Law & Policy, Music Business

Is IROKO’s Fight Against Piracy Hurting the Nigerian Musician? Study Shows Music PIRATES BUY 30% MORE Digital Music


Lady Gaga NollywoodI already made this point in two prior blog posts here on AML: Tonto Dikeh post and her alleged 5 million views/downloads when she released “Hi,”‘ and a Copyright Math post. I remain speechless with Nigerian artists, especially emerging artists literally trying to break into the music industry, who sign exclusive digital distribution deals with the likes of Irokoing/Iroko and co. I really don’t know what to say to you, if you fall in that category, except ignorance is not an excuse.

Even if you cannot afford a lawyer, you should be diligently studying the business of music on and offline. Surely you have heard of something called ‘Google.’ With a mobile phone, what seems to be the problem in putting in the work for your future, artists?

It’s like when the word “copyright” and “piracy” is mentioned, people lose their senses. Why, artists, does everyone except YOU seem to know more about the business of your music? Whose job is it to know? Also, you just got on the music scene. Most people have never heard of you beyond a few blogs, at best. Why exactly are you signing exclusive deals with an online music distributor, who by the way has claimed and continues to claim ownership of songs on You Tube that they clearly never owned and have rights to? I should know, reference my Yemi Sax & Sinzu story.

Africa now has Itunes, You got Google Music, CD baby, Orchard and the list goes on. What’s really good artists? Do they require exclusive deals from you? Also, why an exclusive deal on You Tube through a third party i.e. IROKO? Even as of late last year, I was still getting these kinds of inquiries from artists?

Did I miss something??

Emerging artists, you need people to want to share your music to create a demand for that music. The people you are busy now attacking and calling thieves are the ones who make the decisions on whether your music is good and whether they want to get social i.e. share it with the world. You are not even letting them have access to your music from the onset. They don’t even know you exist. How does you hoarding your copyright (at this stage of your career) help translate into revenue for you? If no one puts pressure on the media to talk about you,  or the concert promoter to hire you, how do you intend to “chop” (earn a basic living) in this game?

I always say when people start speaking “Oyinbo” i.e. unnecessary stuffy jargon English better suited for a day you want to give yourself a severe migraine, stop them and ask “what does it mean, in English?” If they can’t explain it, you need to keep it moving. From your managers, lawyers, publicists, record labels to distributors, it must be in English and make common and economic sense.

Artists, you need to create the demand first. A distributor is not doing your marketing and promotions. All they do is exactly what has been done before. They forward an email and beg blogs to post your music, well now they also say embed so the artist IROKO can track your numbers. That is NOT marketing and promoting you. That is creating a strong Iroko brand and leveraging your IP assets, your currency (fans and the data they generate) to make more money for IROKO.

Artists,  lifting, you do. The lump sum payment/advance you got, which is chicken change in the grand scheme of things, will diminish very quickly. Now what?

For more established artists, surely you can’t turn your fans into enemies? How much does  the likes of P-square really make off online sales? Take that and compare to what they make from touring, endorsement deals and their real estate investments. I’d like to see the numbers.

What sense does it make having a distributor, not even your label, keep ALL of your data, ALL your online data as to YOUR fans, your currency?

Bottom line, a balance MUST be  struck when we discuss piracy and copyright issues. Needless to say, I am totally against Nigerian fans and music blogs who help make these artists being turned into “thieves” or “pirates.”

If we are talking the film industry, sure we can have that debate. I do think, however, that Nigeria’s music industry, to me, is situated differently. If you want to go there with Nollywood, then I’d say bring it. I began this foray into Africa’s creative industries with a specific interest in Nollywood since 2004 and by virtue of what I do both at Ladybrille and my legal work, I have been interacting with Nollywood for a while now, including counseling content providers and film professionals.

One thing that is undisputed, even as so called Nollywood film “gurus,” content providers, distributors et al. scream piracy this and piracy that, is that Nollywood films are ridden with pirated works of numerous American talents and professionals. So far, the litigation on these issues are on the back burner because America as a whole chooses to believe in the stereotypical nonsense about Africans. But, as Nollywood continues to insist and have more American actors of all levels work in Nollywood, irrespective of their talent/abilities, I foresee litigation starting with the groups with the deepest pocket, IROKO, Silverbird et al.

In Iroko’s instance, they distribute Nollywood films, they are (also) based in the USA (thank God and a good news for the American trial lawyers and their clients that will file these actions) and IROKO can easily be sued in New York or wherever they may be found in federal courts across the country.

Why? Pay attention to the creative industries here in the USA. Many of the biggest lawsuits you see stem from the film industry. Music and fashion have their fair share but there is nothing like a legal drama showdown and Hollywood is replete with such lawsuits.

Indeed, I’m a big fan of Bollywood movies but even Bollywood does not have the amount of American actors that Nollywood has managed to dump into their movies in the last few years, alone.

I’mma just leave all of this for now. It’s only the beginning of the year.  Eleven more months to go. We got time. We are just getting warmed up.

Highlights of the study

  • Nearly half the population in the US and Germany (46% US; 45% DE) has copied, shared, or “downloaded for free” music, movies, and TV shows. We call this “copy culture.”
  • Much of this activity is casual and small scale. In both countries only 14% of adults have acquired most or all of a  digital music or video collection this way. Only 2%–3% got most or all of a large collection this way (>1000 songs or >100 movies / TV shows).
  • Copy culture tracks strongly with youth. Among adults under 30 in both countries, around 70% copy, share, or download media for free (70% US; 71% DE). In the US 27% in this age group acquired most or all of their digital music/video collections this way, and 10% acquired most or all of a large collection this way.
  • In Germany the corresponding numbers are 33% and 7%.
  • In both countries offline “private copying”—copying for personal use or sharing with family and friends—is comparable in scale to online file sharing.
  • In the US, private copying and online file sharing contribute roughly equal shares to the average digital music collection: 22%–23% among those under 30.
  • In Germany, online file sharing contributes more to average collection size (34%, versus 18% for private copying among those under 30) but less when controlling for collection size (17% for downloading; 25% for private copying). Put differently, most Germans copy more than they download.
  • Copying and online file sharing are mostly complementary to legal acquisition, not strong substitutes for it. There is no signficant difference in buying habits between those who copy or file share and those who do not.
  • P2P file sharers, in particular, are heavy legal media consumers. They buy as many legal DVDs, CDs, and subscription media services as their non-file-sharing, Internet-using counterparts.  In the US, they buy roughly 30% more  digital music. They also display marginally higher willingness to pay.

Check out the study which has some great goodies here.

Have a great weekend and I’ll catch you all soon.


Photo: Nigeria’s Trademarked infringed Lady Gaga Movie

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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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