BET released the list of nominees for the Be5st International Act category some few days ago. Unfortunately, no Ghanaian Music act was nominated for the category. As disappointing as it may look, we must rally behind our Artists and praise their hard work giving the fact that they are living on a very lean budget.
It would be naive for anyone to suggest that our Artists are not doing enough to catch the attention of the world and compare them to their Nigerian colleagues. The competition between Ghana and Nigeria go way back in history. The two countries have always battled for supremacy in every sector, music included.
Almost 80% of the A-List music Artists in Nigeria is either signed unto an International Record Label, a Homegrown Record Label or owe a Record Label with huge endorsement deals. The likes of Davido, WizKid, Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage, Reekado Banks, etc are all signed unto an International Label and at least two of them have their own record label with equally big Artists (Mayoukun, Joe Boy, Fireboy Rema, Teni etc) signed onto record label of these big Artists or a homegrown record label.
Same cannot be said of our Sarkodie, Samini, Stonebwoy, Shatta Wale, Kelvyn Boy, Eno Barony, Sista Afia etc. They struggle to make records from production, distribution down to promotion without any significant support. The Likes of Kuami Eugene, KiDi, King Promise, Wendy Shay and others may be lucky to be signed onto a record label. But the truth is, you cannot compare a record label like Rufftown records or Lynx Entertainment to Davido’s Music Worldwide (DMW) or Made Men Music Group or Spaceship Records given the financial power these Nigerian Record Labels wield.
We should be asking ourselves what can be done to support these artists to break into the global music market. Statistics of music streams on digital platforms has always not favoured our Artists because a Ghanaian would rather download a song for free than to stream on a digital platform. With fewer paid shows and performances by our Artists, the only revenues available should come from Music streaming but that is not forthcoming.
Successive governments have always sweet-talked the Creative Arts industry to believe they would make the needed investment in the industry to make it more attractive for prospective investors only for votes.
Our creative and arts industry should be the GPS on the investment compass, but for neglect, it is not so. Our Artists have to go through struggles each passing day to make a record and promote on their own but have to compete with Artists from other countries who are signed unto lucrative record labels which produce, distribute and promote their record for the same awards like the BET,AFRIMMA,IRAWMMA,MOBO and the likes.
The Ghana music industry is not flourishing and very discouraging for young people as well. Checks have revealed that at least two(2) out of ten(10) of the current artists would want their kids to become musicians because of the low revenues. The ongoing pandemic(Covid-19) have exposed our Artists struggles giving there are no shows or performances and they have to rely on their savings for their livelihoods. Unfortunately, most of our Artists are full-time musicians and rely on their craft for their daily bread.
Many individuals from the Creative Arts have suggested for a government-sanctioned Digital Streaming Platforms for our artists which could improve the streaming abilities of the country since if Ghana has it own steaming platform, you may not necessarily have to get either a PayPal, Visa Card or Master Card to make purchases or steaming but can rely on our local payment systems like the MTN Momo or Vodafone Cash which would ease the burden and stress one has to go through to acquire for example iTunes or Spotify Account and sometimes load these accounts with foreign currency to enable you stream or purchase a song online.
Frankly, Our Artists are doing what Napoleon could not do, you cannot compel our artists to compete with artists from other countries who are backed by multi-million dollar investment and still want to see our Artists climb to the top and rule the music industry globally. This is pure logic, it cannot happen in our current situation. The Creative Industry in Nigeria contributes $7 Billion to their GDP with music alone contributing $73 million. This is so because the government of Nigeria is committed to Creative Arts.
Los Angeles based Universal Music Group the world’s biggest music company opened a new office in Nigeria in July last year all in the hope that the next Big Export might come from Africa. Universal Music acquired a record label in Kenya to expand its Live Music business. Spotify also launched it’s Africa office in South Africa in March this same year. With the influx of these international records, our artists can penetrate into the global music market if they push a little harder with the support of all stakeholders. The emergence of these international records is an indication of the West trust in the capabilities of African music, our artists in Ghana must take advantage of these new opportunities.
Our Artists are not doing themselves favours as well, they seem not to equip themselves with the requisite knowledge on how to position themselves to take advantage of the global music market. Rather than investing the little monies they make out of their crafts, they buy expensive cars and luxuriously flaunt themselves on social media just for unnecessary hype to the detriment of their music careers.
The government and other state institutions have a role to play to protect the works of our artists. They need to strengthen the existing weak legal protections for intellectual Property and widespread Piracy to protect our artists and Creative Arts industry.
Until the government of Ghana and the private sector begin to appreciate our Creative and Arts Industry equally as vibrant as other sectors of the economy, our Artistes will continue to wallow in poverty and fall short to their colleagues in other countries. After all, the sector is paying its dues by offering employment to the teaming unemployed youth.