Effects of COVID-19 on Nigerian Music Industry

From Miracle Oyedeji

Nigerian Music Industry
Nigerian Music Industry

One great lesson we all learned from the 2020 coronavirus-induced lockdown is that no country, lifestyle, or industry is impervious as far as the global pandemic is concerned. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the propinquity between global health and Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (aka world economy).

The heat of the pandemic was partially felt by first-world countries, but the major casualties were the third-world nations, namely Nigeria, India, Cambodia, Nepal, etc.

While Nigeria announced its first lockdown late March, her music sector started feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic before the announcement. Davido, a Nigerian top artiste, postponed his North American tour on March 13 due to the outbreak of coronavirus. The announcement was made via a tweet shortly after he graced the stage at Denver, Colorado, USA.

Artistes who traveled for shows and video shoots were unable to return to their home country. A good example is Reekado Banks, an Afropop artiste who could not travel back to Nigeria due to travel restrictions. He expressed his frustration via a tweet.

Although countries are easing travel restrictions and people are getting vaccinated, certain factors such as vaccine hesitancy, and vaccine shortage, are inhibiting nations from reaching herd immunity. If a community does not attain this status, music tours and shows will definitely not happen. Herd immunity, or population immunity, is an indirect shield from an infectious disease. It comes into action when a good part of the population is immune to the disease. For coronavirus, the threshold is 65 % – 70 %.

While the future of live shows and entertainment gatherings is still uncertain due to the factors mentioned above, the impact of the pandemic is eating deep into the Nigerian music industry faster than the virus itself.

The Major Victim: Live Music Industry

The ban on social gatherings is a direct blow to bands whose daily income comes from live shows. The paradigm shift from live performances to virtual concerts is a great idea, but its sustainability and end-user satisfaction are of great concern.

The idea of ticketing for live streams is fast becoming a thing in Western countries. However, the same cannot be said of the Nigerian music landscape. In a country where content piracy is a thing, and data (internet connection) is very expensive, the idea of ticketing for a live stream in a poor system is, ipso facto, an unrealistic one.

The NCDC has maintained that no gathering, including musical shows, should exceed 50 people. However, we have seen cases of state governors and powerful people flouting this rule. All you need to organize a show of 50,000 people is the proper affiliation.

We are at a point where we do not know if the NCDC rule was created with exceptions. But we have heard cases of “ordinary” people getting arrested for organizing shows. For instance, a popular actress, Funke Akindele, was arrested and fined $260 for celebrating her birthday with an undisclosed number of people, including her husband and the “coming” crooner, Naira Marley.

An Unprecedented Boost in The Release of Albums

For Nigerian artistes of all genres, the lockdown time was reflection time. The usual artiste lifestyle is a busy one. When COVID-19 happened, they had no choice but to take a chill.

The lockdown period resuscitated the dead culture of releasing albums. Throughout the last decade, artistes like Davido, Wizkid, and Mr. Eazi sustained their unencumbered reign with the aid of singles. The decline can be attributed to the reduction in audience attention span, change in marketing methods, and the emergence of the digital age in Nigeria.

From upcoming artistes to the top dawgs, the outflow of EPs and LPs was massive. The most notable albums were Vibes & Insha Allah, African Giant, A Good Time, Twice as Tall, Made in Lagos, and Get Layd.

Saving Grace: The Internet

The internet played a major role in the quick acclimatisation of the Nigerian music industry during the lockdown. Online meeting platforms like Zoom, Slack, and Skype took off almost immediately after the pandemic started. Video conferencing apps are not the only beneficiaries of the pandemic; conventional media platforms like Twitter and Facebook also saw a rise in revenue during this period. According to Forbes, “Facebook saw its rise by 16.7% in the first three quarters of 2020 as lockdown drastically increased active users over the first two quarters”.

Without the internet, the effects of the pandemic would be unimaginable, especially in the Nigerian music space where a proper structure is lacking. Since physical gatherings were no longer possible, artists and entertainers settled for Instagram Live shows.

Since the Nigerian government offered zero support to its greatest export, Afrobeat, musicians were left with no choice but to double their grind and make lots of releases in a bid to maintain a steady inflow of profits. Although established artistes were able to generate income, upcoming artistes had it worse. Upcoming musicians were not only battling the pandemic, but also trying to escape the deadly hands of SARS operatives. The youths were constantly being exploited by these officers. It got to a point when the youths, creatives, and entertainers had to demand an end to the harassment of youths and the reformation or dissolution of the SARS unit.

With the aid of platforms like Spotify and AppleMusic, artists were supported by relief funds. AppleMusic’s $50 million COVID-19 relief fund was dedicated to independent artistes who were mostly affected by the inability to tour and sell out merchandise in shows.

Those We Lost to The Pandemic

2020 saw the demise of musical legends who have contributed immensely to the advancement of the Nigerian music industry. Victor Olaiya, who was 89 years old, quit the earthly stage February 12 at LUTH. According to Grammy Awards website, the Cool Cats band leader gave up the ghost due to an unspecified brief illness.

The Nigerian music industry suffered another blow when news of Majek Fashek’s death hit the media. The Reggae star whose original name was Majekodunmi Fashek died in his sleep June 1, 2020. Prior to his death, the 57-year-old icon was battling esophageal cancer.

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