough to be led by a party of saints. There was palpable excitement at the notion that a party that didn’t exist a year ago now has 18 governors (and numerous federal legislators) in its fold. What are the implications of this merger, though? Here are a few naïve thoughts from my de-tribalised, de-politicised, de-everythinged mind

1. An Epic Clash Awaits in 2014/15

Forget for a second, if you will, about the potential presidential candidates. Lick your chomps instead at the prospect of the mother of all muscle-flexing between Federal and State might. Incumbents typically do not lose elections in Africa. In Nigeria, the ruling PDP’s candidate has won every presidential election since our then (and still?) nascent democracy was born in 1999. The PDP has wielded control over the fabled “machinery” of elections since then. However, it was overwhelmingly the largest party in the past and its majority has now been halved. Federal Machinery is no more than an agglutination of Municipal Machineries. With Municipal (i.e. State) Machinery no longer aligned with Federal purpose the outcome may remain unknown for now, but it is sure that the jostling will be the busiest, rowdiest, most legendary election campaign (and spending, let’s be honest) that us 45’s and under have ever seen.

2. Shine Ya Eye

My twitter bio has been updated, to indicate my availability to provide electioneering services that cater to the vanities of elite Nigeria. I am not a ballot-stuffer and I have never brandished a weapon against a fellow human in all my life. To be honest, I want nothing to do with that side of our peculiar electoral process. However, I can do and coordinate the fancy stuff that we, the electoral minority, like. After all, a credible campaign consists of serving the illiterate masses empty platitudes and attempting to beguile the elite with concrete policy. If the epic spending predicted in point 1 above proves true, then there is going to be a big “mahkate” for consultants. Get your consultancy on.

3. Jagabanism is Next to Progressivenessism

Slate the Jagaban Borgu all you like but dismiss him at your own peril. This dismissiveness I speak of is not just in the context of the opposition parties (as the political calculations suggest a South-Westerner is unlikely to be a popular presidential candidate for another 20 years or so) but even with the APC aficionados. Sure, he is building a family dynasty, with the good lady senator senating and the Iyaloja General doing whatever it is Iyalojas do, but perhaps the Tinubus will be the Kennedys or the Bushes of Yorubaland – with due apologies to FFK. With the opinion most people express about him online, I think, given his astute succession planning in Lagos State, it is either he gets an unduly bad rap or Governor Fashola simply is not the saint we imagine him to be. Lagos has progressed unquestionably under their watch however, so it is clear that the man knows a thing or two about developmental spending.

4. Dry Bones Will Live Again

It was said recently, citing sources from within the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, that the reason for its poor record of enforcement recently was  a lack of funds. No money to chase stealers of money; the sad irony.  We can rest assured, however, that this hitherto missing money or a good Executive substitute for it will be delivered to the EFCC and they will begin to pursue their statutory mandate with renewed vigour and unprecedented fervour. That the scope of their sights is set on members of the burgeoning APC will be a minor footnote in the quest to kick corruption out of government. Never mind the fact that the N255m armoured car scandal refuses to go away, even with the feeble Wag-The-Dog tactics of an attack on an empty ministerial car by unknown gunmen. But I digress.

5. Plus Ca Change…

Asari Dokubo and co will no doubt, in the wake of the moves to unseat their “Jesus Christ on earth”, remind us that it is Niger Delta oil that is running through all our veins and that removing the incumbent president would be akin to ripping each of our hearts out of our bodies. It will be of no consequence, should this president be removed by a popular vote. It is “their turn”. Then, as elections draw closer, and the president begins to lie down before men of God for prayers, religion will also join tribalism as an honoured guest at the electoral feast. General Buhari, did not lie prostrate before the archbishop of Canterbury during his recent visit, so GEJ is well ahead in the picture polls. Pictures from the Jerusalem walkabout will resurface and Buhari will have to defend why he contracted the Mossad to abduct Umaru Dikko. Allegedly. Then the president will reduce the barriers for accessing the Nollywood World Bank Fund. So those ones will come out and act and sing for him again. Then North will be awash with “Sai Buhari” posters. Then the polity will be unbelievably heated up, in spite of the tepid warnings from the presidency…

All in One Place: Limericks Of October

#STELLAGATE

She ended her evidence, gleeful

Knowing that it was deceitful

As nothing that’s wrong

Is righted for long

By simply adding “Do the needful”.

 

Today we are needful of grace

A waiver to hold us in place

When she disapproved

Requests with “approved”

‘Twas needful to throw out her case.

 

Ah Cosmas, what manner of goof?

You who were genteelly aloof?

Your attitude’s lax

To evasion of tax

Your bullshit is not bullet-proof!

 

Wasn’t the best of responses

He told us,now look here you dunces

The cars are for guests

That do all the tests

And give all our planes second chances

 

The ministry gave Cos the nod

To buy a Bavarian pod

When you seek reform

It must be the norm

To defend against Acts of God

 

The question that’s now on the table-

Is it true or is it a fable

That aircraft must drop

Accidents won’t stop

It’s really all inevitable?

 

GEJ’S PILGRIMAGE TO ISRAEL

Our president’s off to pay homage

To Jesus; return in His image

We pray that our lives

Will tranfigurise

On his return from the pilgrimage

 

The people unsheathed their talons

He committee-cised, played along

But when SHE arrived

“Ah, Baruch” he cried

Embraced her with a “Shalom!”

 

ASUU STRIKE

Ol’ Labby, Goodluck’s head of lament

Has had yet another “oops” moment

The govt signed

Labaran opined

Without understanding th’agreement

 

So Johnny, when last on the air

Said ASUU was being unfair

Their strike isn’t right

They misuse their might

Unlike them, the govt’s sincere.

 

SPORT

The Manchester United

Now run by Scot un-Knighted

Is down in a rut

A stagnancy glut

And #Arsenal fans are delighted!

 

Sachin, Sachin Tendulkar

For him we down sambucca

Now he has retired

The world’s most admired

Three cheers, we doff hats to you sir!

 

SHOWBIZ

Hear Bruce & Kris split up today

Two decades, two years, put away

We keep up no more

Our sympathies pour

To requests to butt out, we say “K”.

 

OTHER POLITICIANS

The “Market-Woman General”

The question becomes seminal

Pray, what does she do?

I don’t know, do you?

And yet they had a carnival.

 

Ah, Fani, what a fella

His tweet last night was hella

Deziani’s got poise

Okonjo rules boys

But oh, what he said about Stella!

 

At Bukky’s some poor paupers died

11 or “just” 4 (who lied?)

But no one will pay

As we learnt today

DPO’s been ordered to slide.

 

PSYCHOPHANCY

In times of acute tribalism

Days of debased “parapoism”

We all have one hope

Let’s bathe with the soap

Of scented Akpabioism

 

It’s said to be just like Awoism,

Zikism and Nkrumanism

Zik, Kwame we know

But where will we go

To find the roots of Akpabioism?

 

We need to ditch this prism

Through which we’ve caused our schism

Our health,roads & schools

Our rage at “those fools”

Just needs patriotism

 

 

 

5 Things New Artistes Should Learn From Brymo vs Chocolate City

In recent news, Chocolate City served Brymo with an injunction, restraining him from recording, releasing or promoting any new music other than on the Chocolate City label. Brymo is reported to be under contract to the label until 2016. There will be a further hearing where Brymo gets to tell the court why the injunction should be lifted while the lawsuit – most likely for breach of contract – is ongoing. Until the suit is finally decided, here are a  few lessons that upcoming artistes can take away from the squabble.

1. PACTA SUNT SERVANDA (or Agirriment issi Agirrimenti o!!)

This latin maxim, that promises must be kept, is the lifeblood of commerce. The assurance that mutual promises will be kept is the reason for putting them down on paper in the first place. A contract is just a piece of paper with words, until things go wrong and one of the parties to the contract decides to ask the court to enforce what agreed. You are bound by what you have freely signed to.

Photocredit: fanpop.com

Photocredit: fanpop.com

If it is true, as Brymo reportedly alleges, that Chocolate City were remiss in their contractual obligations to him, his recourse would have been in the text of his contract. This leads us nicely into our second point.

2. LAWYERS ARE YOUR FRIEND

Lawyers and taxmen are loved by only a few. But it is absolutely important that a budding artiste seeks legal advice before signing that first deal. In fact, many of the contracts in circulation have a clause in which the artiste expressly states that he has sought legal advice before signing the contract. A lawyer – a good one, anyway – will ensure that a minimum set of obligations is required to be met by the label at various milestones, that a procedure for the artist to exit if the label defaults is outlined and, occasionally, that a buyout fee (as in football) is agreed so that if the chemistry between the label and artiste is truly bad and the artiste can afford it, he invoke the clause and leave.

But new artistes never have any money, you say. How will they pay for legal advice? If they truly have no learned friends, they could ask the label for an advance (recoupable by the label, obviously) to cover that cost.

3. WHEN A COURT ISN’T A COURT

Unless it’s part of some intricate PR strategy, there’s no point subjecting a matter to the court of public opinion that can only really be decided on by a court of law. No amount of public sympathy for you, however justified, can relieve you of your contractual obligations. Only the party you are bound to or a competent court of law can.

If you were failed, why did you not invoke the relevant clauses in your contract and seek proper termination. Since when did a unilateral public declaration terminate contracts? (Sidebar: I forget myself. I am a Nigerian after all. And our government has unilaterally cancelled innumerable contracts.)

So, before publicly announcing that you have left your label (which could be a breach of contract and entitle the label to damages in some cases), make sure that you either have a letter of release from the label or an order of the court to quash the contract. Otherwise, you’ll make your label angry – and you won’t like them when they’re angry.

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4. HOTEL CALIFORNIA

One  of my favourite songs of all time ends with the line “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” Even without the interim injunction in place, this limboville is where an un-released Brymo would have found himself. Recording contracts are usually an exclusive business. This means that while the contract is in force, the artiste cannot record or perform music except as arranged by the label. To do otherwise would be an infringement on the rights of the record label and the law has these cute devices called “damages”, “accounts” and “destruction”. Damages – the court “fines” you for your infringement; Accounts – the court orders you to hand over all the profit from the sales of the infringing music to the plaintiff; and “Destruction” or, more correctly, obliteration on oath, the court asks you to destroy all copies of the infringing music. Or all three!

So you’ve left the label, but have you, if they still get the money from your music?

5. THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY

Time passes faster in the arms of a beautiful woman than in a prison cell serving time, was how one movie character explained E=MC2. The next 3 years could seem like 30 (for  Brymo) if the parties concerned are unable to resolve this issue quickly.

One way to sort this all out might be for Brymo to jejelly hand over the masters for the new album and claim back all recording and associated costs from Chocolate City. If they’re going to “own” the music, one could argue that they assume the burden for making it.

Conflicts will arise in the course of commerce and resolving them speedily is inextricably tied to the document creating the relationship.

 

Is Streaming the Next Big Thing? – What Consumers Want

“In all countries, however, the most active music streamers can be found in the age group of the 18-24 years old.”

Music Business Research

The question if streaming is the next big thing for the music industry will be eventually answered by the music consumers. Several studies were conducted in past few years – most of them commissioned by music industry bodies – to assess the future potential of music streaming. It is essential for music streaming services and the copyright holders (labels and music publishers) if consumers are aware of streaming services, if they are using them frequently and if they are prepared to convert from Freemium to subscription models. Therefore the results of the studies are important indicators for the future development of the music industry. Although they provide different and even contradictory results – due to a different methodology – they help us nevertheless to understand music consumption behaviour in the digital age. In the following I would like to review some of the studies published in the past three years.

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Cracking Digital Music in Nigeria

One of the courses I treated with the greatest disdain in University was GES 101. I can’t  remember the official title of the course now but I do remember that one of the topics was language and how culture and technology affect language. This has been proved true and become more evident as we march forcefully on into the 21st century.  Until about 5 years ago, tablets were medicine, tweets were onomatopoeic sounds, swiping meant stealing and streaming was something only a river or estuary did. The secondary (?) meanings that all these words and many more have acquired, one could argue, are actually close to achieving primary status now.

 

The advances in technology have presented new challenges for distributors of entertainment content. The market is swinging firmly away from scheduled to content to “on demand” or “a la carte”, where the user/consumer merely pays for access and is thereafter able to determine the order in which he will watch or listen to the content.  The consumer could also decide to purchase the content outright, and with purchase comes the ability to move content between storage devices. Delivering content in this manner will require the consumer to have enough space to store his content library. Thus, advances in digital broadcast have also been accompanied by exponential growth in storage technology.

 

A result of all this progress is that while my dad still has a collection of vinyl records occupying roughly twenty cubic feet of space somewhere in my late grandmother’s house, I can carry infinitely larger amounts of music around on a device no larger than my palm. This is good for the honest consumer but it makes piracy a whole lot easier.

 

Forgive me for being Captain Obvious so far, but a context needed to be set.

 

Piracy – in this context, the unauthorised distribution or selling copies of music – has always been with us and will probably always be with us. The problem is worse in many African countries, including Nigeria, where the government’s anti-piracy efforts are extremely feeble where they exist at all. Today, anyone can be a pirate, as is evident with so-called “offline downloads” being the primary concern of many labels and artistes in Nigeria.

 

“Offline downloads” is the copying that goes on, frequently for paltry sums, from laptops or external hard drives to USB storage devices. It has been reported that the “content aggregators” (with sincere apologies to legitimate content aggregators) charge as little as one naira per track copied.  With more and more cars and even portable radios coming with auxiliary USB audio sockets, one can see why members of the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) are alarmed.

 

The Nigerian industry is also peculiar in the way its revenue stream works. Piracy killed record sales decades ago. The industry tried to solve this problem by selling record masters to distributors at the major piracy centres (tragically ironic, right?). Even at that, many emerging artistes are willing to give their music away for free on popular blogs and websites in return, hopefully, for exposure and recognition, which ought to translate into touring and performing income.

 

Thus, music is largely freely available on both the supply and demand sides of the music equilibrium. How then can digital translate to money for the local, large-scale distributors?

 

The challenge before Iroking and Spinlet, Nigeria’s two main digital distributors – the companies adopting the Spotify/Deezer models of monetising content – is to convince a large enough number of people to agree that paying for music is worthwhile.  In a country of 160 million people with a median age of 19, the market is certainly there. Potentially.  However, even Spotify, with its 24 million users (6 million of whom are paying subscribers) is yet to turn a profit, in its 7th year of operation. iTunes, it is claimed, is running barely above break-even (another great infographic here for dataheads), though Deezer claims to be profitable.

 

These companies exist in countries with mature copyright enforcement systems, where music royalties have been a dependable source of livelihood since forever. This means that there already exists a culture for paying for music. In spite of this, however, musicians are complaining that the revenue from streaming isn’t anything to get excited about. According to Zoe Keating (crossover classical musician) these are the different streaming rates that various distributors offered her (very useful table, actually). So, if neither the streamers nor the streamed are making money (though this point is heavily disputed), what’s the point of this business model? What will the point of this business model be in Africa, in Nigeria?

 

To understand profitability in the business, one must first understand how the service is priced. Most digital music distributors, in addition to outright sales, have a free (advert-supported) service, a limited subscription service (ad-free, but limited number of streams), and a premium subscription service (ad-free, unlimited streams). Therefore, first of all, the difference between outright sales and streams must be taken into account.

 

A physical CD in Nigeria is usually priced between N150 and N1,500 (not counting “deluxe” editions).  This pricing model can easily be adopted for digital sales. A stream, on the other hand, occurs when a track (not downloaded) is listened to for at least 30 seconds. The minimum listening period varies (some agreements say 45 seconds) but the first problem streaming has is how you quantify a listen. Do you randomly estimate how many listens can be extracted from a CD before it becomes unplayable? If a 9-track album costs N150, this equates to about N16 to “own” each track for life. How many times should a streamer be able to listen to a track before his use translates to N16 for the artist? Is this even the metric that distributors and artists/collecting societies use?

 

Speaking of collecting societies, one must commend COSON and the efforts they have made thus far in ensuring that music makers receive royalties for the use of their music. It is not clear however, whether they will function as an aggregator in respect of their dealings with digital distributors. Their primary revenue targets to date have been radio and tv stations, hotels, events venues, etc. and this category of people should rightly pay COSON a licence fee. However, should an Iroking or a Spinlet pay COSON a licence fee, given that each artist enters into a licensing agreement with the digital distributors? If yes, would that not effectively be double licensing, as the artists will collect under their individual licensing agreements, regardless of whatever fee COSON extracts. More importantly, was it the intention of the artists when joining COSON that the collecting society would take over all licensing activity? These are the issues that will need to be clarified as digital music expands in Nigeria.

 

The Value Added Service (VAS) companies that collaborate with telcos to sell ring-back and call-back tones are currently the silent winners in this quest to monetise digital music. Personally, I would never willingly activate a ring-back tone but I am a single subscriber in a pool expected to surpass 128million by 2014. The VAS market in Nigeria is currently valued at over N78.5bn and “may actually be moving towards $1bn in the next three years” .

 

In addition  to all that’s been said here, artists should consider ditching the “listen for free” model and start steering their fans towards platforms where listening generates them money. This may mean starving the blogs of some content and some blogs therefore going rogue and becoming pirate broadcasters (lawsuits, yaaay!!) but if physical sales are dead, then digital must reward maximally.

As for who will win the race to crack digital music in Nigeria, Iroking and Spinlet need to take on and subdue Deezer and Amazon first and hope that Spotify doesn’t decide to expand its operations to Nigeria before then. The catalogue is everything!

 

 

 

Soldiers of Fortune – A Review

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I’m glad I bought a copy of Max Siollun’s Soldiers of Fortune. Many might say it merely rehashes a lot of information that was already in the public domain but I would strongly disagree. Even if that assertion was true, a compendium of all the information from a pivotal point in the nation’s history can never be a bad thing.

My personal repertoire of the events that have shaped our history has never been more than superficial. No nuggets of particular insight, unless I was chanced to be in the company of someone “in the know”. Soldiers of Fortune puts into perspective many things I was either too young or too unsavvy to understand at the time they happened.

The book’s preface sets the context for the history it recounts, with a summary of transitions from independence to the civil war to the overthrow of the Shagari government, shortly after its “re-election”. Relying on a wide range of sources, from ‘hagiographic autobiographies’ to interviews given by the various actors, the book then surgically considers the events leading up to each intervention by the military, including the unsuccessful ones.

What surprised me most through the book? For one, some coups were instigated by civilians, one of whom became a martyr for democracy, another a perennial applicant for a gubernatorial position in the Niger Delta.

Secondly, there is absolutely nothing new under the sun, especially when it comes to government proposals. The proposed “entertainment tax” in Lagos State was deployed by the Military Governor of Ogun State in the early 80s. A single 6-year term for executive office holders had been mooted (and rejected by the government of the day) since 1990 or thereabouts.

Thirdly, the June 12 intrigues will surprise a few readers, although I must admit, I found the portrayal of IBB as both orchestrator and victim of the annulment somewhat confusing. It also seems history has been unkind to Prof. Nwosu, chairperson of the electoral commission that organised the elections. I find a quote attributed to our Senate President particularly interesting.

On a personal note, I was at secondary school with the son of one of the officers executed for the “failed” 1986 coup. Siollun actually singles out the officer for being implausibly linked to the plot, having no soldiers or weaponry under his command. I remember the son cursing out Babangida on a few occasions.

Still on 1986, the tragic irony of the case of the officer who was executed for not reporting the rumours he’d heard was very sad. This man had informed General Buhari about rumours of a coup in 1983, not knowing that Buhari himself was at the centre of the plot. Buhari had him arrested and locked up for several months. When he got wind of the Orkar coup, he rightly(?) decided to keep mum and paid for it with his life.

In addition to his meticulous reconstruction of events, Siollun frequently provides analysis to explain rationale and sometimes fill in the gaps that the dramatis personae have left in their accounts.

If there are any lessons to be learnt from this book, it is that all incisive criticism of today’s government is a good thing. Not rabid, senseless expulsion of hot air, but line-by-line examination of government policy. We must also shelve blind nationalism and vainglorious pride – IBB was saluted for rejecting the IMFs conditions but imposed even more stringent conditions than the IMF had requested anyway. So, to all those who keep getting the word “activist” spat at them as if the appellation were some deadly plague, keep the pressure on. Additionally, it is clear that a whole generation will pass before the country’s political landscape is devoid of (de)militarised politicians – many of the beneficiaries of the system from 1983 to 1993 are alive and well; and loaded. Finally, until the Northern part of the country experiences real economic development, some of the thinking of its elite as reported in Soldiers of Fortune, should that line of thought still be prevalent, means that fiscal federalism, devolution of power from the centre and virtually almost all other constitutional reform as it regards the political status quo are an extremely long way away from happening.

My one grouse with the book is its use of endnotes instead of footnotes. I find endnotes impossible to use but this is a person foible and should not detract from the quality of Siollun’s work.

Beat by SARS

Nigeria Police Force

Nigeria Police Force (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of all the lawyering I have to do, my least favourite “beat” is the police station. Every once or twice a year however, there’s either a distress call from someone whose relative needs bailing or there’s a need to follow up on some matter or the other for someone who’s commissioned an investigation. Neither is a more pleasurable visitation than the other because, as far as the police are concerned, you’re there to negotiate an extraction, be it of a suspect or documentation. Note I said negotiate and not demand, because it’s not law – it’s all a transaction. Bail isn’t free and neither is getting the police to properly do what they ought – investigate and solve crime.

My first post-call visit to a police station was with the Director of Public Prosecutions in Calabar, during my NYSC year. The smell was rancid and there were half-naked men, begging with all the energy that was left in them, that we buy them bread from the girl walking past, hawking. We didn’t (how does the head of prosecutions buy food for suspects while on an official visit?) and it seems one of them broke into tears. I have either carried that rancid stench with me in my head over the years, or all police stations have that combined smell of putrefying bodily waste and grey matter.

Another time, an idiot driving a long vehicle swerved in front of me without warning and took off my entire front bumper. The whole world, including the police at the scene, knew he was liable but he refused to accept (not being the owner of the truck), so we ended up going to the police station. Apart from having to pay a N5,000 “VIO Fee” (there was no inspection) to “bail’ my car, I was shaken by another incident that occurred while I was writing my statement. A man was brought in in cuffs and told to sit beside me on the bench. Apparently, someone had a stabbed a trader and run into this man’s shop and, somehow, he’d allegedly helped the stabber escape. About 10 minutes after he arrived, still sitting beside me, word reached the station that the stabbed trader had died before reaching the hospital. “You’re in big, big trouble, this man,” the arresting officer said and then dealt him that vicious Police/Soldier/MOPOL slap we’ve all heard about. I swear an air tsunami blew from the man’s face to mine, causing my  face to sting.

This past week, I was at a SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad)office, to follow up on an arrest for theft and the ensuing investigation. There were lots of men walking about with automatic weapons and guns always make me edgy. More than this, I was being given the runaround because I was trying to negotiate my way out of a 10% recovery fee. But shhhh!  no one in authority is to know about this . And if you believe our President, quoting an Adolphus Hitler, corruption only exists because we don’t stop talking about it.

While waiting, one police officer, who also finds time to farm, began to complain about the lack of real government support for farming. He ridiculed last year’s telephone intervention, as well as this year’s fertiliser reforms. “They’ve taken our names, for over 5 weeks now, no fertiliser. But I’m sure they’ve used our names to process the money.” Then he segues into how he used to be on patrol at the ports, guarding the fertiliser silos. “They take over 70% to the North”, he alleged, “but it doesn’t even stay there…it crosses the border into Niger and Chad!” Those evil Niger and Chad borders again.

Another officer walked in and complained that the place smelled “like a bloody hospital.” I reckon he was from another division. “Oh, there are robbery suspects next door”, he was informed, “and they have bullet wounds. They get treatment while in custody.” I squirmed a little more.