In the old days, music promotion was pretty textbook. Since everything was managed by music capitalism, models to promote music were predictable; roll-out plan, press runs (including magazine ads), music videos, radio/TV placements, payola and release.
Sometimes, things differ; artists could engineer publicity stunts like an arrest, a relationship or a 50 Cent (Curtis) vs Kanye West (Graduation) type of simultaneous release to get fans warmed up. While Nigeria was mostly run by radio/TV placement, payola and artist star power to promote music, there were a few times that PR stunts aided the music.
However, circa 2007, things started to change. What Napster threatened in the early 2000s and what Hulkshare could not do became a modern Nigerian reality. The aggregate of music release, music promotion and the heartbeat of Nigerian music became enshrined in one internet-based phenomenon; music blogs.
The rise Nigerian music blogs
The Nigerian blog era was an inspired decision that didn't understand its own legacy at inception. The Nigerian blog era came at a time when Nigerians were trying to understand the numerous opportunities the internet could afford Nigerians. It was around this time that Linda Ikeji started her famous blog.
Borrowing from and merging the music hosting, promotional capabilities and documentation tendencies of platforms like Complex, HotNewHipHop and Fader, the Nigerian music blogs abridged the Nigerian music industry and took power for itself.
While the idea had been used for a few years in UK music before it caught up in Nigeria, it's difficult to see any country where blogs held as much power as they did in Nigeria for nearly a decade - starting 2007/2008. Nigerian music blogs had the power to be sole platforms that artists released music through.
They also had the power to then charge for these services. While payola was common on radio and TV to promote music, blogs were legally charging money from artists to host their music.
Artists would pay legitimate money to occupy top, side or bottom banners temporarily as per revenue generation business model of certain music blogs, and other online entities. The position and level of promotion an artist gets will depend on what plan he can afford.
The music blog concept of promotion- where PR and visibility - is to ensure a level-playing field for all. Thus, in the case of online media, and music blogs, the equality of the world takes a centre-stage and affordability became a key player. If you could afford it, you will get love from music blogs.
Blogs like Jaguda, 360Nobs, Tooxclusive and in particular, NotJustOk - which soared in concept and idea to have over one million unique visitors per month - grew in influence. While Jaguda had power at one point, NotJustOk overtook it and led with unique ideation - it created playlists, created unique content formats and engaged visitors to keep coming back.
Equally, its choice of colour - orange - and designs were attractive. Even now, it seeks to own a music streaming platform in Mino. But at the time, music blogs were so powerful that their artist or music rankings created storms on social media for days on end. When it's all said and done, these platforms then had their run with music reviews.
But then, asides NotJustOk they all got comfortable as life slowly passed them by.
The fall of music blogs
Music blogs thrived because of the dysfunctional nature of the Nigerian music industry. They took advantage of the lack of an internet platform that could be a one-stop-shop for all things Nigerian music in content, media files and so forth. They also took advantage of the Nigerian artist's need to simply get the music out while hoping to benefit off live performances and endorsements.
They started losing that power when the conversation stopped being less about what fans wanted and more what the artists wanted - control. The power of streaming made them lose that power and that loss of power started when the market became too saturated with music blogs. The second point was the rise of SoundCloud in Nigeria.
What is SoundCloud?
SoundCloud is a freemium music platform that allows creators and creatives to create an account and put content on that account. While some creators have to pay to put some content on the platform, they don't have to pay for every of their releases to be on the platform via their accounts - unlike music blogs.
With the cheaper nature of SoundCloud and the awareness to it popularized by the alte demographic, upcoming acts which was a major target market for music blogs began to decrease in number. Nonetheless, that was just the beginning of the end in relevance for Nigerian music blogs.
The rise of YouTube
The real loss of relevance for Nigerian music began when they didn't have the exclusive power over new music content anymore. At their height, music blogs had that power because artists hadn't understood the concept of putting audio files on their personal YouTube accounts yet.
The ignorance of artists to YouTube placement was also fostered by how the audience hadn't seen YouTube as a primary source of music consumption yet.
The only thing Nigerian music lovers used to see on YouTube was music videos. And even then, most Nigerian artists didn't even have personal YouTube accounts for music videos. As early as 2011, music videos for Mo'Hits video, 'Mr. Endowed (Remix)' was posted on a third-party YouTube page.
Nigerian artists had to pay third parties to upload their own videos on YouTube. But around 2013, things began to change. Nigerian artists began to understand the importance of owning and managing their own YouTube accounts/channels and content. Shortly after, Nigerian artists hacked the might of posting audio files on YouTube.
This also coincided with the increased use of YouTube by Nigerian music lovers. At the start of the decade, it was hard to see a Nigerian superstar do one million views on YouTube. But these days, one million is mediocre numbers for a Nigerian superstar. Around 2013/2014, Nigerian music lovers began to use YouTube as a primary source of content consumption.
While Nigeria was still the poverty capital of the world, it also became one of the most mobilized countries in the world where the average millennial consumed 135 mb worth of data on a daily basis. For that reason, Nigerian music blogs lost their powers of exclusivity to content. Artists would post new music on their own YouTube pages around the same time blogs would have them.
From 2015, it then became increasingly hard for music blogs to charge for music placement - especially from mid-to-established acts. While music blogs and Pulse still get raw content on the eve of new music releases, new music usually goes up around the same time artists post them on their own pages.
Around 2016, streaming platforms also began to rise in importance. While Deezer had been in Nigerian since 2011, Apple Music then began to make inroads. The death of the importance of music blogs then became how they couldn't reward artists unlike streaming platforms. Their model was based of using their popularity to push an artist's music to an extent where the song could become known.
On the other hand, artists could get paid directly from their streams on Apple Music, Deezer, Audiomack and YouTube. But make no mistake, even till date, Nigerian music blogs are not totally dead. Till now, blogs like Naijaloaded or NotJustOk still charge money from artists for placement, that power has left them.
Another problem music blogs face is that they don't have the traffic that they once laid claim to. Where Pulse has eight-figure unique visitors per month, Nigerian music blogs might not have half or even a quarter of those numbers. Thus, the power of reward for artists, aggregated importance and power of popularity by traffic all eluded music blogs.
For this reason, a streaming-based music phenomenon now threatens the entire existence of Nigerian music blogs...
YouTube-based music hosting channels
A YouTube-based music hosting channel is basically a channel opened by a third-party business that has a large subscriber-base and leverages on it to host music from upcoming to mid-level artists. In turn, these artists get visibility, a chance at hits and a higher chance of payment through YouTube streams.
These music hosting channels are also then entitled to a cut of any revenue that the artist's music generates from YouTube. An example is UK-based Grime Daily.
You might have heard of GRM Daily. If you have not, you might have seen the YouTube account of the same name. It hosts music videos of numerous British acts of small to medium standing. Starting off as Grime Daily, it has grown to become the the largest media outlet platform in the UK, followed by Link Up TV and Mixtape Madness.
In 2009, its founders; Matt 'Sketchy' Thorne, Pierre Godson-Amamoo and Koby 'Posty' Hagan started the platform to create a space for UK urban artists to showcase themselves and release music - basically, the idea that birthed Nigerian music blogs.
Like Nigerian music blogs, its website peaked in 2012 by amassing 70 million hits and over 50,000 daily visitors. The platform played a part in popularizing artists like Tinie Tempah, Tinchy Stryder, and Wretch 32. But in the same year, the platform moved to create a YouTube platform and became GRM Daily - for 'Grime and Rap Music Daily.'
Since then, it has waxed stronger and stronger. While the UK soundscape takes to artists quickly and some artists have gone on tour simply off successful Fire In The Booth episodes, GRM Daily has done wonders for some careers. For example, B Young, a little known act outside the UK has a video with 48 million views on the GRM Daily YouTube channel.
In the same vein, the fast-rising British rap group, D-Block Europe already has a video with 24 million YouTube views via GRM Daily. While Grime Daily initially followed the music blog formula, it has evolved into something bigger with time.
It is now a YouTube-based music hosting channel. It's major leverage is its 2.7 million subscribers and its notoriety as a veritable tool that aids music promotion of the UK pop/rap underground. It is the evolution on music blogs and unlike music blogs, it does not seek payment from artists. Instead, it gets a cut from the what the music videos generate from YouTube in revenue.
When these artists are then big enough, the branch out on their own and release content on their on YouTube pages.
Does Nigeria have an equivalent of GRM Daily?
No. At least, not yet. However, they're rising in relevance and reliance. It's almost like the music blog concept left the web and piqued on streaming - in this case, YouTube. It also seems like some of the runners of Nigerian music blogs are behind some of these accounts like Music Vevo, Naija Kit, WorldWide Music Lover and so forth.
Of all of them, Music Vevo is the most viable one. The most interesting thing about these platforms though is that they also get music even before their release dates. This begs the questions; who runs these platforms? Nobody knows. But what they are is interesting.
Above all, their model is impressive. They are what music blogs should seek to become if they want to stay alive as streaming slowly takes over. This way, streaming doesn't leave them behind, they continue helping artists, they retain their brands, they help artists get paid and they also get paid.
Building a streaming platform from the ground up might work, but its success is also not set in stone. The streaming space is already saturated. The smart people must seek to benefit off established brands - looking to compete might lead to more harm than good. What music blogs can bring that a Music Vevo doesn't have is credibility and trustworthy brand.
When artists start submitting their music to these YouTube-based music hosting channels, or an entrepreneur has that sense invests in one of them, these YouTube-based music hosting channels will rise. Nigerian music blogs should look to become these YouTube-based music hosting channels with legitimacy and credibility.
The advantage of these accounts is that, they are built on a digital streaming platform. Fans only need to be on the freemium site called YouTube to simply visit and consume this content. If the fans also subscribe to these channels, they will get music alerts by the hour.
These YouTube-based music hosting channels then become like YouTube-based curators that can control their own content.
Why is this model attractive?
The future of business is convenience meets cost effectiveness meets efficiency. There are two major cogs in this conversation.
- YouTube: The DSP obviously does not prevent any channel from doing this. GRM Daily succeeds at it and Naira Marley's 'Issa Goal' is still a Fader property. I also think YouTube Main can monetize this model and make channel owners of this model pay a monthly fee. This will just be like the vehicle that birthed TrueView. Instead of letting illegal releases continue, you monetize it.
- YouTube channel owners: If they are music blogs, they will guarantee fans and the artist a higher rate of convenience. For fans, they are already on YouTube and the content will meet them there. A lot of these fans might also not be able to afford premium streaming, so YouTube is free. It is convenient, cost-effect and efficient. For the artist, he doesn't have to pay to host his music on music blogs anymore. Instead, he even makes money and gets the exposure he craves. Everybody wins.
YouTube-based music hosting channels can give artists what music blogs can't solely give anymore - reward system. While Nigeria will take a while to truly accept the reality of streaming due to expensive internet usage costs, this is one thing music blogs should seek to become.
Music Blogs should open YouTube accounts, build a large following, gain credibility and shift all their releases to YouTube. What they should then do is simple; make sure that artists are only releasing content to them exclusively. What they have that artists don't is simple; they have a large following - that's leverage that upcoming acts still need.
If Nigerian music blogs will become YouTube-based music hosting channels, they must never charge acts for music placement. Instead, they become like streaming merchants within streaming platforms. Their power will be from the following they have and how that would help the music be seen by millions of eye balls.
These YouTube-based music hosting channels can then sign fair deals with artists that allows those artists to benefit from their subscriber base while the artists also make money.
The only thing they will have to deal with is signing deals with artists on exclusivity and revenue-sharing models. These things will work heavily for upcoming acts who need the exposure that music blogs cannot guarantee anymore.
In the end, these channels might end up either being more powerful than blogs or being less powerful than blogs. Either way, they are updated than music blogs and they are more progressive and beneficial to artists and potentially, to music blogs.