While the music business in Nigeria struggles to offset declining CD sales, artists are finding opportunities in sponsorships and more inclusive signing deals.

Nigerian music is a national treasure. All across Africa people dance to Nigerian music, watch Nigerian films, and aspiring artists move to Lagos. Music videos are being shot, CDs are sold on the street, and the soundtrack of contemporary Nigeria reverberates across the streets and homes on the Lagos Island and mainland.

However, a rash of recent acts have taken Nigerian music to new levels of popularity across the world. One of the first was P-Square, who played an important role in introducing the world to Nigerian music with tracks like “Chop My Money.” Today P-Square enjoys popularity all over Africa, they continue to play shows in Europe, and are taking over North America, collaborating with the likes of William Leonard Roberts II, better known by his stage name Rick Ross.

Another recent act that has taken Nigerian's nascent influence to new height is Wizkid. Wizkid is Nigeria's most successful new star and has had a record setting 2015. He released “Ojuelegba”, which was an instant international hit and spawned a remix by Drake that brought the song to international audiences.
Nigeria's music industry is becoming a significant economic force within the country. Like Nollywood, it was partially responsible for Nigeria overtaking South Africa as the continent's largest economy. Although piracy is a major drain on revenues, the popularity of Nigerian artists is difficult to overstate.

Everyone in every geographic zone of the country knows musicians, and companies have already tapped this trend with sponsorships and other deals. P-Square are ambassadors for the mobile phone company Glo, and Wizkid has recently landed a major sponsorship with Pepsi. Sponsorship has become a major revenue stream for Nigerian entertainers and record labels.

Audu Maikori, the Chairman of Chocolate City Records, one of the most successful record labels in the country spoke to TBY about the changing nature of the industry: “For us at Chocolate City, as far back as 2005, we already had the 360 contract because it was obvious that we could not recoup our money from purely record sales. The last and most important shift is that artists are now brands, they are not just musicians, and you need to be a brand in order to make money beyond what the music does.”

A strong business consciousness and a unique strategy is evolving among Nigerian musicians. Songs are often seen as a business card, something to achieve great notoriety and secure paid performances and sponsorships. The hit from piracy is distinct though.

Femi Kuti, the son of Fela Kuti (a famous Nigerian musician who founded the afrobeat genre) spoke to TBY: “ If I was selling 2 million albums before, I am now selling 100,000, it affects me, but I have invested and evolved with the times to understand this generation.” Mr. Femi has outgrown the problem with a venue named “The Shrine” as well as consistent European touring.

P-Square is one Nigerian act that might have benefited enormously from record sales, when record sales were more common. The brothers told TBY that, “people are not interested in album sales now, they are interested in singles. These days more focus is on visuals rather than audio, but videos are expensive and we prefer to do songs.” They went on to say, “people want albums but the piracy is messing it up. If you really want to release a 10 track album then make sure you have five more singles.”

Many musicians have called for stronger enforcement and stronger piracy laws to bolster the industry. Although the industry is thriving, piracy robs it of essential revenues, but piracy, like Nigerian music, a pan-African problem.

Successful artists and labels hold sway over millions of African customers and set a powerful cultural example. They have traded more on influence than album sales, and are forging a powerful new model to fit their context.