Here on AML, we have seen the daunting challenge of music distribution for the Nigerian artists. The traditional distribution methods (retail, radio, tv, Alaba market set etc.) have simply not yielded the kind of monetary reward hoped for. As a result, our artists exclusively, and continuously, rely on concert performances and these days, endorsement deals to feed themselves.
In the past 2-5 years, we have seen a disruption in the Nigerian music market with non-traditional methods of distribution that has brought the Nigerian music industry in line with the times i.e. the digital revolution. Nigerians in the diaspora such as Ike Orizu (Truspot), Demola Ogundele (Notjustok) and Olumide Adewunmi (Gidilounge) have changed how Nigerians experience music and opened more revenue streams for our artists. However, the further expansion in terms of revenue streams for artists has been when the likes of Spinlet and IROKING joined the game. Music distribution will simply never be the same again.
Let’s contrast the above with Nigeria’s film industry. The issues with distribution and the digital revolution run parallel with the music industry.
However, let me submit to you all that our filmmakers spend more time screaming “distribution o! Distribution o! Distribution is an issue in Nollywood”, right from the onset, without a critical look at traditional and non-traditional methods of distribution and what fits best for their films, before the films are even made.
If you have ever sat in on a panel or organized film events whether for Nollywood stakeholders, you hear and see the same theme i.e. let’s worry about distribution after the film is made and with no clear idea and accounting to our investors, if any, on how we will earn their money back.
If you are also on the receiving end of media promotional items for Nollywood films, whether as a publisher/blogger, by virtue of what you receive, you can tell who has spent time thinking through distribution.
How, as a creative community, have we solved Nollywood’s distribution problem?
First, and in very recent times, Jason Njoku of IROKO found a way to grab our attention with the non-traditional method of distribution. He has brought Nigeria in line with the times with internet Video on Demand (VOD) distribution method both on YouTube and his IROKO platforms. There are many more like him including Afrinolly that have joined in the non-traditional distribution party. We, nevertheless, still have a long way to go.
Second, on the traditional front, the likes of Dayo Ogunyemi, Founder of 234 Media Limited, has suggested we establish a distribution method much like the ones Hollywood and Bollywood currently enjoy i.e. establish a lot more cinema screens but do so at an affordable price to the masses. Ogunyemi believes this is the best way to solve our distribution problem.
While I think the idea is brilliant and see a need for more screens, I do not agree that this will solve Nollywood’s distribution problem, per se. Beyond some important issues that are better addressed on future directly relevant posts, a cinema can only order so many movies and if the owners are smart, only the best of the best films that will perform well in the box office should be the choices presented to the consumer. This leaves many Nollywood filmmakers still trying to find solutions to their distribution problems.
Therefore, the traditional method while important and needed is only one avenue of generating revenue for the filmmaker, if his/her movie is lucky to be selected.
Third, the creative community has tried to solve the distribution problem through physical sales of DVD, nothing new here. In recent times, Njoku mentioned his company would begin sales of DVD for Nigerians on the ground, yet another traditional method. Njoku, however, is leveraging the power of Jumia.com to market and sell his DVDs. We will see how that goes. It is too premature to tell how the market is responding.
Finally, one way we are yet to utilize, no one to my knowledge in Nollywood has, is for filmmakers themselves to also have direct to consumer sales. You the filmmaker, depending on your business model and fan base, can set up your own shop online and sell your movies directly to your fans. You have to take a careful look at your business infrastructure to determine if this makes sense for you. Especially given how fragmented Africa’s market and distribution system is, there might be something to be said for exploring such an option.
The bottom line, is distribution really our problem or is it the way we look at and approach distribution?
Take a listen to this great panel on distribution below, and when you do, you should see that having myriad screens or other traditional and non-traditional methods of distribution does not necessarily solve distribution issues. You, the AML filmmaker should also see parallels with your experiences in the filmmaking process and that of your American counterparts.
I hope it gives you the confidence that allows you to then step back and really begin to take a critical look at the issue of distribution to see what works best for you. It might tune you, the AML filmmaker, into the need to plan/strategize, from the onset, on how you will sell/distribute your films and what specific distribution platforms (traditional v. non-traditional, or both) will work best for your film before you even make the film.
I have also added Ogunyemi’s presentation at TED Talent Search on distribution.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue of distribution in Nollywood.
Napa Film Festival 2012 | The Business of Film
“As movie-lovers, we think primarily about the art of entertainment. But it is, as they say, the film business. Writers, actors and directors are surrounded by a complex ecosystem of managers, agents, producers, financiers, publicists, and studio executives. While the roles have largely stayed the same for over one hundred years, the ways in which the film business is conducted are starting to change.
Prolific independent film producer J. Todd Harris of Branded Pictures Entertainment leads this illuminating discussion with a quartet of top-tier industry players.”
TED Talent Search 2012 | Dayo Ogunyemi