TRACE Urban Sets the Record Straight on Alleged Conspiracy Against Nigeria’s Music Industry

Stanley Nwabia, a blogger, authored an article below claiming there was a conspiracy by Trace Urban to essentially stifle Nigerian music in Nigeria by promoting South African music videos. How would he know that? His friends who are artists visited Trace Urban Lagos to submit their music video and it was rejected. But, an employee of TRACE allegedly then shared why the video was rejected. Upon hearing it, Nwabia put pen to paper.

Artists, please get this straight. First, NO ONE, ABSOLUTELY NO ONE owes you anything. No one! There is a sense of entitlement that many artists approach the media (journalists, bloggers, TV, radio etc.) with. Actually, that also goes for the Publicists you hire. I see many Publicists also feel that if  a music blog or website does not play the songs of their artists, it is personal or they come up with such negativity and silly theories. Get over yourselves, please.

If you are rejected, too bad so sad. Step back, go to the drawing table and come up with better strategies. Study, educate and build relationships and don’t give up.

By the way, there is no showing that this same video has successfully been played on Nigezie, Silverbird or local TV networks in Nigeria. Are they also conspiring against Nigerian music videos?

Second, artists, do note the media has the right NOT TO LIKE your music and say so. I am amazed by artists who contact me or my colleagues to vent about being rejected. Are you guys for real? Since when? There has got to be a mature and professional approach to music, especially if you want professionals who help create buzz for you to do so. I know, for me, I will never open my platform to an artists or publicists who whines and groans about the lack of media attention.

Music  is business. If one person does not like your product offering i.e. your music, step back and rearrange your strategy if you still want to get it to that media outlet. Otherwise find others. There are more outlets than the big names you are used to. Test them out. It gets so boring and petty hearing artists come up with nothing short of silly statements about why their music is not being played whether on NJO, 360nobs, Bella Naija, AML or what have you.

In any event as to this story below, TRACE URBAN responds to set the record straight. They are new in Nigeria so I guess they thought it necessary. This is one case I would have ignored. By responding, they gave life to this. (From basic economics of supply and demand, if the continent of Africa is demanding Nigerian music, what sense would it make for a network with astronomical operational expenses to avoid responding to that demand? They will be out of business before they can even say “Nigerian Music.”)

Some of our tops artists like Davido, Flavour, P-Square and Tiwa Savage did go on the record to also provide soundbites/support for TRACE URBAN. I deem that unnecessary. I think the issue here is access and whether TRACE limits access to a select few. There is no showing, so far, that it does.


In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Nigeria was just an ordinary consumer of popular culture music from other regions. We did have occasional local champions like Blakky, Alex O, Felix Liberty and co but their success was restricted to Nigeria with rare flashes in other West Africa countries. Most of them were not smiling to the bank though. The Fela’s and Sunny Ade’s were on a class of their own, mostly classified into world music category and not popular culture

The aggressive entrance into the Nigerian market of South African music channels like Mnet’s Channel O became an eye opener for many Nigerians. We were amazed not necessarily because of the monotonous house beats and awkward repetitions, but on the quality of their music videos. Most Pan-African Music awards of that period favoured largely Southern African artistes.
It was not until Femi Kuti’s bang bang bang track (previously banned in Nigeria) won a major continental award that the pop culture world and the rest of Africa began to take Nigerian music seriously.

FAST-FORWARD; today, apart from oil, politics, banking and telecommunications, Nigeria’s entertainment and music industry has grown to become a very lucrative sector. Nigeria has grown further to boast of Africa’s best and largest music industry. The greatest irony is that South Africa played a major role in propelling Nigeria’s music industry; how? The production of world class Nigerian music videos started when Nigerian artistes began flooding South Africa to shoot cheap but quality music videos. This trend has still not abated, though we now have a number of competent Nigerian producers shooting great music videos in Nigeria.
Nigerian artistes have become crowd pullers almost everywhere in black Africa and the Caribbean, even in Franco-phone regions. And so why am I writing this?

It’s about two international music channels, MTV base and Trace Urban.
Several weeks back some music promoter friends of mine visited Trace Urban’s Lagos office to drop music videos for a promising Nigerian artiste and guess what? They were rejected; not because their music video or song quality was poor but they were told that TRACE urban’s quota of Nigerian music videos have already been exhausted for the month. A Non-Nigerian insider at TRACE urban’s Lagos office-being a fan of Nigerian music, eventually opened up and explained what was happening.

The insider told the Nigerian music promoters that Trace Urban has been put under pressure to promote their African host country’s music. Trace Urban’s African headquarters is in South Africa. According to our insider source, there have being complains by ‘other African countries’ that most pan-African music channels only want to play and promote Nigerian music. And so TRACE urban now has the mandate to promote South African music by any means.

Trace Urban’s AFRICA 10 is one of such platforms; the idea is to bombard the countdown show with mainly South African, plus other African songs and very few Nigerian songs. For those who watch TRACE Urban regularly, you’d notice that several popular Naija hit songs are never aired on the channel for fear that it may over shadow other South African songs. And in order not to curtail any suspicions from Nigerian fans, the people at TRACE ensure that from it’s very few collection of Naija songs on its AFRICA 10 countdown, at least one of them make it to number one.

TRACE Urban has just introduced a new one hour show called BEST OF SA HIP HOP, showing on Saturdays and Sundays. One hour of non-stop South African music, nothing on Nigeria.

Another source revealed that TRACE URBAN’s predicament may be similar to MTV base’s. MTV base also has it’s African headquarters in South Africa, and their top man Alex Okosi, a Nigerian. Word has it that Alex Okosi was also accused of using MTV base for promoting Nigerian music, many pointed to Nigeria’s continued hosting of MAMA awards as evidence. MTV’s management subsequently canned its hugely successful MAMA awards because many South African companies did not see and viability in sponsoring it and a Nigerian company (Glo) refused to sponsor MAMA if it was not going to be hosted by Nigeria. Instead Glo decided to pitch its tent with MTV’s Big Friday show, while MTN periodically sponsors Street Request the only other Nigerian oriented show on MTV base. .  .”


“TRACE Urban has been put under pressure to promote their African host country’s music”, meaning South Africa. In response to the above claims, TRACE would like to make several statements:

– TRACE Urban receives videos from all urban artists. We request videos to be submitted in a preferred format which is soft copy. Videos are selected on a number of criteria, including the popularity of the artist and song, the quality of the production, but never the nationality of the artist. There are no quotas at TRACE Urban and no pressure to promote any country more than another one.

– In response to the journalist’s claim that “the popular Africa 10 Show on TRACE Urban is bombarded mainly with South African music”, we respond that TRACE Urban’s AFRICA 10 is dominated by top Nigerian and South African but also Angolan, Mozambican, Ghanaian and Kenyan tracks. It is industry knowledge that in the English speaking part of Africa, the dominant music industries are Nigeria and South Africa. Many Nigerian tracks have made it to number 1 and remained there for several weeks, such as, for example, D’Banj “Olivier Twist”; Naeto C “5 and 6″; Flavour “Nwa Baby”; J Martins ft Cabo Snoop “Good tym”; Mo Cheddah “See Me”; Ice Prince ft Gyptian “Magician remix”; Davido “DamiDuro”; P Square “Beautiful Onyinye” and the likes from East Africa Camp Mulla “Party Don’t Stop.

– The article claims that “TRACE Urban has just introduced a new one hour show called BEST OF SA HIP HOP, showing on Saturdays and Sundays. One hour of non-stop South African music, nothing on Nigeria”.  This is not true. ‘The BEST OF SA HIP HOP’ was a one off FOCUS on the best Hip-Hop artists & songs South Africa has to offer. We have featured top Nigerian artists in the past on our most popular programmes, FOCUS and GUEST STAR, such as D Banj& P Square and TRACE Urban is busy preparing a ‘Best of Naija Hip Hop’ that will be aired soon.

– South Africa is not TRACE’s host country. TRACE’s host country is the world of music and talents. TRACE has operation in 180 countries and TRACE Urban is ranked #1 music channel in over 60 countries. TRACE has only one headquarter in Paris, France. TRACE opened an office in Lagos 18 months ago with a Nigerian partner and has just opened an office last month in Johannesburg, South Africa.

-There is no non-Nigerian staff who works at the TRACE office in Lagos. The writer was here referring to the TRACE Nigeria M.D – Mr Sam Onyemelukwe – who is of mixed raced and who clearly states that he has never made such a statement to anyone.  TRACE has always promoted diversity and is proud to have staff from 40 different citizenships. Talent, expertise, passion, professionalism, dedication are the qualities TRACE is looking for. Race will never be a criterion to employ people at TRACE.

– Finally, TRACE did not receive any request for an interview from the writer and would be glad to explain to him our accurate process of choosing videos that air on the channel. TRACE is dedicated to promoting Premium African content to the world, without favoring any nationality. Since its launch 9 years ago, TRACE has been the most effective and efficient tool to promote Nigerian music all over the world, first in the rest of Africa and then in the USA, in Europe etc. Some Nigerian artists have been exposed to tens of millions of TRACE viewers globally and this exposure has dramatically changed and accelerated their careers. There is not one club or urban radio in France, in RDC, Senegal, Cameroon, South Africa, Germany, UK, the USA that is not playing one or more Nigerian tracks and TRACE has played a key role for this promotion and recognition. No other music channel in the world has given so much exposure to Nigerian artists outside Nigeria.”

Twitter: @uduaklaw

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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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1 Comment

  1. tony says:

    I strongly believe that Trace Urban and MTVBase are conspiracy against Nigeria music industry. I want Nigeria artists to have meeting and tell Trace Urban and MTVBASE to stop playing their music since they only want to play South Africa music. And it is not like South Africa can make good music so it’s their lost.

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