Music Business

Bizzle or Tiwa Savage: Who is Right About Nigerian Artists Expanding Beyond the African Diaspora Communities to Be Successful?

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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.

-Ms. Uduak

Business of Music North Africa Roundtable

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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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2 Comments

  1. Winston Balagare says:

    Why are we Nigerians always seeking validation from outsiders who don’t care enough to learn about or respect our culture? Since when does being a successful African musician translate to going to America?

    Perfect example–look at that ‘Black Panther’ film that just opened to rave reviews. It was a great film, but do you know what would have made it even better? It would have been spectacular if actual African music had been more prominently used in its soundtrack. It only makes sense that with so many different types of musical artists from all over the continent, that we would hear their music in an American film that is supposed to represent Africa (albeit an imaginary Africa). But we didn’t hear our favorite artists in that movie. And the reason is because no matter how much we fool ourselves, this whole “Africa To The World” business is nonsense. They don’t want us or our music, and that is quite alright. If we Africans–at home and abroad–would properly support our own, the world’s opinion wouldn’t matter as much.

    One thing that people fail to acknowledge is that there are many cultures more deeply ingrained in American culture than ours, and they still have yet to “blow” in the U.S. Look at dancehall and all the different types of Latino music that have been bubbling in America for almost 40 years now. They still aren’t considered mainstream. yet a Nigerian who started singing 10 years ago is supposed to accomplish the feat in a quarter of the time? How is that fair? And what kind of sense does that make? When Nigerian artists come to America and perform, who is in the audience? It’s primarily–if not exclusively– other Africans who appreciate the sounds. I live in Maryland, and I’ve seen artists like Tiwa Savage, Olamide and Adekunle Gold come through here and do SOLD OUT shows. They’re never going to become mainstream artists in America, and that’s OK. But because they’ll never become mainstream in America, that doesn’t give anyone the right to say they’re not working hard enough. They reached their target demographic, and shouldn’t be expected to perform miracles by packing Americans into their shows.

    If we’re being honest, the real conversation here is not about how much work these artists are putting in, but about their ability to profit from the work. The perception is that if an artist can”blow” in America, he/she will benefit from the systems in place for musicians to be paid for their art. America and other so-called “developed” nations have industries designed to make consumers pay for music. Nigeria has no such industry. There is no music industry in Nigeria. This is why musicians are forced to upload their art to the internet for FREE download, just for their voices to be heard. Traditional radio is so corrupted by greed that the internet is the new radio, where everyone is almost on an equal playing field if they want to be. On the internet, all one needs is a mad jam and a strong social-media game.

    So, in conclusion, people like this Biggles, or Bizzles, should stop spreading false narratives about who’s doing what, and why so and so haven’t “blown” in America. There is no “Africa To The World”. It’s s silly phrase that someone made up, and people have been repeating it without considering what it really means, or what it would take to truly make the world embrace a continent that they’ve never given two sh!ts about.

    1. Africa Music Law™ says:

      Interesting perspective and you do raise some valid points. I happen to side with Bizzle’s view and I am not as pessimistic and do believe there is an “Africa to the World.”

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