Do They Know This Africa At All? #BandAid30

 

In the left column of the table below are the original lyrics to Do They Know It’s Christmas, a song to raise money for a charitable cause – to feed the victims of starvation and drought in East Africa. The words have been changed a little in the 2014 version, recorded to raise money to fight the Ebola Virus Disease in West Africa.

 

When people with influence give their time and skill to helping others, I think it is ultimately a good thing. However, there will be fewer literal of examples of how the road to hell is paved with good intentions, almost like Stuart Jeffries points out.

 

BAND AID (1984) BAND AID 30 (2014)
It’s Christmas time; there’s no need to beafraidAt Christmas time, we let in light and we banish shadeAnd in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy

Throw your arms around the world at Christmas time

But say a prayer to pray for the other ones

At Christmas time

It’s hard, but when you’re having fun

There’s a world outside your window

And it’s a world of dread and fear

Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears

 

And the Christmas bells that ring there

Are the clanging chimes of doom

Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you

And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime

The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life

Oh, where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow

Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

 

Here’s to you, raise a glass for everyone

Here’s to them, underneath that burning sun

Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

 

Feed the world

Feed the world

 

Feed the world

Let them know it’s Christmas time again

Feed the world

Let them know it’s Christmas time again

It’s Christmas time; there’s no need to beafraidAt Christmas time, we let in light and we banish shadeAnd in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy

Throw your arms around the world at Christmas time

But say a prayer to pray for the other ones

At Christmas time

It’s hard, but when you’re having fun

There’s a world outside your window

And it’s a world of dread and fear

Where a kiss of love can kill you and there’s death in every tear.

 

And the Christmas bells that ring there

Are the clanging chimes of doom

Well tonight we’re reaching out and touching you

Bring peace and joy this Christmas to West Africa

A song of hope where there’s no hope tonight

Where to comfort is to fear and to touch is to be scared

How can they know it’s Christmas time at all?

Here’s to you, raise a glass for everyone

And here’s to them, and all their years to come

Let them know it’s Christmas after at all?

 

Feed the world

Feed the world

 

Feed the world

Let them know it’s Christmas time again

Feed the world

Let them know it’s Christmas time again

 

It was at a party on a dark December night’s evening in 2008 that I heard the Band Aid words for the very first time. I had known the song since I was a little boy and would excitedly sing its chorus, but I did not actually hear it until that party. Everyone was singing along, cup in hand and I joined in where I could (which really, to be honest, was the chorus at the end of the song) and as the other words hit me, I could not help squirming through some of the rest of it.

 

And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time…” and I was like, duh-uh, it’s too hot to snow in Africa. Then I figured what they meant was that it would not be a frosty, festive Christmas, the sort of which Europe and America had. Well, uhm, okay, no Jack Frost but uhm, no festiveness across all of Africa? All?

 

The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life…” Hmmm. Okay, so as a Nigerian seeing the pictures of ‘starving Ethiopian children’ in the 80s, that might make some sense. But, again, the greatest gift? All of Africa? “Clanging chimes of doom”? A tad bit melodramatic, no?

 

“Where nothing ever grows…”, – now, hold on just one second “No rain or rivers flow…” In Africa? MY Africa? My country is divided by 2 rivers and we have a world famous delta. The vegetation in the southern part of the country is the Mangrove RAINforest. We still had groundnut pyramids in the 80s. So, just where on earth were Bob Geldof and his friends describing?

 

The song has been re-recorded this year, to raise funds to support the fight against Ebola, with a little lyrical tweaking. Now, in WEST Africa, all of West Africa, there’s no peace and joy this Christmas and the only hope we’ll have is being alive, because a kiss of love can kill us and there’s death in every tear. Great intentions again, Ebola being serious and deadly, but here’s the “Ebola Map” of Africa at the time of the song’s recording.

 

Ebola Map

 

What’s the harm in these well-intentioned lyrics, Sir Bob might ask. For one, it reinforces stigmas and stereotypes. The people who sing along to kisses and tears of death in “West Africa” won’t come here as tourists or businessmen. For another, the lyrics are just plain inaccurate. There’s also the question of how useful it is to set metaphors of a harsh Christmas for some against the homogeneity of the Euro-American celebrations. Bitter streams of tears have flown in different parts Africa at different times, but we’re not just a big crying, starving continent. There has been famine and starvation in some parts, but that’s scant justification for describing Africa as a place “where nothing ever grows”.

 

There is now a growing backlash to the latest iteration of the song. It’s been described by Emeli Sande and Lily Allen as “patronizing” and “smug”. Sande actually feels some parts need re-writing or a whole new song is required.

 

So let’s re-write the song for Ebola. Put your re-written lyrics as comments or send me an email at rfawole@yahoo.com, and  I’ll publish mine and my favourite five (yes, I’m being optimistic about the number of entries I’ll receive but at least there’ll be one new version). And if we can’t make it work for Ebola, then maybe Sir Bob should indeed break the wheel and re-invent another song. Or, if they wanted a truly pan-African cause to change the lyrics to again, they could sing “Do They Know Corruption Kills?”

 

Better yet, Sir Bob and Friends could help promote this alternative song against Ebola. Every little helps.

 

Guest Post – Collective Rights Management in Nigeria: Unitary v Multiple Collecting Society Models by Olumide Mustapha (@lumes_bg)

music

The recent reports regarding the Concerned Copyright and Intellectual Property Owners’ (CCIPO) open letter to the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke-Bello (SAN) (AG-Fed) is of tremendous import with regards to the development of the music industry in Nigeria. The letter contained a plea by the CCIPO for the AG-Fed to intervene on behalf of the former to compel the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) to approve another collecting society for owners of music copyrights.

 

The matter centres around the issue of collective administration of musical copyrights in Nigeria. In particular, the issue of the collection of royalties and the monopoly of the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) in this area, being the only body approved by the regulator, the NCC, to operate as a collecting society for music rights.

 

As it stands, COSON has both been very vocal and visible with respect to its fight against criminal copyright infringement as well as holding various organisations and industries liable in civil law for lack of payment of license fees. This is in addition to its public relations offensive and educational activities to promote the issue of copyright in the music industry. The organisation’s efforts over the last two years have been commendable and the amount of fees they have been collecting and distributing have reportedly been increasing year on year.

 

Where the organisation has been heavily criticised has been in relation to its royalty calculation and distribution formulae, and associated methods. Lack of transparency has also been a levied at the company in addition to the issue of its lack of adequate infrastructure for monitoring the uses of works by commercial users throughout the country.

 

Now, while I am in total agreement with the wide held view that competition is crucial to the development of any industry and economy, the area of collective rights management is unique and therefore requires a gradual process of development until it can be (fully) de-regulated.

 

The mere approval of another collecting society will not in itself ensure that more users will pay license fees for use of music in their respective businesses, nor that music owners will enjoy greater compensation for use of their works. The tendency of (over)- “fragmentation” that is prevalent in most spheres of Nigerian social and economic structures will likely be the result of this desire for ‘de-regulation’, resulting in more confusion, higher transaction costs and ending in less users paying license fees or using music.

 

What   is Collective   Rights   Management:   Pro-Monopoly   v Anti-Monopoly

 

Collective management of copyrights is a system in which owners of works authorize collective management organisations (“Collecting Societies”) to monitor the use of their works, negotiate with prospective users, issue licenses against appropriate remunerations, (usually on the basis of a tariff system), collect such remuneration and distribute it amongst the owners of the works.

 

The rationale for this system arises from the impracticability of managing these activities individually. The transaction costs involved for rights owners to individually administer the public performance rights, (for example), to their works would likely end up being more than the price of the license fee for the use of same.

 

Thus, third-party organisations represent the interests of a group of owners and these ‘collective rights’ organisations, (by virtue of their core activities), enjoy economies of scale when administering these rights on behalf of a large group of rights holders.

 

COSON has repeatedly argued that it is adequately protecting the interests of Nigerian music copyright owners, citing the many civil suits it has filed against various organisations and industries that use music in the course of their businesses. The anti-monopoly advocates, on the other hand, point to COSON’s lack of transparency and accountability, with particular regard to monitoring of works and royalty distribution amongst its members.

 

NCC: Collecting Society Approval Powers

 

Nigeria’s current legal framework with regards to the collective management of music rights (and its regulation) is contained in the Copyright Act Chapter C28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 (the “Act”), and the Copyright (Collective Management Organisation) Regulation 2007. We operate what can be described as a unitary Collecting Society model with the flexibility to accommodate multiple societies, while having NCC as the overall regulator.

 

Based on our system, the NCC is not obliged to grant any other organisation a license to operate so long as it is of the opinion that COSON is adequately serving the interests of music copyright owners. Also, because the Act is silent on what would constitute the ‘adequate protection of interests’, it is presumably left to the NCC to decide upon.

 

Going Forward

The primary focus should be on issues surrounding the distribution methods of COSON as well as the adequacy of its infrastructure for the monitoring of the use of works. Audio recognition software as well as the use of ‘field operatives’ to gather accurate evidence of use of works by businesses, broadcasters and other commercial users should be the short to medium term aim. The accurate collation of music usage by licensees also serves the secondary purpose of providing a basis for a more equitable distribution of royalties and license fees amongst members. Commercial users are not mandated by law to keep playlists and logbooks so it is even more imperative for COSON to carry out these activities.

 

Both sides in the dispute must not lose focus of the ultimate goal; to wit, having a suitable administrative framework for music copyright administration in Nigeria, that would involve a simple and efficient method for users to obtain lawful   licenses   to   enjoy   creative   works,   whilst   ensuring   the   equitable distribution of fees and the rewarding of creators thereby stimulating further creativity and innovation. It seems both sides of the argument have this intention in mind and must therefore cooperate and engage in continuing dialogue to find some middle ground on which a consensus can be built.

 

Olumide Mustapha Esq (QSEW) is a Media and Entertainment Attorney. He can be reached by telephone on +234 810 421 55 00, or by email at lumimustapha@gmail.com. He also tweets from the handle @lumes_bg.

*********

To read further on COSON and its battles, disputes and progress, check out BON, COSON and MUSIC-SHUNs: 5 THINGS.

 

 

 

The Night Buhari and Atiku ‘Ruined’ AGK’s 40th Birthday

 

Last night a few of us gathered to celebrate with our friend “AGK” who turned 40. Many happy returns to him.

 

It started off congenially enough, with the perfunctory anecdotes, yabis, complaints about advancing in age yet not advancing sufficiently in comfort, etc. There was even some talk about Kim Kardashian’s freshly photographed oily butt, how the world was full-on porno and how no one knows the words to Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” even though everyone has seen the video more than a couple of times. Nice and, you know, laddish.

 

But it’s that time of our 4-year cycle again and even if it wasn’t, we would still have dabbled into the dinner-party taboo topic of politics.

 

It probably started with a lament on how bad things are in the country and how badly they need to change. “This is why we need to vote for APC and Buhari in February”, it started innocently enough.

 

I had the temerity to disagree, also fairly innocuously. “Well, I think Atiku has positioned himself as the most prepared and most statesmanly of the lot. I would vote for him over Buhari.”

 

Instantly the gathering lost it’s chill. The rest of the conversation, in significantly raised voices, between Buhari’s supporters (virtually everybody else) and me, went something like this.

 

There is no basis for you to compare those 2 personalities. How can you even say that?

 

Well, why not? You can’t have a single-issue presidency, so you shouldn’t run a single-issue campaign!

 

Okay…so tell me, what do you think our greatest issue as a country is? Is it not corruption? Can everything else not be linked to corruption?

 

Look, corruption is a very big issue, but this your saviour can’t even articulate how he’s going to tackle the corruption. You keep on citing credentials from when he either led or worked in authoritarian regimes. How’s he going to cope in a democracy? It’s nothing but a myth jor.

 

It will start with a change in body language from the top. If it is clear to everyone that it will not be business as usual, everyone will sit up. People need to start facing the consequences of their actions. Our biggest problem is that corruption and impunity have no consequence even when people have been caught.

 

But it can’t all be corruption naa. Look at the judiciary, for example. The case load, the procedure rules all allow cases to drag on forever. What is a Buhari, in and of himself, going to do to halve trial times and ensure justice is delivered more quickly?

 

Oh please! Do judges not collect money? All of them?? Trial delays are all/mostly because judges collect money? Ehn, prosecute those that have been caught if there’s evidence. This man, we are not talking academics here. How can we have a discussion about justice and law that isn’t inherently academic? Okay, what about the 3 judges that NJC recently gave soft landing to? All 3 were indicted for misconduct, but rather than face prosecution, they were sacked. Or maybe even retired sef.

 

I don’t know the details of that, but let’s go back to the principal characters. Buhari is a mascot. He has no support structure of his own. His backers are only there because for some mystical reason, he is a vote magnet in North. How many Buhari-types are there? Is he even really a politician in the strict sense of the word? What teams has he built over the years?

 

Team-building is very easy. Any of our bank MDs today can be Minister for Finance or CBN Governor. I don’t think even Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala would be averse to serving in a GMB presidency. We really just need ministers and the civil service to sit up.

 

Whatever. Then you people will make noise that all he has lived on since leaving office is his salary and pension. Of what use is that in today’s Nigeria? Personally, I would prefer somebody with a history of building companies, providing employment, building teams, fixing things…

 

Comot here jo! Which industry Atiku get? Intels? That one na cash cow and nor be only him get am. He has factories in Adamawa. Which factories? Have you been there? The man has just pulled a Shekarau on all you converts. This was how Shekarau did us debate magic last year.

 

Sigh, okay, fine. GMB wins the primaries, with the support of BAT. Maybe he wins the election. GMB and BAT are not of the same mould. Their ideas for appointees will be different.

 

Look, I even have conspiracy theory about all this. BAT is nobody’s fool. We will see his real intentions after the APC presidential primaries.

 

Meanwhile, how many of us don collect PVC o?

 

crickets…

 

Rejigging the “Commiseration” Script

 

Abati Statement

This morning in Potiskum, Yobe State, a suicide bomber killed at least 50 secondary school students during their school assembly. There was no word from the Presidency until a few moments ago, when the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, released a statement on his blog, here.

 

The statement sounds a lot like the well-worn one that the Presidency has released over the years (“condmens”, “dastardly”, “heinous”, “cowardly”, and so on). This seems to have removed almost all sense of feeling from these statements. Perhaps the Presidency is also a little numb? And was this not serious enough for the President to address the nation? A few hours after the incident, this was the post on Dr. Abati’s twitter feed –

 

 

What followed the publication of the statement on Potiskum was that people who had been itching for the President to speak on the matter, got a little irritated. It also did not help that splashed across the top of the statement from Dr. Reuben Abati, was an image from Boko Haram’s propaganda album.

 

The script needs to change. Here’s my attempt…

************** *********** *********** *********

President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan extends heartfelt commiserations to the Government and people of Yobe state on the death of many students in a bomb attack on Potiskum earlier today.

 

Dear Nigerians, it is with a very heavy heart that the President conveys his deepest sympathies at the horror that that took place in Potiskum this morning.

 

President Jonathan also conveys his deepest sympathies to all parents who lost their beloved children in the heinous attack on the Government Science Secondary School which appears to have been carried out by a suicide bomber.

 

President Jonathan, a parent himself, shares in the grief and sorrow of the Government and people of Yobe State, the parents of our children cut down in their prime and, indeed, all well-meaning Nigerians in our joint loss. No parent should ever have to bury their child, and the circumstances of the senseless brutality, an apparent suicide bombing, make the situation even more reprehensible.

 

The President condemns the dastardly murder of the students on their school’s assembly ground as they prepared to begin another week of study in pursuit of a better life for themselves and their families. He assures the grieving parents and people of Yobe state that no matter how long it takes, the Federal Government will ensure that all those responsible for the senseless murder of so many promising youngsters and the continuing acts of terrorism across the country are brought to justice and made to pay for their atrocious crimes.

 

The President condemns this barbarity and the ongoing siege laid against the people of Nigeria by those thirsty for war in a land of peace. These children were guilty of nothing, except taking steps to secure their education and a better life for their families. He assures the people of Yobe State and their brothers and sisters in all our other 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory that no matter how long it takes, the Federal Government will ensure that every single perpetrator behind today’s senseless murder will face justice. Already, further to the President’s directions, the Police and the State Security Service are doing…

***************

God help us.

Streaming IS the Future; but Nigerian Music Needs to Turn on The Tap

music

Last week, Adele’s manager, Jonathan Dickins, was reported as saying during an interview that streaming is the future whether musicians liked it or not. His comments followed news that Taylor Swift had pulled her entire catalogue from Spotify, the world’s most popular streaming service.

Taylor Swift is not the first musician to grow less than enamoured of the service, or with streaming as an income generator for the industry. Last year, Radiohead musician Thom Yorke described Spotify as “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse”, when the group pulled its music off the service. More recently, musician/songwriter Aloe Blacc published an op-ed in which he also expressed grave reservations about streaming as a sustainable source of income. How true, can it be then, that streaming is the future?

Looking at it from Blacc’s perspective, there might be a point about the reward system but I think rather than an indictment on Spotify, it’s more symptomatic of where the industry is, as a whole. Blacc writes –

“Consider the fact that it takes roughly one million spins on Pandora for a songwriter to earn just $90. Avicii’s release “Wake Me Up!” that I co-wrote and sing, for example, was the most streamed song in Spotify history and the 13th most played song on Pandora since its release in 2013, with more than 168 million streams in the US. And yet, that yielded only $12,359 in Pandora domestic royalties— which were then split among three songwriters and our publishers. In return for co-writing a major hit song, I’ve earned less than $4,000 domestically from the largest digital music service.”

If that’s what’s now considered a streaming “success story,” is it any wonder that so many songwriters are now struggling to make ends meet?”

It sounds dire, but that’s 168 million streams versus exactly how much in sales? According to this site, the track sold 237,000 copies when it debuted in July 2013 and only broke the 1,000,000 mark 5 months later in October. Take a look at Billboard’s half year charts for digital singles too. Album sales are down, and have been on the downward trend since 2010. Streaming and subscription revenues, on the other hand, are growing, climbing 51% in 2013 and crossing the $1bn mark (summary here; full report here). The head of Global Trends and Futuring for the Ford Motor Company has also been quoted as saying that “young people prize access over ownership.” So, what’s the issue? Is Spotify, together with the other streaming services simply ripping people off?

The issue may be that content creators don’t fully understand the service yet. Chances are that many users don’t understand the back-end either (they don’t really need to, in all honesty), so if you’re one of them, you might want to check out this post. Another post suggests that Spotify has not sufficiently controlled the narrative and has allowed content creators and the media replace fact with fantasy.

In the latter post (the Lefsetz Letter), the point is made, agreeing with Adele’s manager, that YouTube is by far the bigger monster, paying far less than Spotify does, closely followed by P2P platforms, which pay nothing at all. The post however disagrees with Adele’s manager on some music being taken behind the subscription pay wall, because that would simply push users to YouTube and P2P, leaving the content creators with nothing.

Does this mean anything for streaming in Nigeria? Probably not in the near future. Unreliable mobile internet and expensive data plans mean that very few people without WiFi modems stream much. Furthermore, given that most of our musicians give most of their music away for free downloads, there is little incentive to explore streaming anyway. So, perhaps the Nigerian market prefers ownership to access and this is all moot for now. But I’m an advocate for long-termism, and mobile internet will work someday and voice/data bundles will become more affordable for the streaming demographic. What then?

The current industry model will probably need to change in a year or two. Right now, the model for success is giving music away for free, hoping it becomes a hit that leads to RBT revenue and, ultimately, live performances. This sort of ties in with Dickins’s breakdown of how revenue streams for successful artists today –

60-65% of their income is going to come from tickets, 15-25% from tour merch, 10-15% from publishing, 2-4% from ancillary and 2-4% from record sales.” (Here’s the link again, just in case; emphasis in the quote mine).

You can see though that it’s significantly different, in that 70-90% of revenue will come from touring (not “shows”!) and tour merchandise. However, publishing revenues aren’t insignificant either. Enter, COSON (and its pursuit of digital royalties).

If RBTs are going to be the way forward here, then the crazy percentages that the telcos take of the gross revenue (60-72%, before VAS companies split the net with the artistes/labels) need to come down significantly. The music industry should lobby as hard as they can for legislation to support this (shouldn’t be too hard, with so many entertainers gunning for office in 2015).

If, on the other hand, the African market is to become as competitive as the foreign market, then the industry needs to support its domestic music streaming companies. Streaming kills piracy, and if the numbers are large enough (hint, hint, artistes and label execs), it will put money directly in their pockets. As Lefsetz says, “tech is all about scale” and “people who put brakes on the future end up screwing themselves.”

In conclusion, everyone knows that digital is here and analogue is gone. For Nigerian musicians to fully maximise  revenue from digital, given that their largest market is local, they may need to approach the issue a little differently.

EXCLUSIVE!!! O. Methu Selah: Official Statement on the PDP’s Recent Change of Heart

pdp-logo

Dear Members of our great party, the People’s Democratic Party, the greatest political party in all of the African hemisphere, peace and salutations from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (swt) to you. As always, we remember that there is God in everything we are doing.

 

We know that certain microscopic sections of the general populace would have many believe otherwise, but we are a listening party. Our people say that one cannot have the biggest head in Africa, without also being blessed with the biggest ears. Actually, our people don’t really say that, but you will see where we are going with this. We have the biggest ears and we heard the murmuring and displeasure of all the little people in our great party. You know how the English also say you should look at the ant and see what it is doing.

 

So we have looked at all the ants that say they too want to contest for the presidency and have decided, in the democratic nature of our party and its name, to fling the door open to all contestants for the next 48 hours. Goodluck Jonathan is still our sole candidate, but we are a democratic party.

 

To my brothers and sisters who we are not officially allowed to acknowledge, those Nigerian Ambassadors of Transformation (haha, see how we coded it?), know that your labour is not in vain. Your efforts to contrive a consensus across the length and breadth of Nigeria, and the billions of naira that were invested in the venture shall certainly not go to waste. As you traversed our vast nation on a divine purpose of political evangelism, rest assured that we remain converted. Your sweats that you are sharing are crying out for you. Goodluck Jonathan is our sole candidate, but it is open to other candidates to throw their hats into the ring. This is democracy at work, and this is the beauty of democracy.

 

To those who paid for the nomination forms, knowing that the party had settled on a sole candidate and knowing further that this is still the party’s position, please come and collect your forms. This being Nigeria, there will be no refunds and returns. Do not think, however, that this is the sole reason why we have permitted you to try your luck against Goodluck, our sole candidate. Afterall, the good Nigerians who contributed over N100m to the President’s nomination-form-picking fund are more than able to take it upon themselves to refund the fee. No. We are the People’s Democratic Party and we realise that we must always be democratic. As lawyers say, democracy must not only be done, it must be seen to be done.

 

We will publish the rules for our convention soon enough, so that you and your supporters will know how to contend against our sole pre-endorsed candidate. We do not want anyone to be caught by surprise, and we will therefore ensure as level a playing field as possible, for yourselves and for our sole pre-endorsed candidate. In the regrettably sad but highly event that you do not prevail over our sole candidate, we trust that you will be democratic statesmen and give him your full support in February 2015.

 

– O. Methu Selah, for the PDP