Illegal Music Download in Nigeria: Whose fault is it? Artist, Fans, or The Law? PART 1

illegal music download in nigeria


Written by Onuigbo C. (@Chimere_KiNg)


I remember how chuffed I was when I discovered I could use my Samsung triple CD changer and two cassette recorders to record music from music video stations. How enjoyable it was driving and running errands while listening to songs, frankly, nothing could match the sensation music added to such activity or to any activity. I don’t recall being technologically savvy; hence the cassette recorder was what I saw as my ‘downloader’. And I don’t really recall any sanctimonious hectoring about stealing from the mouths of starving artists. However, I thought I was being industrious by passing off copies to friends for keeps. Can this impoverish artists? Can it have a negative effect on creativity? Of course! I will tell you how.

Illegal music download and copyright infringement is a massive threat to the Music and film industries in Nigeria and the world at large. Though the two concepts are cheek by jowl. In 2011,the Nigerian copyright commission estimated that piracy of entertainment goods is costing Nigerian creative industry over USD 3.5 million a year. Imagine the amount lost in recent time where bloggers and website owners put up works of artists without express consent from them. For example if a person is able to download his or her favorite music off the Internet he will not purchase the CD at a local store. This weakens the rights the artist has on the original song.

Music is an information good, and specifically, an experience good, whose true value to a consumer is revealed only after its consumption. Accessing a specific website for music and downloading for free is known as illegal download. In some countries artists frown at this because they believe that they deserve to be paid for their creativity and hard work. According to Jessie J “ It’s like going to a hair dresser, having your hair cut and running out. You can’t make music for free, you can’t live for free, and if people illegally download your album it is very likely you wont make another one”. However, in Nigeria some artists prefer their songs to be illegally downloaded. They think a person will enjoy the song so much that they will be forced to purchase a copy and on the other hand increasing their fan base that will later support their concerts.

This disrupts the flow of royalty collection, while at the same time increasing the overall revenue for some, by making them more popular and creating more non-intellectual property-based revenue opportunities such as endorsement deals from telecommunication and other multinational companies. Also because live performance, is the source of revenue for most Nigerian musicians. I had the opportunity to attend a concert of the duo Psquare that was held at a Nigerian university sometime ago. After their performance I became curious as to how much they earned for each concert. To my surprise I found that they earned up to $80,000 for a concert. Believe me, I was shocked! Could this be the reason for the passive attitude towards illegal music downloads?

Some artists believe that downloading music illegally is not hurting them because it serves as an avenue for promotions. This was only tenable in the time when artists can go to Alaba to request that their songs be put in mixes of CDs’ to boost popularity while they still make money from album sales. With the current wave of Internet growth in Nigeria, people prefer to download than buying physical copies of songs. It will be difficult in a few years because, these websites and blogs that place music without the express consent of an artist, make their own money from these downloads, the artist doesn’t but will be left hoping for concerts and endorsements. Thus, these websites will become the new Alaba market.

Artists can prevent this through Digital Rights Management and also enlisting their music exclusively on legal download music platforms. I always use Spinlet to listen to songs whenever I am on holiday in Nigeria. It only requires you pay for music using a top up or airtime on your phone, iTunes also offers DRM service because you cannot download without paying for it.

Artists or Record labels can request any material placed on any website without their consent to be taken down. If the request is declined, they can take legal action and have the website pay damages to them for profits lost. That is copyright infringement. However, in reality it is not as easy as it sounds, as previously stated most artists enjoy the publicity they garner. It is also hard to accurately tell how many people have illegally downloaded music. It can be argued that the shared material was for peer-to-peer and not for moneymaking purposes. The case of Napster in the early 2000’s proved that argument to be wrong. In this case the court found that the users of the peer-to-peer service were engaged in ‘commercial’ copying even though no money changed hands. The key ruling of the court was that ‘Napster users get for free something that they would ordinarily have to buy’.

The truth is that generally it is difficult to know how much money is lost from illegal downloads, and artists’ quest for publicity is not making it easy. For example let’s consider in simple arithmetic. If a song that costs $6 on iTunes and is illegally downloaded for 4,000 times that is $24,000.This is outright theft. We urge artists to play a role in seeing that this is curtailed and they gain reward for their hard work.

We hope you enjoyed reading PART 1.


Illegal Music Download
Illegal Music Download in Nigeria
Illegal Music Download in Africa

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