African artists with the Afrobeats and Amapiano sound are shattering streaming records, raking in sales, and getting their songs certified at gold and platinum levels.
While appreciating this great feat, fans tend to forget about the music producers, the people behind the ‘Afrobeats to the world’ zeitgeist, people who put the beats in Afrobeats.
It is not enough to state that Afrobeats is beginning to permeate the global market; it already has a global exclusivity on streaming services, and while people would say it is the lyrics of the song doing the magic, a vast majority of people agree that it is the beats that make people feel the music more.
According to many musical experts, the song’s life is sparked by the collaboration of both the artist and the producer. Although the artists are more celebrated, the producers don’t get the full credit they deserve.
Why were Afrobeats producers slept on?
The lack of proper credit to these producers in past years didn’t just stop at the recognition of the personality, it was also seen in the lack of royalties and poor compensation.
In foreign countries, there is a clear benefit system for songwriters and producers. The record royalty for a producer is usually between 3 percent and 4 percent of the record’s sales price or 20 percent to 25 percent of the artist’s royalties.
In earlier years, however, before the era of streaming services, Nigerian and African artists paid the producer for session time or purchased the beats from the producer, and as a result, the producers were not entitled to future royalties based on the agreement they made with those artists.
Unfortunately, this trend continues even after the adoption of streaming services and has called for some producers to publicly come out to address these problems.
Motolani Alake, a music journalist, speaking on Afrobeats producers as architects of afrobeat to the world, says these Nigerian producers have been key to the success of the movement. Even though the artists are going to get more credit and visibility, the producers are not getting what they deserve.
Some of the reasons range from outdated intellectual property laws, the cultural problem of producers feeling subservient to artists and artists not giving the producers enough credits.
Music producers such as Fliptyce have in recent years come out on social media to state these issues and find a solution for producers to be better compensated. These public outbursts have appeared to succeed to an extent over time, with the reports of producers signing deals with huge names such as Universal Music Group.
There is a need for producers to establish a brand, putting their image out there so that music fans can learn who is behind the sounds, experts say. If they continue to remain in the shadows, they will be difficult to recognise, and as a result, the musician who utilises their beats in conjunction with their singing talent will continue to keep the spotlight to themselves.
Things are changing but slowly
Producers like Osabuohien Osaretin, better known by his stage name as Sarz, have put their names beside the recording artist as both the song’s producer and a feature for the purpose of branding. ‘I love Girls with trouble’ , a collaboration with another artist Sadiq Onifade, better known as WurlD, and ‘LV N ATTN,’ a collaboration with Lojay, are two of such instances.
Damilola Adeniyi, also known as DJ Damifresh, who has worked on music album campaigns at UduX such as Wizkid’s Made in Lagos and other top music albums while speaking with BusinessDay states that some music producers are already getting a good end of recognition both publicly and royalty wise.
“With the advent of social media,” Adeniyi says, “a lot has changed, but based on the understanding of the basics of what the music structure is in Africa now, a couple of producers are seeing beyond just creating music. They are influential and are also content creators. They can influence lifestyle and also create a community around their sound and some of them are already tapping into that space.”
He also notes that some of these producers are putting themselves out more in terms of notoriety because the producing sector has been an enigma to some music enthusiasts. “With the advent of taglines, we have adopted a lot in our music and it is quite an interesting time for music producers as some of them now get publishing deals, collecting their royalties properly, some of them are getting endorsement for songwriting from international labels,” Adeniyi says.
He concludes by saying that more producers need to understand the music business structure, so they can fully take charge and own their space.
It is a wide theory that most of our top musicians are good singers, but they are not great vocalists. It is the reason most of the time when you ask a typical afrobeat listener to choose between the beats or the lyrics, most of them tell you they focus more on the beats.
Nigerian music producer and hitmaker, Kel P, with notary work in Burna Boys ‘African Giant’ album in an interview with Recording Academy: Grammy, said, “I’ll say 80 percent of the music in Nigeria right now, talking about Afrobeats, is the instrumentals. Sometimes we don’t care about the lyrics and I’m not speaking because I’m a producer, I’m putting the beats first because the beats speak for everything (the song).”
The majority of these songs that have made waves in other nations do not have global language lyrics, but the sound has broken the language barrier over time and got people from all over the world to not just listen but to relate to the feelings that come with them.
Global stars like Justin Beiber and Ed Sheeran have collaborated with local artists like Wizkid and Fireboy DML. Some would call these partnerships intentional because they tend to attract more listeners to engage with the sound.
A song like Ckays Love Nwantiti that has local languages spoken in the lyrics, the title ‘Nwantiti,’ which interprets as ‘little’ in the Igbo language might not be understood by most of its global listeners but they vibe to it anyway.
Also, Amapiano songs by South African rapper Lethabo Sebetso, professionally known as Focalistic, who sang songs like ‘Ke star,’ and most recently ‘Champion sound’ featuring Nigerian Afropop singer Davido are rapped in Sepitori, a vernacular spoken in Pretoria townships made up of a variety of South African languages, mostly Sesotho, Setswana, and tsotsitaal, which Nigerians do not speak or understand but still gets top streams in Nigerians’ apple music and Spotify space.