Music Business

ARTIST ALERT: Why 9ice’s Choice to Burn Bridges with Bloggers is WRONG, and How You Should Avoid Doing the Same

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I honestly thought the 9ice situation was done with but I was surprised we had and are having a social media uproar about it. I hope my article provides clarity on why 9ice’s choice to get on twitter and burn bridges with bloggers was wrong and how you as an artist should avoid doing so.

News Flash – WE ARE ALL TRYING TO SELL SOMETHING
From celebrities to non-celebrities, we are all, on some level, trying to sell each other something. What sets successful business people/celebrities apart is that they understand that selling is not really about them but WHAT the CUSTOMER wants. Therefore, a musician or music entrepreneur should be focused on what the customers want and satisfying the customers’ needs, not necessarily forcing his product on the consumer.

The above is the basic premise and principle of what is known as a “marketing concept” in marketing.

MARKETING 101- WHAT IS A MARKETING CONCEPT?

The marketing concept says, 9ice don’t get hung up on your mp3s or albums. What do your fans want? Determine that, then provide what your fans want through a coordinated set of activities. If you do this, you satisfy your customer but you also satisfy your business goals of making your money from your music.

WHAT IS THE MARKETING MIX?

What is that set of coordinated activities I just discussed above? It is what is known as the marketing mix i.e. product, pricing, distribution and promotion. This is distilled into the following: Can you give your fans/customers what they want, when they want it, at the time they want it, and at the place they want it, for the right price?

I will revisit the marketing mix concept again but before I do, let’s get the facts and history right on 9ice’s relationship with Nigerian bloggers; and why his move on twitter only served to burn bridges.

THE FACTS

9ice entered into a distribution deal with Spinlet for distribution of his music online. Common sense and basic business principles would demand that Spinlet deal with the marketing and strategic distribution of 9ice’s music in a coordinated way with 9ice, after all that is the whole point of the deal. Instead, 9ice unilaterally took to social media and called out Nigerian bloggers for allegedly uploading his music on their sites without permission. He also singled out Notjustok.com (NJO). I always ask what these sponsors or third party digital distributors are signing with our artists. They should have intelligent lawyers that restrict certain activities by their partners so that it does not undermine sales. With all the ill will 9ice has generated this past week alone, how exactly is that supposed to move music on Spinlet’s platform?

Nigerian Bloggers and their Major Contribution to 9ice’s Success

In 2006, 9ice reportedly dropped out of Lagos State University to pursue a music career. By 2007, I recall slowly but surely beginning to hear about 9ice. This was because bloggers were receiving his promotional materials and music from his team and publishing it (myself included).

By January 2008, 9ice’s breakthrough hit single ‘Gongo Aso’ was one of the most played songs on the radio across Nigeria. Bloggers had been primarily behind the immense push of that song online, with it spilling offline. To show the power of Nigerian bloggers marketing and promoting  9ice and his work, some radio stations would even rip off the music on NJO complete with NJOs trademarked sound “Notjustok.com.”

That same 2008, Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook was already taking a strong hold in the Nigerian online community and before you know it, bloggers were not only pushing 9ice’s work on their platforms but on their Facebook group pages as well, well before the Facebook fan pages were introduced. By June of 2008, 9ice got the biggest surprise of his career to date. He was invited to perform at Nelson Mandela’s birthday (celebration) in London. Many Nigerians were teary eyed from such a major accomplishment on a global stage. Who disseminated the news pre and post his performance in the UK? Nigerian bloggers did and that spilled to the diaspora helping 9ice reach a new audience of Africans and non-Africans.

Behind the scenes building the relationship with bloggers was Toni Payne, 9ice’s music manager at the time. Toni Payne was a popular media personality and fashion and beauty entrepreneur with existing relationships with many of these bloggers. Leveraging that relationship, Toni pushed the 9ice brand on bloggers and bloggers were receptive and followed through.

By July 2008, Toni Payne and 9ice got married. Bloggers continued the marketing and promotions of all things 9ice, consistently oiling the distribution and promotions aspect of the marketing mix, mostly without compensation.

 By 2010, music manager Toni Payne and 9ice’s marriage relationship was over/hit serious rock bottom. This fact became relevant to Nigerian bloggers and the audience they served because thrown in the mix was an equally popular rapper at the time, Ruggedman. Ruggedman, once best friends with 9ice, was accused of an adulterous relationship with Toni Payne leading to 9ice’s marriage dissolution with Toni Payne.

Ruggedman received such harsh backlash because 9ice and Toni Payne were seen as our Jay-z and Beyonce. There were threats which extended to his family and at that point, Rugged began publicly demanding 9ice exonerate him from the lies. 9ice refused.

This became a circus that was dragged into the public light in a significant way when Ruggedman sent a privately taped conversation between himself and 9ice to NJO for publishing on their site. In that conversation, Ruggedman sought to clear his name. That leak went viral and also spilled over offline across the nation. It was one of the biggest public relations crisis in Nigeria’s music industry.

Unfortunately it did not end well as more facts became known to the public that 9ice had allegedly kicked his wife and his infant son out of his home. 9ice also, while still allegedly married to Payne, impregnated another woman, media personality Oreka Godis’ sister Victoria Godis.

9ice on the business front with his record label Alapomeji records of which Payne was a part of, released a press release that was quite crude in its approach announcing a separation and disassociating himself and his company from Toni Payne, effective immediately. It was really ugly.

The Nigerian bloggers were still there, covering all things 9ice. This time, however, his personal life had gotten out of control and the focus was no longer on his music. The bloggers shared all the personal and toxic drama that was coming from 9ice’s camp.

It is my belief that this may have been the genesis of bad blood between 9ice, NJO, and Nigerian bloggers as a whole. Indeed, in a 2012 television interview, 9ice boasted that he made $100,000.00 US dollars on ‘Gongo Aso’ alone on Itunes. Again, Bloggers with the likes of NJO leading the way, among others, distributed and promoted 9ice’s song, all at no cost, to attract the many who purchased his music on Itunes.

Fast forward to 2013, 9ice enters a deal with Spinlet and all of a sudden, the same bloggers are the bad guys?

Back to the Marketing Mix and Better Approach 9ice Could Have Used

Have you all really paid attention to (many) of our Nigerian artists and their interactions with fans, media and the general public at large? Many are ALWAYS asking the fans, media and blogs for something but never give anything in return, not even a “thank you.” Buy tickets to my concert, buy my album, buy this, buy that. Promote me, promote this about me, promote my crew, me, me, me.

Why should people who go to a 9-5, work two, three jobs, barely make ends meet buy your album?

What is so special about you? If they buy your songs, can you at least take the time to THINK about them? Also, the same bloggers, fans and media who have helped you become successful (so you) have the money to feed your family, you label thieves; or bad people because they were doing the very same act that helped create a demand for your music. What has changed with their behavior? Nothing. The only thing that has changed is you. You are wealthier now.

So, does this mean you give your music for free if you do not want to?

No. It means you educate the very audience that has been there from day one and supported you; made you wealthy and you certainly don’t do it with the use of a hammer over their heads.

In working with bloggers, it means you realize relationship matters. It means you don’t just dump your bloggers and also dump your marketing or promotion strategy to your digital distributor. Instead, you actively think through your marketing plan and how you can plan, implement and control your marketing strategy to include the bloggers because they, for a fact, have helped and do help increase your bottom line.

Bloggers v. Spinlet or Other Digital Distributors

Indeed, when you aggregate the influence and followership of some of the leading bloggers in Nigeria’s creative industry, they surpass Spinlet’s and that of many African owned digital distributors, at least for now. From a business standpoint, you want to maximize this fact to increase revenue but also continue to nurture or revive the goodwill with your bloggers.

There is NO reason why artists and an artist like 9ice should not capitalize on getting bloggers to be a part of the distribution and promotions aspect of the marketing mix.

Their platforms can continue to serve as distribution channels with everything pointing towards Spinlet. Music can be made downloadable at Spinlet, something we saw EME, NJO and Spinlet work together on in the past; although Spinlet was still a newbie trying to get its bearings.

On the promotions end, there is no reason why 9ice as one who has benefited heavily from the Nigerian blog community CANNOT give back. Artists, you cannot take, take and take all the time. 9ice treats his relationship with bloggers like a lousy marriage with him projecting a lot of selfishness in the relationship. A new woman comes into the picture (SPINLET); and you jilt your wife (Nigerian bloggers) to go with the new woman, despite the history you created with the bloggers.

9ice could have easily mobilized bloggers using all marketing mediums available, through them, in collaboration with Spinlet to communicate to his target audience. As an artist, you can and should work with your digital distributor and your bloggers to help strengthen the relationship you have with bloggers while dramatically increasing your bottom line.

The two can co-exist. He did not. He chose to go after them on twitter in an approach that I believe was wrong.

What use is a song or album on Itunes, Spinlet etc. without the promotions to get the song or album purchased? 9ice’s existing and potential new fans are still predominantly on blogs and social networks of bloggers.

To me he effectively burned bridges and I honestly don’t see blogs, absent him paying the likes of Linda Ikeji or Bella Naija to publish his music, willing to throw him the kind of support they have in the past. People never forget how you treat them, even if they forgive you.  

My 50kobo for all it is worth.

Cheers,

Uduak

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Africa Music Law™

AFRICA MUSIC LAW™ (AML) is a pioneering music business and entertainment law blog and podcast show by Fashion and Entertainment Lawyer Ms. Uduak Oduok empowering the African artist and Africa's rapidly evolving entertainment industry through brilliant music business and entertainment law commentary and analysis, industry news, and exclusive interviews.

Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Ms. Uduak is also a Partner and Co-Founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. where she handles her law firm’s intellectual property law, media, business, fashion, and entertainment law practice areas. She has litigated a wide variety of cases in California courts and handled a variety of entertainment deals for clients in the USA, Africa, and Asia.

Her work and contributions to the creative industry have been recognized by numerous organizations including the National Bar Association, The American University School of Law and featured in prestigious legal publications in the USA including ABA Journal and The California Lawyer Magazine. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the prestigious Academy of Arts University in San Francisco.
For legal representation inquiries, please email (uduak@ebitulawgrp.com). For blog related inquiries i.e. advertising, licensing, or guest interview requests, please email (africamusiclaw@gmail.com). Thank you for visiting Africa Music Law™.

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