Where does true genius lie? It’s an age-old conversation and sometimes an argument in the Nigerian music industry. Where do the geniuses come from? All the moments of true inspiration that has shifted the balance of Nigerian music, and disrupted the established systems. Where do they come from?
How about the content? The boundless lyrical brilliance and wit? Millions of instrumentals that have contributed to create the sonic sound that we progressed with up to this point? Who was the first to appropriate Ghanaian Highlife? Who made Afrobeat mainstream? Who first took the music to Alaba? How did digital content distribution begin in Nigeria?
Genius is a relative term, used for exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability. This is distributed along every facet of the music industry in many ways. For the content creation part, there’s a tendency for producers to hoard this term in the press, calling on their lack of recognition for the work they put in. This conversation, wherever it appears, brings up the tired and mostly true lamentation about them not getting enough recognition and more. The producers have a fair argument. The lack of proper deal structures in the music industry limit them to one-time lump sum payments, which leave them vulnerable in the long run, and hardly sustains their business.
Genius in this sector of the industry comes from everywhere. From the artiste who is inspired by everyday activities, and their environment to create songs. There is genius in the creation of beats, in the mixing of the song and in the releasing of it. Don Jazzy and Cobhams are great geniuses, who have combined exceptional skill to a business acumen and become more than the embittered mass.
In the marketing department, the use of email marketing is a genius move. The proliferation of music platforms, and the generation of insightful content to sell the music are other genius moves. Who was the first person to write an opinion on music in Nigeria? That was true inspiration and genius. Who first sold Nigerian pop music online? Genius again. eLDee is credited as mostly responsible for putting Nigerian music in Alaba. Another genius move.
The music industry is littered with geniuses at every turn, with survival and thriving in this market also genius. The system is rigged against the sustainability of talent, and every step of the way requires a level of genius to navigate and win.