As you read this article, let this thought keep echoing in your mind— it’ll take around 6,500 streams for any artiste on Spotify to make ₦10,000. So, think again when you “think” you’re giving an artiste you love your best by streaming relentlessly.
Of course, your mind is reminding you of those days you had one song on rotation for 24 hours. Assuming you don’t sleep, since the average duration of most songs is around 3:15 minutes, it seems doable. But no matter how hard you try, you cannot stream it more than 443 times in one day (the naira equivalent is ₦681.5). To put ₦10,000 in your favourite artiste’s pocket, you’d have to be crazy enough to listen to that one song for every single second of 14 days (+ a little above 12 hours if we want to be accurate).
For an artiste to earn ₦100,000, there’ll have to be 10 other people like you doing the exact same thing. No matter how good a song is, that’s just weird. The fact remains that, producing a quality song and marketing it properly will cost at least 10 times that. It’ll literally run into millions of naira.
It’s not your fault, it’s not even crack. You’re only a fan. You’re doing all you can. The streaming services take 30%. The record labels take a slice of the same pie. The artist getting anything tangible really depends on a myriad of factors somehow working together. They might look like they’re living the “lifestyle”. But, for the amount of effort they put in, they’re actually getting the short end of the stick. See
How can you help? Merch!
Buy merch! Merch can be anything from keychains to sneakers. The easiest to find around in Africa are shirts, lapel pins and bucket hats. The only artistes who seem to have really figured out how important the revenue from merch can be are the “alte” artistes.
It is from that understanding they have managed to eke out strategic partnerships. Odunsi, Santi and a handful of others work closely with Vivendi. In 2018, “rare.” merch was all over the TL when Odunsi was about to drop his critically acclaimed album, the precursor to EYHIT. In 2019, we saw Santi’s “Mandy & the Jungle” merch eat up the streets. Lady Donli’s “Enjoy Your Life” merch is another of my favourites. The rollout was exemplary and made purchasers a part of her brand.
Fans? They bought these things and wore them to shows. Asides the sense of belonging you get from purchasing merch, you’re actually putting money in the artistes pockets. You’re also looking good at shows. Other fans and people that f/w the artiste can identify with you.
Nigerian acts with merch actually pay a tremendous amount of attention to detail. The attention to detail makes output inch perfect. From the adire and studs on versions of Odunsi “rare.” merch to the text size & texture on Tiwa Savage’s “The Savage Tour” merch, we understand the amount of effort artistes put into creating these pieces. Even Phyno’s “Alobam” marketing is a testament to this fact.
The exciting thing about merch is that you’re basically contributing directly to the artiste’s bank balance. No streaming platform is removing 1/3 of the artiste’s revenue. Merch is also a great gift idea. If you know I like Santi and you get me Mandy merch, I’ll feel like you get me.
It’s a little scary that Nigeria has something akin to a “non-existent” merch culture. Rising acts have to rely on streams and performances to make a living. This is simply, because they cannot cash in on an industry that the culture should’ve created. Established acts should be able to get in on merch deals with major fashion houses and brands.
The only outlier in the above category seems to be, Wizkid with his Starboy and Nike collab. This was back in 2018. It was lapped up by the black community in the UK and the US. Not necessarily Nigeria, and this was Nigeria’s biggest artist by the way. If there was an established market within Nigeria, brands will be able to see the business case in investing in our biggest acts. They’ll able to see the possibility of access to over 80 million Nigerian youths. Nike, Adidas, Puma and the likes will begin to see the value in paying merch advances to our artistes and negotiating image rights.
From merch money, artistes can have better shows. Pay for better producers. Make better music/videos. Set up better legal frameworks. Create a better ecosystem for both themselves and their successors. But then again, Nigerians must be Nigerians. You’ll see them on Twitter arguing streams, capping on GOAT debates. Then go right ahead to buy fake Balenciaga that’ll definitely “cost” more than original merch.
The fact remains, even in the simplest things, Nigerians are always nigerian-ing. Ask any artiste you know:
“which will you prefer? 10k streams on Spotify or 1000 purchases of your merch”by the way, merch can be ANYTHING.
Watch them pick the one that makes more commercial sense. I assure you, it’ll have everything to do with music. Yet it’ll have absolutely nothing to do with streaming/downloads.