Folks, I saw Estelle’s cover on D’Banj’s ‘Oliver Twist’ and I kept wondering what happened to her vocals. Estelle is a talented singer but what she did on D’Banj’s ‘Oliver Twist’ simply did not cut it, at least for me. It seemed I was solo on my thinking because many, including fellow publishers, felt she did a “great job” to quote few. There was just a feeling of gratitude that she even bothered taking on the song. Hmm . . . when Africans do music covers of American singers, they get hammered when they are off key. In contrast, we Africans and Nigerians are just grateful? Is it time to raise the standard and expectation from this mentality? #Justasking.
Anyway, I didn’t have to wait long to see a meaningful attempt at the song. UK Band Ryan Parrot & The Rumors do a nice cover. The cover raises several questions for me.
First, we continue to talk here on AML and among industry heads on how to penetrate America’s music markets with Nigerian music. Nigerian artists seem to be gaining grounds in the UK. But, the USA is a tough market that remains hard to understand. I already gave an extensive writeup on the “how” of getting into the US market. A few artists seem like they read the article and are adhering to some of the suggestions I made.
On a broader, big picture and for purposes of this article, how do Nigerian artists get to mainstream America? Nigerian music it appears has conquered Africa (I still think we have more African countries to conquer) and even if it has not, Nigerians remain one African group obsessed with all things Western. So, since we aim to get into the US market, how do we do it?
Often, there are statements made by artists in circles of discussions stating adamantly that they will not compromise their sounds. If you ask me, that is debatable as many already do. My sense and thoughts are that artists, along with those who truly understand the Western music markets (lawyers, promoters, PR/marketing etc.), need to sit and come up with a formula and sound that fuses the best of both worlds to gain real entrance into mainstream America.
Second, the other question this raises is one you artists are or should probably wonder. The questions of copyrights. Where an American/British artist covers your song and makes them available for download for their fans, what are your intellectual property rights? The short answer given my time constraints are as follows:
1. An artist can play any of your cover songs anytime.
2. If you an artist play another’s song in a club, restaurant etc. the establishment is the one paying a performance rights organization, like ASCAP, BMI, COSON (Nigeria), MUSIGA (Ghana), a licensing fee for use of the work of their artists at their establishment.
3. The above goes for playing songs at a radio station.
4. If Ryan Parrot & The Rumours want D’Banj’s song on their album, they gotta pay. The song has 57,000 + hits on YouTube and has helped them attract new fans.
Folks, through this UK cover, D’Banj’s song, to me, finally gets a real cross over appeal treatment. It raises eyebrows and we all want to know whose song it is they sing.
It also means, folks, that we really have work to do. We must all begin working collaboratively and collectively as one cohesive industry to understand the business, legal and general creative ramifications for our music and artists. The stakes continue to increase as third parties get even more interested in what we are doing.
What are your thoughts on it you guys? I’d be curious to hear. Gotta run but catch you all later.