Late last week, music industry head Bizzle Osikoya shared, on social media, a video of American rapper Cardi B sharing what it took for her to be successful. He also added the following commentary:
“Nigerian artist(s) don’t do showcase(s) in (the) UK or US, everyone is fully blown. They don’t know their blowing is just in the African community. If you need to expand your fan base, you need (to) make sacrifices and investment.”
There were several responses from fellow industry heads, including myself, that agreed with his statement. However, Tiwa Savage, a Nigerian singer, and songwriter was vexed. Here is what she had to say:
First, I see no division in his statement. If you spot one, please share in the comment section.
Second, for an artist like Tiwa Savage, Bizzle’s statement, in fact, underscores his very important point using her as a case study. It is great that Tiwa Savage was able to relocate to Nigeria from America to finally realize her dream of becoming a recording artist. But not everyone can and is that lucky to do so, and you shouldn’t have to leave your family and friends to move over 6,000 miles away to realize your dreams, and still not be known in the very market you actually relocated from. Tiwa studied music at a prestigious music school in the U.S., had a career as a songwriter, auditioned for music reality television shows, yet it was and remains a challenge for her to break into the U.S. market as a recording artist or even to leverage her prior existing accomplishments as a songwriter in becoming sought after in the U.S. market.
A few years ago, Savage signed a management deal, through a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and Don Jazzy’s Mavin Records. I understand things take time. But, to date, what true measurable results have we seen from that partnership?
Second, Bizzle’s statement underscores a point that I have been saying for a while. While Nigerian artists are making strides, especially in the West, there is still a long way to go. Most importantly, our artists for a music market such as the U.S. must get it right, and also move beyond the diasporan community to be successful.
It will take sacrifices as Bizzle pointed out in his statement to build a following outside of the comfort zones of most Nigerian and other African artists. Sacrifices such as accepting minimal performance fees, especially if our artists are smart to engage and activate college students through college tours. It will also take dealing with the hassle of international tours to break into mainstream U.S. market.
Often, within the U.S. African diaspora community, our artists want to charge an arm and a leg, for being relatively unknown in the U.S., for their live performances. This makes it incredibly difficult for our local promoters to stay in business and help propel the music industry forward in the states. In addition, they never explore outside of their African communities because most times, the offer for their live performances services from non-African promoters, if a few manage to show interest, are incredibly low and many artists do not have the patience to build, nor the interest to accept such low fees.
Nigerian artists, especially, need to be committed to taking their music globally in the real sense of the word. I see nothing wrong with what Bizzle said. His post is valid and a good conversation starter on what industry stakeholders must do collectively to move the industry forward.