Evaluating Billboard’s Afrobeats Chart and its Potential Impact

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With Afrobeats gaining more traction in the international music scene, music charting platform Billboard has partnered with Afro Nation to launch the first United States chart for Afrobeats. The Billboard U.S. Afrobeats Songs chart is expected to go live on the 29th of March 2022 and will be available at Billboard.com. Using a weighted formula that incorporates official streams on both ad-supported and subscription tiers of leading audio and video music services and download sales from top music retailers, the chart ranks the 50 most popular Afrobeats songs in the country.

Speaking via a press statement, Afronation founder Obi Asika said, “There is still so much more potential within the scene and the community that has grown around it and I believe it is vital that with Billboard we now have a U.S. chart that reflects this growth and provides a platform for emerging artists from every continent to showcase their talent to new audiences.”

The world has watched Afrobeats travel across borders in the last couple of years and strongly influence international trends. While the positive buzz created around the sound is relevant, it is important to understand that the reach Afrobeats has today represents an evolution of the Nigerian music scene, which has had to struggle with piracy and the sale of pirated albums. Streaming platforms have played a huge role in the accessibility of the genre, helping it find popularity beyond the shores of Africa and giving artists room to thrive.

In certain camps, the decision of Billboard to lump all music from the continent of Africa under the label Afrobeats has raised concerns. There is a variety of music genres from Africa and terming its entirety Afrobeats can be disingenuous. When considered, the relevance of proper documentation and classification, especially in music where the lines can very easily be blurred cannot be overemphasised. It is important that the categorisation of music from Nigeria, and Africa as whole is not defined by western parameters.

The implications of a Billboard chart dedicated to Afrobeats go beyond the expected revenue. With this latest development, the role of Nigerians in the diaspora as trendsetters will be highlighted. For many Nigerians abroad, Afrobeats represent a reliable way to maintain their cultural ties with the motherland. This plays out in streams, which remains one of the most relevant ways to support the genre, providing a global reach and drawing more attention to the wave of Nigerian sound. Speaking to Culture Custodian, singer, songwriter, and historian, Bankulli explained that “Nigerians living in the diaspora have been a major contributing factor to what Afrobeats is doing around the world. They have more access to streaming platforms, and in terms of their participation in pushing the genre around the world, spreading it across to their friends, and playing it within their circles, they should be commended because this has helped the genre move forward.”

When Ckay’s Love Nwantinti went viral on Tiktok in 2021, it charted number 3 on the U.K. singles, ahead of stars like Drake and Billie Eilish. For Ckay, it was an almost unbelievable feat, considering the song had been released two years earlier, in 2019. In the past couple of years, the genre has produced some of the biggest sensations of the decade. With the nomination of Afrobeats albums like Twice as Tall (won Best Global Music Album category in 2021) and Made In Lagos (Grammy 2022), we have witnessed the genre being pushed to new heights.

While basking in the glory of recognition, it is pertinent to question whether this new development will have an impact on the quality of music being put out. The existence of a dedicated chart in the US is enough reason to wonder if there will be a rise in music that panders to a western audience, or if we will be witnessing a general improvement in the quality of work put out.

The ascent of Afrobeats on the global scene has been nothing short of exponential, defying all methods and growth formulas. An Afrobeats-only Billboard chart means Nigerian music is being discussed in the relevant spaces and is making enough impact to move the scales, calling for its category. The possibilities are endless, and now, with a platform dedicated to promoting Afrobeats in a country as large as the U.S., the Nigerian music scene will most likely experience a monumental shift. 

 

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