Australia, a country of 24 Million people, employs 8% of their workforce in the music industry. The industry generates economic value of over $93 billion and contributes over $7 billion in exports annually. 20% of Australians are involved in creating music. Their live music business (via clubs, pubs, festivals, band tours. etc) is the second biggest in the world, after the U.S. How did they get there? For over a century, their government has installed significant infrastructure that exists in the form of regional arts centres, found in most major regional centres and often in smaller towns. These are supported by a network of touring agencies and government funding assistance for the performing arts, much of which can be tapped by the music sector. The government has three big umbrella agencies for supporting and monitoring the industry: the Australian Council for Arts (ACA), Live Performance Australia (LPA) and the National Live Music Office (NLMO).
Nigeria, a country of 180 Million people: what are the figures????! We are bigger and richer culturally, we should generate more. But, the truth is, the government of Nigeria doesn’t understand music business and they don’t see any prospect whatsoever in the industry. Hence, over the years, there’s been no conscious system and infrastructure put in place for the music industry to thrive. The government of Nigeria has 0% stake in the music industry; and no matter the volume of individual private investments in the industry, it can never attain its full potential without government’s infrastructural and policy equity.
The difference between an artiste or music businessman in Nigeria and their counterparts in these other climes is: here you work so hard to create the product (music), then you start struggling to find a market and the structure to protect and reward your creativity in a way that is sustainable; over there, you primarily need to focus on your creativity and promotion, the government has a system in place that strengthens the market and gives you a consolidated structure, backed up by solid policy frameworks and industry action. Our scenario here is like, after buying yourself a car, you then personally start to construct the roads on which you would drive it, building a gas station to refill the tank, and also build a mechanic workshop to service and repair it when it’s faulty.
I recently had a chat with the honourable mister for Information and Culture (Alhaji Lai Mohammed), I introduced myself by saying “My name is Akapo Emmanuel, I run a music school known as Tenstrings Music Institute, an academy that has trained over 10, 000 students in 10 years and currently enrols students from 12 other African countries”. His response was: “oh really, I didn’t know, I didn’t know. Ok”. The unspoken response I saw in his body language was: “so what does that amount to…how’s that a big deal…how’s that worth my time…what’s in that for Nigeria?” I was expecting a “waaooh” kind of reaction! At least, I personally would have been more curious about a creative business that brings in people from 12 other nations. When our conversation ended and he said let’s see when you’re in Abuja, I already got cold about another meeting with him because it doesn’t seem he understands the perspective from which I serve the nation. But later, I felt, if he doesn’t understand my industry, it’s my own responsibility to make him do. I remembered, every challenge represents an opportunity. The reason nothing has ever happened for music business in the country is because private stakeholders in the game like I and many others give up too soon on the government.
Way Forward: the stakeholders in the Nigerian music scene (note: we’re not an industry yet) must come together and hold this government accountable and educate them on the enormous potential of the music industry and how it can impact the national economy as a whole. This implies that, to start with, we would sit down and do our homework thoroughly, research global best practices, design solid frameworks and cutting-edge strategies, put them into a great master proposal, deploy our collective resources, get the processes started and then bring the government in, in such a clever way they cannot turn down.
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