To Olawale Ashimi, the Nigerian music industry is deeply flawed due to a lack of adequate structure to ensure that artistes are properly rewarded for their creative output.
The artiste who’s professionally known as Brymo has had an eventful past few years – from making a brazen exit from his former record label, Chocolate City, to getting entangled in a protracted legal tussle over the manner of his exit.
All that drama is seemingly behind him.
Nowadays, Brymo is more focused on his career and making what is commensurate with his talent, but sadly, “the music industry is very flawed”.
“The industry itself is set up in such a way that the music can barely make that much money for the musicians so fame is being used as the medium to generate income for artists,” said Brymo.
The Mirage singer believes that music alone is not enough for an artist to generate income.
“So because you’re really really famous, you can then align with some corporate bodies, firms, government agencies and do something for them and then they pay you.”
The singer who has resisted drifting into the mainstream market has remained in his own exclusive league by creating music with content, meaning and message.
For Brymo, the art comes before the business.
“I am an artist first before I’m a businessman. So the passion and drive to create music like great people I used to listen to when I was younger, that is what’s pushing me,” said the 30-year-old.
“And every single time I grab a pen to write a song, I’m trying to write a song that’s better than the song I wrote before. So that ideology sort of creates a behavioral pattern for me that I must constantly adhere to.”
With premium (possibly classic) albums like Merchants, Dealers and Slaves and Klitoris under his belt, one can empathise with the singer as to the dysfunctionality of the Nigerian music market.
“There are issues with how much the albums are sold for. There are issues with how royalties are being collated and paid.
“And then there are like a thousand and one artists. So there is so much availability of the goods that the good then loses value. So if I cannot buy from you, I’ll buy from him.
“So there is really very little value attached to the musicians now. But people still really love music but there are so many options now. So I feel like it’s a complication of a lot of things.”
The situation can be easily compared to the tangled wires behind a television set.
BRYMO IS GETTING WHAT ‘BRYMO’ DESERVES
In spite of it all, Brymo believes he is where he’s meant to be in his career despite his fans’ belief that he isn’t getting the recognition he deserves.
Speaking about himself in the third person he said: “I do not think that Brymo is not getting as much accolade as he should get”.
“Brymo is getting exactly what Brymo should be getting now because if Brymo were to get more, then the award guys will not make money anymore.”
He went deeper to shed light on the supposedly crooked awards system in the industry.
“If somebody (the artist) is offering you (the award body) cash and will give you free performance at your event, would you rather not give them the award?” he asked.
“Than give it to me who sits in my house and just write songs and just smoke weed. So you’d rather give somebody who came to you and said ‘I need this award, it’s important to my career’.
“So it’s a complication. And then the awards, they make artists look bigger. So for some artists, the award will make them become a-list.
“So if they have to do something for free for the award body, if they have to go there and even invest money in it, they will have to so they can get what they want from it. It has become their own business strategy.”
Brymo reemphasized that he is getting what is due to him and not looking for anything more at this point in his career.
“As far as I’m concerned I’m getting exactly what is due to me and people must understand that what is due to me has actually improved over the years.
“So I feel like over time things will only get better. So if anybody is feeling like Brymo is not getting as much as he should, I beg them to please calm down. There’s no problem.
“Let’s keep moving forward. I think progress is more important. Success is actually not a destination, it’s a journey.”
EYE ON FOREIGN MARKETS – BUT NO GODFATHER
As a result of the Nigerian mainstream market’s inability to appreciate quality, non commercial music, Brymo was asked why he hasn’t made efforts to build a fan base in a more structured environment outside the county – like some of his peers are doing.
“Who says I’m not interested in pushing my music outside Nigeria?” he asked.
“There is a lot of effort being made. What you haven’t seen are my tours. You haven’t seen me go on tour abroad. I don’t have a godfather who will bankroll it.
“It’s only my fans in the US and in the UK that will say, ‘enough is enough, whatever it will take, come here and perform’ or I decide that ‘okay, I have enough money now’ let me go to the UK or US and tour.
“But that’s not your primary market. Even if they give you five Grammy nominations, that’s not your primary market. If the Nigerian market is not doing great, I am not doing great.
“Even if I go to Madison Square and fill it up with 25,000 people, if musicians still cannot sell records in Lagos, if you cannot sell a million copies of your album and take a break for three years….
“Yes, we still don’t have a great industry so I feel like constantly trying to contribute to what’s going on here, trying to improve the quality of the music, trying to work with my management to improve the quality of the business.
“I believe those are the things that are most important to me as a Nigerian artist.”
NIGERIAN MUSIC POORLY PRICED
Brymo is pained that the average Nigerian album is sold for N150 and also lamented the fact that online music distributors are equally guilty of crimes the demonised music pirates of Alaba were accused of.
“It’s more important for us to build this and make it better, instead of destroying Alaba or rather, paying more attention to iTunes, why don’t we insist that the distributors here sell albums for better prices,” he explained.
“Because the problems we’re trying to destroy Alaba for, Spinlet and the rest have already started it. They are selling albums for N150 in digital space. Why? N150 for a Nigerian album? Why? It’s ridiculous. Not even N1,000, not even N500? For a music album.
“It’s supposed to be one song for N150. Those are the things we’re supposed to be fixing. So instead, Alaba is dying off and the digital space is taking its spot immediately.
According to the assertive singer, the Alaba pirates and marketers have now migrated online to “leak songs” as soon as albums are released.
“All of the pirates are now online. You drop an album and they leak all the songs. All of the marketers are now online. They sell the album for N150.
“So I feel like those are the things that need to step up. Like my current album ‘Klitoris’ sells for N400 on Spinlet and the aim is to keep pushing the price up a little until we can actually find a balance.”
CREATING VALUE FOR HIS MUSIC
Brymo said he’s about to take us back to the past and “bring sexy back” – and he shed light on the plan.
“There’s a company called Clockwise distribution, they’re just starting up. So they are distributing Klitoris, ‘Tabula rasa, and Merchants, Dealers, and Slaves afresh on CDs.
“And I’m working with them just to makes sure the albums can at least be available on CDs.
“So those who are really interested will have to go into stores. So we’re bringing sexy back.
“When you take products to people, it’s like you are begging them to buy it. People are supposed to decide on their own to walk to the store and pay for it. That’s how you create value.”
LONGEVITY IS KEY TO SUCCESS
Harping further on his mantra ‘success is a journey and not a destination’, Brymo noted that a successful artise is that which can stand the test of time.
According to the singer, the internet has created a situation where there’s an overflow of artistes trying to catch a quick break and “blow”.
He, however, noted that to reach one’s prime, an artiste has to release quality music consistently for a decade or more.
“In the 70s, the Sunny Ades, the Felas, they had to make music for 15 years, 18 years before they reached their prime.”
“Now people think maybe because of the internet they can do it faster. So in order to counterbalance the internet, the universe made it such that there will be so many artists.
“Because if there weren’t so many artists, people can actually go to international fame in five years.
“So for you to be really really big now, you must still do 18 years like the guys in the 70s did. Then it was so long because only radios played it. So it took so long for people to hear the song, digest it and decide that it’s a hit.
“Now there is the internet that makes it easy for you to access the music, so how do you counterbalance it? Let there be so many artists.
“So the musicians who are really serious about becoming really big, they must keep at it. 5 years, 10 years, 15 years. They must keep giving us a-list albums.
“That’s the only way to do it.”
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