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Why is music marketing expensive in Nigeria? [Pulse Explainer]

Money moves the needle and in the Nigerian music industry you need a lot of it to push a record to hit status.

Why music promotion is expensive in Nigeria (Victor Elements)

The reality of visibility being the primary determinant of what can become a hit song coupled with other factors has grossly made music marketing more expensive in Nigeria.

This article explains the surrounding factors that have culminated in bringing music marketing in Nigeria to an all-time high.

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The process of making music is the most expensive it has ever been. Gone are the days when artists could make an entire album off a shoestring budget. Today, it takes tens of thousands to make a quality project, and this is not detached from the advancement in technology and the growth of the music industry.

I spoke with an Entertainment Executive and veteran Culture Journalist on why music is now very expensive and he highlights a number of factors including the costs of equipment and the rise in standard.

"Production now requires world-class equipment that is not cheap. So, the cost of production will generally reflect the cost of setting up the studio," he explains.

This rise in quality is also reflected in streaming platforms which prescribe a certain quality benchmark for songs that will be uploaded to the platform. For example, Apple Music prescribes a standard Lossless and Dolby audio quality which requires a mixing budget that can go as high as $2,000. This is not cheap.

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Also, producers have become prominent figures in the scheme of things as opposed to remaining in the background. This has allowed them to command higher rates that make the creative process more expensive.

Now, you may wonder what has the creative process got to do with music marketing. It's imperative to impress readers that the Nigerian music industry is at a point when creative contributors play a significant role in how the product will be perceived.

A record produced by an A-list artist whose signature has become notoriously popular will make consumers more willing to engage with the record. The same applies to music videos which are aimed at getting a song to a larger audience.

I spoke with a fast-rising music producer who has worked with A-list artists and he tells me the cost of production ranges from $2,000 to $5,000 for mid-level producers. Some A-list producers charge upwards of $15,000 per track with some going as high as $20,000.

The cost of hiring an A-list video director costs as high as $50,000. When the cost of hiring these choice creatives is factored in, the marketing budget receives more zeros.

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At this point in the Nigerian music industry, what makes a hit song is primarily the resources available to service it.

Music is consumed across traditional and digital platforms all of which must be generously catered for.

My source, who is an Entertainment Executive, tells me that there are just too many channels to cater to if a song is to be ubiquitous enough to become a hit.

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According to him, "It's a song's ubiquity that determines its hit status. So between Radio, TV, and Social Media labels need to spread their budget to service these platforms and this requires a heavy budget."

I also spoke to a PR executive at a leading record label who tells me that marketing is more expensive now because ads are simply not cheap.

My confidential source tells me that one song from their flagship artist requires a commitment of at least $20,000 for ads across social media. The ads are placed strategically across Instagram, Tik Tok, and Snapchat with multiple ads simultaneously running on some platforms.

I also learned that more ads are placed according to how the song is performing in different regions. So, say the song is gaining traction in South Africa, more targeted ads will be directed to that region, and this often requires a supplementary budget.

Influencers also play a huge role in the music market, and the famous ones command a heavy fee.

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I spoke to a music marketer who told me that every serious label sets aside an influencer budget, with the zeros reflecting the ambitions of the client.

According to my source, Instagram influencers command the heaviest fee, with the biggest ones charging as much as ₦5 million to partake in a campaign. Instagram influencers are rivalled by their Tik Tok and Snapchat counterparts, who charge upwards of ₦3 million. Twitter influencers charge the least, with the big ones commanding as high as ₦200,000 per tweet. I was also informed that major radio stations in Nigeria charge millions for up to 100 plays a week.

By and large, the price of visibility is an expensive one, and labels roll out tens of millions because the more visible the record, the higher its chances of becoming a hit.

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The Nigerian music industry has grown from being just a market that serves sub-Saharan Africa and small markets to a global one.

With Afrobeats' global appeal comes the need to meet up with international standards in all aspects. The quality of the output and the manner in which it's packaged for international appeal must follow the pattern of heavyweights across major markets.

From influencers to media companies, the Nigerian market is now reflective of what's obtainable internationally. Market forces have come to realise the huge potential that abounds in Afrobeats, and their services now come at a price reflective of its current state.

I spoke to a media personality who told me that competition among artists has led them to outspend each other for a place at the top.

"Compared to even 10 years ago, more artists are now vying for similar positions, which means they are willing to outspend each other to come out on top."

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Similarly, the entrance of major labels and the international success of Nigerian music have led to more funding, even for up-and-coming artists.

I spoke to a music executive, who told me about an upcoming female artist who recently received around a $40,000 advance for an EP. This figure helps to capture the mouth-watering deals that leading labels are able to offer artists with track records and bigger fan bases.

The amount of investment major labels make is part of what has inspired the recent calls by Universal Music Group CEO Lucian Grainge, who’s pushing for a raise in streaming rates. These labels spent a lot on marketing, and they intend to turn a higher profit through streaming.

This is pretty much self-explanatory. The naira has lost considerable value over the years, and in an industry where business is often done in dollars, prices will invariably soar.

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The answer is quite simple: they stand a chance of making a healthy return on their investment.

There's a reason why the biggest companies in the world have the biggest marketing budget. The more they market their product, the larger their market share, and the more revenue they stand to make.

The question of labels servicing a song with an average cost of $45,000 is a fair investment for those who can afford it, as they stand a good chance of making it back if it works out.

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With visibility and international positioning come more streams, especially from high-paying foreign consumers. So, take, for example, an emerging artist who scores a viral social media hit that pulls 60 million streams on Spotify, with 60% of the streams coming from the US. That's an earning of $2–4 per 1000 streams from 36 million streams. That roughly tallies to $144,000, and this is just one platform.

When we consider the returns on streams and the potential revenue from shows and endorsements, labels with thriving artists make enough to take on the risk of propping up artists on their roster.

Additionally, labels are in competition to dominate the chart, as this will attract more investments as well as the best talent, and the primary way to get this is through heavy investment.

Let's face it, there's really no alternative to spending. Any artist who desires visibility must spend.

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However, there are independent artists who don't possess the resources to splash millions of naira on a song. These artists must still spend, albeit within their means.

According to my source, an entertainment executive, one way artists without funding can navigate the global capital-intensive market is by getting creative.

"Artists must strategically deploy resources to the necessary areas, no matter how little."

He explains that unfunded artists can hire micro-influencers who charge considerably less just to provide visibility across platforms.

Additionally, artists must get creative with their content. They must serve as their primary marketer by churning out content that engages existing listeners while attracting new ones. Building a community is one of the ways to attract a major label or financier.

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By and large, the heavy cost of music marketing in Nigeria is not detached from the current realities of the industry. With global growth and international exposure comes the requirement to look the part, and this is not cheap.

Will it get cheaper? Absolutely not. It will only become more expensive.

Everyone involved will have to keep adjusting to market forces or simply get creative.

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