Contrary to what many may think, the music industry doesn’t solely comprise of the creators at the forefront; the vocalists and performers, songwriters and composers and producers/sound engineers. There is an entire force behind the scenes, pushing the music and the artists; the companies and professionals who create and sell the recorded music: music publishers and record labels; the professionals who help organise and present live music performances: booking agencies and show promoters; those assisting artists with their musical careers: A&R managers, entertainment lawyers and the individuals who broadcast the audio and video music content: music journalists and DJs. Without these less visible individuals, the music industry as we know it wouldn’t operate as seamless as it does.
Nevertheless, the music industry, as glossy as it may seem, is first and foremost a business; and a ruthless one at that. And like any other business, the aim is to obtain profit. Record labels take risks and make investments in artists they deem worthy, hoping to get a return on said investment. Getting signed to a record label lifts a huge weight off the artist’s shoulders. The label bears the burden of crucial aspects like marketing and distribution of recorded music; fronting all the costs said aspects may require. The criteria for selection of said artists lie on a plethora of factors including marketability, connections, or just a plain old strike of luck. In this light, it’s evident that unfortunately, not every artist may be able to taste the ‘luxury’ of getting signed and the benefits it comes with; leaving such acts to record and release music independently, solely bearing the cost of achieving that.
Thankfully, there are some platforms built specially to help independent acts release and distribute music with little to no hassle. Bandcamp, a US based online music company is a platform aimed at aiding independent artists and labels alike; offering them a space to release their music to be bought/streamed, as well as sell their merchandise. And here in our very own motherland is Ejoya, a startup marketing and distributing company specifically aimed at helping independent artists get their music on streaming platforms and to the ears of the consumer.
‘Most independent artistes do not have enough resources to put their music out there and properly push it as far as possible, as opposed to artists signed to a record label. So we try to fill that gap.’, Boluwatife Sodipo, an executive at Ejoya, tells me. A large number of fresh talent are faced with difficulty in pooling resources for adequate marketing, so Ejoya aims to curb that. Currently, artists are able to reach out to the platform and send in music for distribution and marketing, paying no fees at all; Ejoya’s profit is attained through revenue splits obtained from streams.
While access to marketing and distribution services are major problems for independent artists in the industry, a vital issue for such talents is lack of visibility; the majority of the general public may not have an idea of their existence. Enter Ejoya’s Class of ‘20 project; a scheme established to inspire a culture of creative co-existence by bringing together some of the best upcoming acts in the music industry. ‘The purpose behind the Class of ‘20 project is to continuously shine a light on the next set of sounds coming out of the continent and place them on a pedestal with all the marketing support they need’, Boluwatife adds.
Adamant on showing there is strength in numbers, the project packs a myriad of artists and producers; ranging from upcoming talents like DJ Yin, Tidé, Yusufkanbai and EMO Grae to more prominent names like Fasina, Buju, Jinmi Abduls, Higo and Minz. The artists and producers were camped in an open house for six days, with minimal complexity with production as sessions were going on in every space. It was a haven for free expression of everything each artist had to present.
A blend of Afro-pop, Afro-beat, Hip-hop and alternative sounds, the album gives an experience of creative diversity and communal brilliance. Tracks like ‘Selense’, ‘Lagos Girls’ and lead single, ‘Mind Games’ lean towards the more conventional Afrobeat/Afro-Pop sounds, while cuts like ‘Lifestyle’, ‘Gboju’, ‘Pick Up’, ‘Ko Le’ and street anthem-to-be ‘Collect’ exhibit more alternative soundscapes, further depicting the versatility of these artists.
The initiative behind Ejoya’s Class of ‘20 is certainly commendable but there is evidently room for improvement. It’s absurd to think that in these progressive times, a 12- track collaboration project comprising a plethora of male artists and producers, only had one female artist on it. In the future it would be imperative to see more female artists on such projects; there’s undoubtedly an ample crop of young talent to choose from.
Ejoya is revolutionizing the way music is distributed, creating a platform that brings the talents close to the awaiting fans who want to consume quality music. There’s a paradigm shift, they’re shaking things up; setting the pace for a new order in the Nigerian music industry.
Can you feel it ?