Nigeria in recession: All the ways you’re fucked as an artist in 2016

Foto druk verkeer in Lagos, Nigeria. Als voorbeeld; graag keuzebeelden Traffic jams form along Nnamdi Azikiwe street in Lagos January 22, 2003. Drivers in Lagos are stopping to gape at UFOs - unidentified flashing objects - that have been mysteriosly appearing at busy intersections around the city of Lagos, the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria. REUTERS/George Esiri GE/GB

On the first of September, the nation was sent into a mid-level panic after the media broke news of Nigeria ‘officially being in a recession’. We had all known the recession was imminent, yet the media’s earlier speculation allowed us a bubble of hope that popped after it became ‘official’. Newspapers the next morning were flooded with numbers about lost jobs and inflation statistics and amid the same sea of depressing headlines, was news that Telecommunications giant MTN was cutting some of its major artist endorsement signings.

The multiplier effect of a country in recession on  companies like MTN, Globacom or Airtel amongst other private companies means they will make less money and have even less available to spend on marketing budgets involving top shelf artists with low probability for return on investment. If we lost you there,  we’re just saying thanks to the failing economy, many artists who relied on 24kobopersecond endorsements and marketing deals will be looking for alternative income sources.

Now, we don’t need to go into the background of Telecommunications and Nigerian music as symbiotic industries, but you must know that with Nigeria in recession, more people will be directing their money into meeting basic daily needs. Everyday expenses like having airtime may seem very well less important than paying twice the price for a plate of spaghetti (at least you’re eating something).

But it gets even worse.

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While endorsements get some bills paid, the income stream that gives the biggest payouts are the rosters of corporate end of the year gigs. Imagine all the rich bougie people you know, in a small well-lit hall drinking expensive champagne while Asa serenades them with Bibanke. Now let’s assume all the private companies and rich politicians hold such parties through the month of December. This is how many artists make enough money for music releases and expensive video  shoots for a third of the next year.

But it is 2016 and rice is going extinct from the common man’s table. The private sector is suffocating because foreign investors are running out of the country in panicked droves. And Buhari’s anti-kwarupshun campaign is plugging leaks of public funds into the hands of politicians who can afford N10million to host Wizkid at a yard party without having EFCC gatecrash their private soirees. Of course, some big names will still be paid to headline these end of the year parties, but many big names will be forced to sit it out while younger artists with smaller asking prices will be nudged for headliner sets.

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An aerial view from Olamide’s OLIC 2015

Evidently, the spread of resources in Nigeria has a vertical flow that only trickles down to the bottom of the pyramid from its apex. And if the government (and it’s band of misfits) can’t increase the people’s spending power, private companies will make even less money from the masses at a higher cost of operation due to inflation. Live concerts like Olamide’s OLIC usually backed by an army of corporate bodies will not only cost more to organise, they will also be set up at the risk of low turn out. Expensive marketing campaigns have conditioned Nigerians to expect free entertainment. A bulk of live concert earnings are raked from expensive tables and VIP seats only affordable to an elite economic class, but sadly, everybody now has less to spend on shit like that.

Until Nigeria’s economy miraculously re-aligns itself, everyone in music is fucked. Upcoming artists in particular, will find it more difficult to earn investors confidence because they just don’t have the clout or fanbase. The only artists who will stay largely untouched are those who have  taken their brand even further out of Nigeria, they can rake in funds from tours, digital sales and music streaming.

This only reiterates our year long clamour for exportable Nigerian music and the ingenuity of sound. Nigeria’s foreign exchange has never needed more help and now more than ever is the time for that international exposure.

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