20 years worth of material is being sold off for a bowl of porridge.
This week, Nigerian alternative singer Beautiful Nubia made the head-scratching decision to sell all of his work to date (14 studio albums, three poetry albums, two live concert sessions, 11 videos – totaling 24o pieces of music) on a USB stick for N15,000 (fifteen thousand naira).
I have wondered and pondered how he and his team came to the decision that this was a thought that even needed to be had, never mind actually done – and I have come up with nothing on each occasion.
Segun Akinlolu (aka Beautiful Nubia) is not illiterate – he’s a certified doctor of veterinary medicine. He’s not unexposed – he has toured extensively in Europe and the Americas. He’s also not young; at 48 years old, his career has spanned over the better part of 20 years. So how did this happen?
It is tempting for a sanguine individual to attempt to explain this away as Beautiful Nubia trying to reach a younger (and wider) demography that typically listens to his music. That, perhaps, is why this compilation is on a USB stick that can fit into a computer on one end and a smartphone on another end. That’s almost smart – they figured out how to be digital without necessarily being internet based.
However, it is the furthest thing from ‘smart’ because it exposes a glaring lack of understanding of distribution and artiste merchandising works. It’s just a passive collection of music squeezed into a flash drive and given away, a literal defecation on the man’s own artistry.
20 years worth of material, weighing under four gigabytes and possessing no anti-sharing tags, no embeds that will protect it from being copied from the device, is being sold off for the biblical bowl of porridge that Esau sold his birthright for.
On the compilation, there’s a message from the artiste and he appeals to the listener, ‘We are hoping that you would not, under any circumstances, share the recordings with other people via phones, USBs, computers, chat rooms, social media, etc. Doing such robs the artist and his crew of income and does nothing to further the cause of the art.’
How romantic! How blissfully childlike! Obviously, Beautiful Nubia knows the serious piracy concerns that entertainers all over the world have to contend with but he simply ‘hopes’ that whoever buys will care enough not to share with other people.
While Beautiful Nubia is no Michael Jackson and Prince whose posthumous catalogues are valued in hundreds of millions of dollars, still it makes no sense, artistic or otherwise, to give all of your work away for peanuts. Yes, the seemingly pricey N15,000 he put on it (in this recession to boot) is paltry. (How did they even arrive at fifteen thousand sef?)
Desperation is never a good thing, even when the intention is noble. The EniObanke compilation USB drive is a lazy, unimaginative and desperate attempt of a very talented (albeit scarcely commercially acclaimed) performer to cash out on his work.
At N15,000 each, the sale of one thousand USB sticks would ostensibly fetch him N15m. He would be lucky to sell one hundred pieces. I would be willing to wager a bet that as we speak, his 240 songs are floating on the millions of ‘download music here’ computers all over Lagos and are being pressed into three hundred naira DVD’s hawked in traffic jams.
Younger artistes watch and learn: don’t do this. Don’t ever ever do this.
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