There are some countries in the world where the legitimate music industry is dwarfed by pirates and thieves. When I was in Cambodia a couple of years back, there was shop after shop offering to burn custom CDs with whatever you wanted. One cafe had a catalogue in the centre of the table featuring thousands of choices. Tick off what you wanted and by the time you were finished eating, your new CD-Rs full of stolen music were waiting for you. The cost? About a dollar a disc.
Things are ugly in Nigeria, too, The New York Times had this story on Sunday.
Artists across the world battle illegal sales of their work. But Nigeria’s piracy problem is so ingrained that music thieves worry about rip-offs of their rip-offs, slapping warning labels on pirated CDs to insist that “lending is not allowed.”
In Lagos, Africa’s biggest city, legitimate music stores are rare, streaming services haven’t caught on and fans are flocking to markets like Computer Village, with its rows of yellow umbrellas shading young men selling illegal downloads. Throughout the city, thousands of pirated CDs are churned out each day, and some artists even pay to appear on them, hoping the exposure will somehow be worth it.
But now, members of the country’s music industry are trying to put a stop to all the pilfering, hoping they can finally turn the growing popularity of Nigerian music to their advantage.
Nigerian music — Afrobeats in particular — is having a moment. It blares in hotel lobbies, airport lounges, nightclubs and the dozens of bedroom recording studios where young men and women dream of stardom in this clogged, overheated city.
While many countries have courts or jurists focused on intellectual property cases, artists in Nigeria have only in recent years begun to pursue copyright protection. They complain that laws to protect them are so seldom invoked that some judges don’t even know they exist.