How Afrobeats artists make money

 

Afrobeats artistes like Davido, Wizkid, Burnaboy and Sarkodie are despite all challenges making a lot of money from their craft. In recent years, Afrobeats – a form of African music developed mainly in West Africa has gone global, this type of music can be heard blaring on radio stations, airports, and supermarkets around the world.

In times past, the major obstacle facing the music industry in Africa was piracy. In Nigeria, the birth country of Afrobeats, most artists often complain of losing large parts of their revenue to pirates, who make illegal copies of their work and distribute it on the streets without much protection from the government.

Now, technology has changed the way people listen to and buy music, CDs are becoming more and more redundant as people embrace modern technologies.

These technologies mean music makers now have more control over the content they create and make more money from it compared to what was obtainable in the past.

Here are the ways through which Afrobeats artists make money from their works.

Streaming

In 2020, streaming is the biggest source of revenue for most Afrobeats artists. Streaming is easy in that it cuts out any sort of middleman, allowing the artiste to market their contents directly to their fans.

YouTube, the world’s biggest streaming platform allows all categories of artists from A-listers to upcoming artists to earn money from the views they get. Davido’s “A Good Time” album took just about 7 months after release to reach over 1 billion streams across multiple platforms. As Afrobeats is becoming more and more popular across Europe and North America, so is the demand from streaming giants like YouTube, Spotify, Audiomack and others, and these companies reward artists handsomely.

Shows and concerts

Stage performances are a major way through which Afrobeats artistes make money. Nigerians and Africans are energetic people which means there is always a market for live shows. In December last year, BurnaBoy reportedly earned about $250,000 performing at 9 different shows in a single night in Lagos.

Davido at a concert in Lagos
Davido at a concert in Lagos

But the most lucrative market for Afrobeats is not in Africa, it is in Europe and North America. Davido was paid a million pounds when he sold-out London’s 02 Arena in 2018.

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Shows and concerts are a never-ending source of revenue as artists are constantly performing at political events, private parties of politicians and businesspeople, birthday parties, weddings and at universities.

Digital sales

Unlike streaming which in most cases restricts download, artists can use services that allow download for a fee. Despite the fact that most Africans download music illegally from the internet, most Afrobeats artists make a lot of money from digital sales abroad. Services like Apple Music help artistes to generate direct sales from Europe, America, Canada and sometimes even Africa.

Another significant source of revenue for Afrobeats artists is the sale of caller ring back tunes. Most fans will set their favorite songs as ring tone instead of the traditional beeps people hear while calling their number.

Endorsement deals

The use of famous artists as company brand ambassadors is becoming popular across Africa. These endorsement deals are usually not cheap as they can run into several millions of dollars. It is an easy source of money for the musician as all they have to do is take pictures and attend a few meets and greet events with fans.

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Licensing

This is not a very developed means of making money yet in Africa. The Disney-produced film, Queen of Katwe contains music from several Afrobeats artists including Davido, Phyno among others. 2face Idibia’s African Queen was also used in the American movie Fat Girls. Licensing fees from movies, documentaries, and advertisements is also an important source of revenue.

 

Session work

Another way to make extra money as an Afrobeats artiste is by doing session work in the studio for other projects. This includes getting featured on the songs of other musicians, appearing in their music video and producing beats for their songs. In 2016 Tekno produced Davido’s “If” a song that went on to become a global hit.

Investments

Nothing lasts forever, most Afrobeats musicians have realized this which is why they are investing their income into other artists and doing music as a long-term business investment. Since 2010, artists like Davido, Don Jazzy, Olamide and even Wizkid have been investing in other upcoming artistes who have gone on to become superstars in their own right and reward their sponsors with a handsome return on investment.

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Davido and his signee, Mayorkun and Dremo
Davido and his signees, Mayorkun and Dremo

The economics of Afrobeats is a tricky one, and not every artist has been able to enjoy much financial success from it despite having a number of hit songs. Upcoming musicians are usually at a disadvantage as they usually don’t get similar opportunities as the already established ones. But its upcoming artists that get to go on and become global Afrobeats superstars!

How to make money as an upcoming Afrobeats musician in Africa

Obviously, most of the sources of making money as a musician in Africa usually favor the already established artists and the upcoming ones are at a disadvantage. To understand how to game the industry to your advantage as an upcoming artiste, you need to understand how the already established ones made it. When the likes of Davido started music, they made a simple bargain – give the music out to the public for free with the hope that when they become popular they can make money from shows, digital sales, streaming, and global tours. In the beginning, they concentrated on making quality music without trying to quickly monetize.

Upcoming Afrobeats artists should focus on making high-quality music, people will eventually notice the quality and the money will start to flow. In the meantime, streaming platforms like YouTube that do not have strict policies on record labels can be used to generate appreciable income from low traffic. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are also important tools to generate buzz for upcoming Afrobeats artists.

The Afrobeats scene is a bit crowded, but there is room for anyone who is willing to put in the hard work, create quality content and wait. In an industry where the likes are Wizkid can earn up to $3 million on a single endorsement deal, it might be worth all the efforts.

Ismaeel

Blogger that loves African geopolitics.

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