In Nigeria, any trend that enters our nation wears another robe separate from the one it wore becoming scaling through our borders. One of such things is the proliferation of record labels in the music industry and while it has its advantages, it has many disadvantages too.

All over the world, at least judging from the UK and Us structures in film and music industries, there are big household names that are either record labels or marketers for a filmmaker or an artist. Hence we have Universal Records, Sony BMI, RCA, Interscope etc. These labels have strong structures that ensure an artist’s celebrated entry into mainstream music and help to control the market and handle some legal and/or otherwise issues on their artists’ behalf. There are disadvantages, yes, but looking at the industry in America and the way it is composed, one would agree that the advantages outnumber the disadvantages.

Here in Nigeria, the story is otherwise. What started well in the past like a following or world standard suddenly veered off that lane and took another turn that has brought us to where we are currently.

In the turn of the 21st century when Nigerian music took another turn away from the classic generation, one could look and see strong labels with good structures that try to toe the Sony BMI and Universal Records lane. One could look and see Kennis Music, Storm Records, Mo Hitz, Xtreme Music, Empire Mates Entertainment and other names that have gone extinct. These labels acted out their names and had line up of artists they have helped to come to stardom. Then, all an artist had to think of was write his or her songs, rehearse for shows and do other things that he or she had to do. Issues regarding promotions, tour arrangements, video shoots and radio or newspaper interviews were strictly the sole business of the labels.

Somewhere along the line, aided by poor structure and zero or little government support and policies, artists and label executives began to have issues; stories of distrust, lack of transparency, poor circulation and low budget plans became the other of the day and many artists started setting up their personal labels to do all things themselves. The implications are many, some of which include that an artist now doubles as a label executive, manager, show/event planner, producer, video director, publicity manager, A&R etcetera. 

It has, in one way, liberalized the industry and given more artists confidence and shine, but it has also spiraled out of control to the extent that these days, talent is no longer what it takes to get onto a label, if you do not have your own money to set up your own label, you may die waiting because there are no more of such big labels, unlike before, that go fishing for talents to sign.

Even the ones that are still in that business till now still suffer occasional fallout with their artists who run, like others, to open their own labels. And so the list continues, the more the artists, the more the labels; it has opened business links and has fed many mouths, as there are many people doing many things in the industry now, but the whole aura of a record label is now bland in Nigeria, as we have labels only existing in name and no structure and it is so bad that once the founding artist quits music, the labels dies off. 

Well, there is nothing wrong with having many record labels in the industry, in fact, if there were good entertainment policies and financial backings from the federal government of Nigeria, these labels might generate more money for both artists and government than they are generating now, but until then, Nigerian entertainment industry is akin to traffic on Lagos roads; everyone is moving fast, changing lanes on the go, honking horns, exchanging greetings, curses, blows and speeding without control. Whether or not it is moving in the right sustainable direction is what time would tell.

This article was written by Ifesinachi Nwadike

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