In the past decade, we have witnessed African artists, especially Nigerian artists, make the jump and push their music to worldwide audiences. A detailed shift is underway as artists today have been seen to pander to the global audience, occasionally neglecting and some would go as far as claiming, betraying their earliest fans. From receiving international acknowledgment to doubling down on international collaborations, one of the more prominent trends, however, is Nigerian artists taking their sounds to the rest of the world through international tours.
In the first quarter of 2019, we’ve seen Burna Boy and Mr. Eazi secure Coachella bookings, Odunsi go on a three-show UK tour, Davido sell out the O2 Arena and Teni announce her first world tour expected to touch three continents. It’s increasingly become the norm today.
The Stepping Stones
Looking back at where the industry was in the 2000s, the thought of globalization of mainstream Nigerian music seemed quite distant. Consumption of Nigerian music was largely centered around radio airplay which in turn served as a factor for its mainly local consumption. Gold was however struck at the beginning of the 2010s in the form of D’banj’s mega hit Oliver Twist and his affiliations with Kanye West’s GOOD Music back in 2011. The record capitalized on the sizable Afro-Carribean population in the U.K and essentially rewrote the rules.
Oliver Twist validated the Afro-Pop scene at the time. It was no doubt a factor in Don Jazzy’s production credits on the Jay-Z and Kanye West joint project Watch the Throne. Oliver Twist debuted at #9 on UK singles chart and #2 on the UK R&B Chart. It served as an indicator that there was interest in the music and there was also a market and appetite for Nigerian music beyond its borders.
The Impact of Social Media and Streaming Platforms
Music consumption was ushered into the digital era via the advent of social media and music streaming platforms like Apple Music, YouTube, Spotify, Shazam and Deezer. D’Banj’s Oliver Twist was one of the first Nigerian records to leverage the power of social media. D’Banj intelligently utilized social media platforms for the song’s promotion at a time when it had become undoubtedly popular across the globe by way of a dance challenge. This was in a world where every record released was not explicitly trying to go “viral” and the best solo performer was rewarded with £500 and an exclusive pair of customized trainers, courtesy of Adidas. Since then, Nigeria’s entertainment and media market has become a fast-expanding major market globally and is expected to continue to grow exponentially.
Streaming services have played a significant role as well in terms of widening the reach of Nigerian artists, introducing them to a world of listeners and putting their sounds on a global scale. A great example can be seen with Mr Eazi, an artist who has amassed a little over 3 million monthly listeners on Spotify, a streaming service still unavailable in Nigeria as at the time of writing. Mr Eazi has gone on to collaborate with a range of international artists including the likes of Major Lazer, Anne-Marie, Giggs, Raye and Lotto Boyzz with the intention of conquering the global market. As a newcomer in the music industry, Soundcloud over the years gave Mr Eazi a platform to establish himself as an artist and build a cult following of listeners interested in his sound. Same can be said for people like Odunsi The Engine and Nonso Amadi.
Why Are the Artists Beginning to Focus on International Tours?
Tours and concerts are an essential part of any artist’s career and when done right, could be a significant revenue source. They create an experience between artists and long standing fans and give artists the opportunity to tap into new audiences.
As a result of the preponderance of streaming services, demographic analytics are provided to artists who in turn are able to use the data garnered to create direct marketing plans. Most obvious example being Spotify’s annual Artists Wrapped Campaign. The campaign offers musicians and their teams insights into their listener trends by providing the artists with the number of streams amassed, the number of countries which contributed to the artist’s streams and the number of fans. The Spotify wrapped campaign in 2018 revealed that Mr. Eazi amassed over 163 Million streams across 65 countries at the end of 2018. An outstanding feat and definitely at the top of the spectrum for Nigerian artists.
The Davido Case Study
Davido’s 2017 hit Fall has been currently gaining a lot of traction in the U.S. On the airwaves in the U.S, Fall‘s growth has been gradual with 482 plays across 36 radio stations as at January according to Nielsen BDS, which tracks radio activity.
It was one of the Top 100 most Shazam’d singles in America the week of January 20th 2019. In New York City, Fall was a Top 10 record on Shazam. And as reported by Rolling Stone, in Atlanta as well, another crucial market, only two tracks were getting more Shazam activity than Davido’s.
Selling out the biggest stage at the O2 arena is no small feat let alone getting to book the stage. Regardless, it is one of the successes enjoyed by Davido this year. “Not just anyone can book a place like the main stage at the
What it Takes to Head Out on The International Tours
As earlier stated, artists are indebted to streaming platforms for the analytics they are privy to. Analytics provide artists with a clear vision of where their music is in demand thereby narrowing down the cities worth touring. When we think of huge Nigerian populations in the US for instance, Atlanta is one of the cities that comes to mind. However, when it’s time for tours, it’s a city many artists exclude because their analytics let them know that while the city is home to many Nigerians, the proportion of Nigerians in the under 30 demographic and thus, likely to attend concerts in the city are less than college cities like Boston for instance. In addition to streaming analytics, show promoters implement pre-sale tickets policy. The policy enables promoters work out the amount of people willing to be in attendance.
It’s been shown many times that one of the country’s biggest exports is its people especially those in music, entertainment and the arts. As the Nigerian music industry continues to gain relevance globally, international tours remain at the forefront pushing the industry to new heights and opening doors that were once beyond reach. In a little quirk of fate, streaming is largely seen in the Western world as diminishing the art form because it has shortened the lifespan of music and also because of the poor value of returns earned by the artists. However, it works for the Nigerian artist because the Nigerian market has a negligible purchasing culture. Consequently, the marriage of data and the foreign denominated pay outs have provided avenues that favor the art and artist.
The wheels of change are forever turning and giving room for growth and hopefully, it will be taking Nigerian music on a journey towards international dominance in coming years.