A Crash Course in Piracy – It’s #POKO Baby! Tonto Dikeh’s ‘HI’ 5Million Downloads and its 5 Lessons for Nigerian Artists

A couple of days after the release of Actress Tonto Dikeh’s two new singles “Itz Ova” and “Hi,” the web went crazy as  2.3million people downloaded her music. By the end of the week,  Dikeh allegedly had over 5million downloads.

Instead of focusing on the success of the downloads and business principles to draw on, some artists,  including Burna boy, wished the worst including “death” on so called “wack” singers like Tonto.

Bottom line, as I said before, who cares if you can’t hold a note? There is an audience for everyone and the music industry is big enough to accommodate a Tonto Dikeh on one far end of the spectrum and a P-Square on the other.

Folks whether music, fashion, film or what have you, you can have an amazing product or service but if no one is buying or paying attention to you, then your product is simply not cutting it. It is either that or you have not identified your audience AND placed in front of that audience, your work so that they can  scoop up everything you are serving and ask for more.

For me, Tonto Dikeh’s success, which she intends to follow up with a music video, reminded me of the need to share with you all the importance of: 1) understanding the purpose of social media; and 2) why you should make sure you do not alienate your core audience, especially those online/social media, with the deals you sign with digital distributors.

Raise your hands AML artists if you do not want to be successful? Your hands should remain to your sides. We all want to be successful. In Nigeria’s music industry, artists sit and hope that they can one day be signed to a label. Some have been signed to labels but just as quickly as they were signed, they parted ways. Names like Killz, Darey Art Alade, Kel, GT the Guitarman, Mo’Cheddah and many more come to mind. By the way, whatever happened to RETTA signed with Joy Tongo’s JTON Productions?

Back to the story. What happens after artists are  signed to labels? Somewhere along the line, these artists conclude that: 1) record labels are not all they are cracked up to be i.e. they are bad;  and 2) they can do what their labels where doing by themselves i.e. they can start and run successful labels.

Indeed as it stands Nigeria’s music industry is saturated with independent label owners, many of whom are artists that have no clue about running a business much less a record label. I should know this because my inbox is constantly filled with many of these artists turned label owners soliciting even the minutiae of details on how to run their indie labels.

In any event, these artists launch their record labels and what happens? They realize being a business owner IS VERY hard, “asin” VERY VERY HARD. Entrepreneurs are fearless people and there is a certain grit and determination you gotta have as an entrepreneur to be successful.

These artists turn label owners realize that they do not have the resources to run a label. They also realize they are pretty screwed because they have to run a label and at the same time produce music, as signed artists on their self owned labels, to stay relevant. The smart ones discover that social media is an integral part of their success story, especially as indie label owners. They look to You Tube, Facebook, Twitter Vimeo, Blogs, Itunes, CD Baby, Sound Cloud, Band Camp etc.  to get the word out and have fans sharing to increase demand for their services i.e. concert performances etc. and products.

(Fans) People start getting to know about their work and most importantly, SHARING IT. What has been happening of late, especially in the past year? A new digital distributor gets into the picture and says I can make you money by curbing piracy of your work online. I’ll give you an upfront fee. You sell exclusive digital distribution of your songs  to me. I will use You Tube’s ad supported platform and my website to make money and then circle back based on the percentage you sign to pay you royalties. The artists sign the exclusive deals, get the upfront monies and jump on Oprah’s sofa like Tom Cruise did.

The artists doesn’t even factor the fan in the deal. They have never sat to think and say: who are my fans? What age? What do they do? How do they do it? Basically both the demographic and psychographic segmentation necessary. They basically jabor “asin” dump their fans to be at the mercy of these new entrants.

What happens to the fans that have been sharing the works of these artists in gazillion places? The new entrant labels them  “pirates,” and restricts access to only one platform to share music, with the assumption that if the fans want the works of the artists, the artists no longer has to work for it. Instead, the fans, whether they like the platforms or not, have to go find the artists on You Tube via IROKO, IROKOING or Spinlet.

By the way, how disastrous was that whole EME highly anticipated album shared on Spinlet on an exclusive deal? That was such a missed opportunity because again, there was the whole focus on “piracy” and making a quick buck without the big picture in mind, the fans. The result was a dissatisfied fan based and frankly an injured Spinlet in terms of credibility in the market place.

Tonto Dikeh’s 5 Million downloads, to me, says we  need to reassess the way Nigerian artists view sharing and how they treat the very fans who have  helped them get here and want to help them even more.

In the industry, I have seen and know artists who usurp (i.e. take) from producers, promoters, industry professionals et. al. without having the decency to give back both when they asked and even if they are not. It does backfire. While these kinds of actions may not have as crippling an effect on your career within the industry; as  an artist, when you take the same conduct to your fans, you build resentment, distrust and dwindling sales.

Indeed, the graph below titled ‘A Crash Course in Piracy,’ continues to substantiate my discussions about the false alarm of piracy, online, that has been raised by new entrants into Nigeria’s music distribution game against the very fans that has helped our artists get to where they are.

I often discuss IROKO/IROKOING because they are the most visible and have spearheaded the alleged campaign of curbing piracy online.

5 Lessons for Nigerian Artists 

I get curbing piracy but please note the following 5 key lessons when it comes to digital distribution that you should walk away with from the Tonto Dikeh case:

1. Without getting too technical, the internet is founded on fundamental principles of sharing. Indeed this core function of the internet remains till today. An exhibit can be seen with the power of  social media.

2. But for Nigerian fans and blogs SHARING the works of our artists, most of our artists will not be where they are today. Further, there would not be this resurgence and reawakening of respect for Nigerian artists.

3.Alienating fans who share your work is lame. There is no other way to say it. Have you all sat and thought long and hard why Tonto Dikeh has over 5million downloads in a few days of releasing her two singles ‘Hi’ and ‘Itz Ova? Despite how successful leading names like M.I Abaga, P-Square, Davido, Wizkid and D’Banj are, we have never seen that in the entire history of the music industry. Please correct me if I am wrong. Tonto Dikeh is not even a singer. She is an actress!

What if she limited the ability to share her songs online by as many fans as possible in whatever platforms they deem fit to their friends and families? Do you think that would have helped to make her singles go as far as they have? What does 5million downloads mean for her? Does it mean a musical career? Probably not. Tonto Dikeh has said she is doing this to prove a point not necessarily to sing. She thinks no one should deter you from your goals. Just do it!

“I listened to my songs over and over again and I told myself I did well. In all I see only the positivity in it,I made History. Peoples opinion of how my music was has further strengthened my belief that dreams die when you let the next man’s opinion get to you and I am using now to pass a message to everyone out there, if you can just do it. Don’t let anyone’s opinion kill whatever dream you have or try to stop you from taking the next step.”

Does Tonto’s 5 million downloads mean endorsement deals worth millions of Naira for Tonto? Most likely yes. Does it mean increased requests for her appearance from events to films where she can command thousands of US dollars/British Pounds? Most likely.

Folks, these days, even American artists know that music is a free commodity as painful as this may sound. Instead, they have rewired their minds and don’t necessarily focus on selling just their music.  In fact, in many instances they give that free commodity away in exchange for what their emotionally connected fans cannot easily get i.e. access to them, tickets  to their concerts/ tours,  subscriptions, merchandise etc.

4. Artists you alienate your fans when you turn those sharing your work into so called “thieves.” This model has not worked for the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)  and it certainly will not work for Nigerian artists, IROKO, Spinlet or the new entrants getting into the digital distribution market place. The RIAA has sued 12year olds, dead people, single mothers and over 12,000 people and they have realized it doesn’t work. It alienates and creates animosity and artists are not any better off than where they were before.

5. Artists y’all gotta rearrange your mindset and when next a digital distributor approaches you and says, I can display your music videos on You Tube and my website but you have to sign an exclusive deal with me, you should look at them like they are retarded, think about your fans and negotiate a better non-exclusive deal. You should also think outside the box and the many ways you can generate income from your songs.

If “PIRACY” is what is thrown at you for the licensing of your IP rights digitally, you should point to the graph and numbers below and ask for the data that so called pirates i.e. your fans, online, are stealing (which is allegedly) making you lose money.

In conclusion, yes be about your money, but don’t forget about your fans and  how you make them  FEEL, especially as the digital revolution in Nigeria’s music industry continues. In the final analysis, as Tonto Dikeh’s 5 million downloads, within days, show, it can be the difference maker with whether you will have a successful career or not.

Can we say #POKO’s “HI” 5 Million Downloads sharing method is WINNING?!


Enjoy the funny Parody of ‘Hi’ Below

Music, Movies, Programs & Piracy
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Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Uduak Oduok (Ms. Uduak) is a fashion and entertainment lawyer, speaker, visionary, gamechanger, trailblazer, and recognized thought leader, for her work on Africa’s emerging global fashion and entertainment markets, and the niche practice of fashion law in the United States. She is also the founder of ‘Africa Music Law,’ an industry go-to music business and law blog and podcast show empowering African artists. Her work in the creative and legal industries has earned her numerous awards and recognitions, including an award from the American University Washington College of Law for her “legal impact in the field of intellectual property in Africa." She has also taught as an Adjunct Professor at several institutions in the United States. For more information, visit her at

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