On this February 29th and last day of Black History Month for the United States, it’s always important to take some time and celebrate the many contributions African-Americans have made in the country. Certainly that rich legacy must include the many accomplishments of President Barack Obama, as his historic time in office nears its end.
But even as Americans look back at the Obama legacy, it’s also important to leap forward and see the ways this President has forged a path to the future. The President and First Lady have worked very hard to strengthen ties with nations in Africa, and today’s news shows that the U.S. music industry may be following this lead. Here’s the news from Gil Kaufman of Billboard Biz…
Sony Music announced last week that it is opening an office in Lagos, Nigeria, the first step towards establishing a footprint in a West African market that Adam Granite, Sony’s president of Northern/Eastern Europe & Africa, claims has huge growth potential.
“West Africa has a population of 340 million, and Nigeria alone has 150 million of that. It’s a very big country that has historically had a very large music market,” Granite said. In the ’70s, the nation had one of the largest music markets in the world, but piracy (analog then, digital now) has ravaged the music business, a situation Granite says is beginning to turn around, thanks to the expansion of the mobile market in region.
Sony and other majors haven’t traditionally had much, if any, market share in Africa. Until recently, the only way for most consumers to hear their product was either on the radio or through piracy. That’s one reason why Sony is in “very active discussions” with the Johannesburg-based mobile giant MTN Group’s Music+ streaming and download service, which will offer content to the service’s 2.5 million subscribers.
Rotimi Fawole, the head of business development for the four-year-old Africa-centric streaming and downloading service Spinlet, tells Billboard he is excited to have a major company in the country. “We expect that their efforts and promotions will lead to higher standards locally, not just with music production but also things like reporting, metadata, artist management, et cetera,” Fawole says. “Hopefully, they will set examples for local music companies to follow and the local industry should be the better for it in the long run.”
President Obama’s work to promote U.S. trade and investment in Africa is being done partly in an effort to catch up to China, which has worked to aggressively forge ties across the continent for over a decade now. But one area which still remains relatively quiet? The music industry.
As countries across the African continent experience a relative “gold rush” of technological and economic investment, it seems a very smart move by Sony to get in the game. In an era of uncertainty for the established Western markets, the opportunities present as hundreds of millions of consumers lead themselves into the digital music age are exciting to say the least. By following the President’s lead, it appears that Sony Music is doing something right.