I am a keen observer of many things but my curiosity is usually at its peak when it comes to Nigeria's entertainment industry. I believe that it is the main legal avenue for the average Nigerian to distinguish themselves from the remaining 140 million and make good money in the process. A new breed of artists like Asa have been well received at home and abroad. Musicians like Shank have their music played at nightclubs in the Oxford area in Britain and those songs also remain on heavy rotation on Lagos airwaves. Musician and Producer Terry G makes music that young men working in any of Nigeria's many markets sing along to, and even I use for pace on my daily runs. Nollywood actresses like Stephanie Okereke have decided to venture into Hollywood and actors like Jim Iyke have decided to diversify their talent by releasing a rap song (I leave you to make your own conclusion on how successful that venture was). Their names are known by Africans everywhere, their product is loved in the Caribbean and even those not of the Diaspora are realizing that the Nigerian entertainment industry is a force to be reckoned with. These, and many other artists have a mass appeal that is unquestionable and they are taking advantage of this appeal like never before.
Observing the creativity and success of many of Nigeria's entertainment stars, I wondered how exactly they made any money given the reality that piracy was, and remains, rampant. Nevertheless, Nigerians, being an ingenious lot, managed to make their money, and fame, despite the obstructions and the lack of a system that protects artists, and those who direct, produce and support them from having their work pirated. I soon learned that for Nigerian musicians, the key is to make party music, so they can book shows and make their money directly. As a result, Nigerian musicians constantly perform at home and around the world. And, as a consequence, I will have the pleasure of seeing Naeto C, 2008 winner of MTV Africa's Best New Musician Award, in a few days time not too far from my home.
Nigerian artists and entertainers are taking advantage of their fame and using it to make money outside the typical entertainment channels. Actresses like Genevieve Nnaji and Omotola Jalade Ekeinde have been the face of various products marketed and sold to Nigerians. And, considering the size of Nigeria's domestic market, there is still room for other entertainers to affiliate their brand and product with various businesses and corporate products. I even believe that one of my favorite rap songs, "Da Finest" by Knighthouse featuring Mo Chedda and others, could be easily manipulated to sell Blackberry phones and equipment to Nigerians and others on the continent (you will have to listen to the song to understand why).
THE 'KOKO' ENTREPRENEUR
Despite the growing success enjoyed by Nigerian artists, it seems that no one has managed to create a brand as well as musician D'Banj. An engaging performer with the ability to entertain and sway everyone from young children to old women, D'Banj came onto the music scene and in no time his music was used for everything - even political campaigns. Calling himself the "Koko Master" and his many female fans "Kokolettes", D'Banj has managed to not just cement himself in the Nigerian entertainment industry but he has succeeded in cementing his brand in Nigerian culture. There are talks of him selling 'Koko Garri', 'Koko Water' and even 'Koko Mobile' to anyone that will buy it, and given his popularity, I daresay many will. It is clear that D'Banj doesn't just want to be a musician or producer, he wants to be an entrepreneur.
And now, D'Banj will allegedly enter the foray of reality television. Reality television shows are very successful in Nigeria and shows like West African Idol, The Apprentice Nigeria, and Big Brother Africa have been a launching pad for many an individual. One reality contestant even went on to act in Nollywood films. But, D'banj's reality show will not focus on highlighting talented individuals. Well, actually it might focus on certain 'talents' because D'banj's upcoming reality show, The Koko Mansion, will have many women, living together to become his main kokolette, all be it for a short period of time. One can only imagine what talents will be displayed to win the ultimate prize. The show will apparently be based on VH1's Flavor of Love and if that show (all 3 seasons of it) is anything to go by, viewers and D'Banj himself must prepare themselves to expect the unexpected. At the end of the day, however, the Koko Master would have lined his pockets nicely with lots of Koko cash, and the show will be another experience used to further build and market his brand.
Nigeria's entertainment industry highlights how Nigerians can circumvent the failures of the government to create opportunities for themselves. Those who have managed to find success prove that despite the fact that the odds might be against them, enterprising individuals will always find a way to flourish. It will be interesting to watch as more Nigerian entertainers and even average Nigerians choose to brand themselves and market their brands to their personal advantage.These are definitely exciting, and interesting, times.
Hattip to Strictly Naija Music for introducing me to the 'Koko Mansion' story, and to Habeeb for enlightening me on 'Koko Garri'.
Related Articles of Interest:
- Economics of Nollywood: Price (written by guest writer, Oz)
- Using Nigerians to Re-Brand Nigeria
- Nigeria's Internet Future