Thursday, August 14, 2014

Nigerian Radio and Music Standards

Traditionally, two forces have often set standards in the music industry. These two are the music recording companies and the radio stations.

Musicians signed to music recording companies make songs for an upcoming album, the company listens and decides which should or shouldn’t feature in the upcoming album, based on the quality of the songs.  To make sure music fans get the best, recording companies place high thresholds. Musicians, wanting to be released, would have to aim high, leading to the high standards that have been the mark of the best music acts the world has known.

The next hurdle music-in-the-making would have to cross, prior to reaching the fan, is the radio. Music distributed by music recording companies would have to sound convincing to the radio music presenters whose occupation is to bring the music to the doorsteps of the fans. Thus, radio plays a decisive role in the elevation of standards in the music industry.

Information Technology brought an overwhelming revolution that cut across all fields of life. The music industry is one field that enjoyed a jump in prosperity as result of the revolution brought about by Information Technology, cutting across music education, song writing, composition, production, distribution and usage.

Since coming, Information Technology has, through computer software, placed the power of music production in the hands of individuals rather than allowing the big recording companies to hold on to their monopoly in music production. This happened because Information Technology made music production so cheap that a kid can sell his sneakers and use the money to make a single that, if good, serves as a springboard for a successful music career.

What this means is that recording companies have lost the exclusivity of setting up standards within the music industry.  It leaves the ratio stations as the sole means by which high music standards can be sustained.

Since the arrival of Information Technology, how has the radio fared in its role of maintaining high standards within the Nigerian music industry?  Despite the proliferation of FM radio stations across the country –a situation that should be a blessing –one can say that standards have rather fallen from the clouds where they had been. Everyday, one listens to the littering of airwaves by the irritating music the radio stations play. It means that the radio is either not playing that role anymore or is not playing it adequately.

One of the reasons includes the fact that most radio presenters work on part time and are not adequately rewarded. As it has turned out, this has served as a huge escape for untalented or unprofessional musicians. Desperate aspiring musicians who would not have been able to cross the high hurdles of recording companies approach the radios directly and bribe their ways to the airwaves. The presenters have come to see this racket as the source of conventional income with which to sustain their lives. They take as much raw music as possible to earn as much money as possible.

Round pegs in square holes within the administrative hierarchies of radio stations are also responsible for the low standards. Some persons in the administrative hierarchies of radio stations are persons who either don’t see the beauty in talents or have chosen to ignore it for selfish reasons or are afraid of fighting an unhealthy bandwagon. The general believe now is that a lot of guys/ladies who find themselves anchoring music shows come by virtue of being best friends of radio authorities rather than best brains.

The excuse, wacky presenters often give to defend their jobs, is that they are doing it to help promote the local artists. An artist is only promoted when the presenter, in his own judgment, sincerely believes the music has met a reasonably acceptable standard. What we often hear are, rather, chains of deplorable mess that tend to suffocate the airwaves. A good music presenter should, first, listen to a song and decide if it is truly good enough to be aired. You don’t play what is unprofessional on radio to allow the fans to judge. The radio is not a stage within the production phase of music. It is a stage for relaying what is professional.

Sometimes a situation arises where journalist employed to edit and read news find themselves anchoring music shows. If they never had any music interest prior to this, it leads to a situation where they lack the pertinent criteria needed in deciding which music should be on air. Persons with music interest follow trends constantly and have even, at one time or the other, nursed ambitions of either becoming musicians or music presenters. Hence merely reading a field that qualifies one to be a journalist does not necessarily give you the orientation a music presenter should have.

In every village, town, city or nation, talented people are always there and are God’s gift to that village, town, city or nation. When engaged, they bring joy and pride to the radio stations they work for and the host city. Still, it is the right of such talents to occupy such positions as they are most qualified to do so. The only way such persons can be pulled from the secondary schools, polytechnics or university campuses is by auditioning. One doesn’t hear of auditioning anymore.

The obnoxious effect of this trend is that Nigerian music fans are turning towards global music channels and the cable TV is serving them adequately. What that means is that our local stations would lose out in the competition that digitization is engendering.


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  2. A wonderful article about the current state of music in Nigeria. I also see that recent Nigerian music is the brainchild of the Alaba marketing hub. They determine what kind of music artistes produce and that's why every new song sounds like thousands that have been done. Meaningful content and well-written lyrics no longer count. Even the taste of music among young Nigerians is pathetically lowered by these marketers and stations that promote them. Well, true artists will stay true to their art. Thanks for raising this.