Nigerian music producers, copyright claims and the burden of going international

Since the internet began to avail opportunities for culture transfer and globalisation, Nigerian music has been at the helm of the cross-border music transfer.  Thanks to the internet, music  can be marketed in foreign territories without necessarily passing through countless A&R men or deep pocket lobbying for distribution deals.

From D’banj’s tryst with G.O.O.D Music to Davido’s Sony BMG deal, we have seen the re-emergence of Nigerian music on the international frontiers on a scale the industry hasn’t witnessed since the reign and demise of the legendary Fela Kuti. This has been earmarked as progress for the music industry but a lot of Nigerian producers may be facing unprecedented new problems.


Wizkid’s Ojuelegba refix featuring rappers, Drake and Skepta was one of the  biggest music highlights of 2015. The remix was mostly appreciated for keeping a bulk of Wizkid’s West African, patois, rhythm and style. Sonically the song remained the same, but more attentive listeners recognize the removal of the Dr. Dre’s Nuthin’ but a G-Thang’ keyboard sample that appeared on the instrumentation for the original Ojuelegba. Despite the subtlety of the sample removal,  it highlights a major issue Nigerian artistes and producers may face when the music begins to aggressively flood the international market.

Samples are lyrics, instrumentations and rhythms, artistes take from prior works of other artistes to use for their own music. In return, they are expected to give credit and (or) pay certain royalties. Over the years, Nigerian music has relied heavily on samples from both local and international musicians. Artistes like Maintain, Rasqie, 2Baba amongst others are some of the most notable success stories of sample usage.



Though this is a practice common in many entertainment climates all over the world, it is also one of the biggest sources of controversy. This is partly because the process of getting samples approved for usage in countries with intellectual property laws can be stringent.

The secondary reason is the universality of music as an art form. The spectrum of sound is so extensive, it is not impossible to have two similar sounds of different origins, as seen in the case of Pharrell, Robin Thicke and the Marvin Gaye estate.

This premise may serve as the plausible excuse for the wanton sampling habits of Nigerian artistes. The lacklustre structure for the industry has given artistes and producers alike free reign to do just about whatever they want with other people’s intellectual properties.

But with the increasing international focus on the Nigerian music market, many local artistes and producers including bigwigs like Pheelz, Legundary Beats, Wizkid, Olamide, P-Square amongst others will have their work cut out for them. Especially with their focus on breaking into the Western markets where these issues are not handled with levity.

In simple coda, Nigerian artistes have to look inward and get more creative , because nothing comes without consequences, not even the prospects of earning crisp Oyinbo dollars.


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