“Still a lot of work to do”: inside the inaugural Midem Africa
The very first Midem Africa took place virtually due to current coronavirus restrictions, from June 28 to July 1. The numerous panels, conferences and networking sessions made it clear that several of the continent’s 54 countries are emerging as fully formed music industries, coached by local professionals, many of whom have joined Midem Africa’s list of speakers.
The touring business has been largely drowned out by other topics that required attention, such as copyright, streaming, which is still fairly new on the continent, and the importance of the data that can be generated from it. . In addition, some African countries are still locked up, while others have reopened. In combination with foreign countries forcing artists and their teams to quarantine themselves for days upon arrival, touring is not a straightforward issue at the moment, so there was little to say about it.
A networking session called “Touring in Africa” touched on the living side of things. According to host Brahim Elmazned, founder of the Visa For Music conference in Morocco, there are at least 16 African countries that he considers “well developed and organized” in terms of live touring infrastructure, such as South Africa. South, Senegal in West Africa or Kenya in the East. Other countries, like Mali for example, have a huge musical heritage, but are just too dangerous at the moment.
Speaking to Pollstar, he said artists touring southern Europe in particular should consider including a race in Africa, since it was so close. “Africa is the new market to watch right now, as it is a young country with a lot of atmosphere and a lot of good music. New events have started to develop in East and East Africa. West. It’s a big market, and people are investing in The majors are now also in Africa.
Elmazned said there were enough professionals and venues available to organize a full-fledged tour. He suggested that the artist first familiarize himself with the business, which is as multifaceted as Africa itself. Conferences like Visa For Music offer opportunities to get to know local actors and infrastructures.
A panel from Midem Africa looked at the global phenomenon of “Jerusalema”, the song released in late 2019 by Master KG with Nomcebo, which was approaching 420 million YouTube views at the time of publication. One of the panelists, aside from Nomcebo herself, was Phiona Okumu, Head of Music for Sub-Saharan Africa at Spotify. She said the live’s forced downtime has helped streaming finally gain the kind of traction it already enjoys in other parts of the world.
“In Europe, America, every other part of the world, streaming is almost a given, it’s the way music is consumed by default. While for us, it’s been maybe five years since it started. to take off, ”she explained. For a very long time, according to Okumu, an African music career has been “very day to day. You make a song to make it popular and you can do shows. That’s how you make a living.” Now, with the containment, that was no longer a viable opportunity. [But] we can certainly make a living, even if we’re not on tour, if our songs are visible, if they are heard all over the world. Streaming now offers this opportunity. “
In another session, Helena Kosinski, Global Vice President at MRC Data, gave the audience some numbers to put streaming into context. It showed a selection of artists from various African countries, all of whom are among the 10,000 most listened to artists in the world. The list included Soolking (Algeria), Aya Nakamura (Mali / France), Burna Boy, Wizkid and Davido (all Nigeria), Amr Diab and Tamer Hosny (both in Egypt), Ninho and Fally Ipupa (Democratic Republic of Congo) , and Master KG (South Africa).
However, these artists represent 0.3% of all flows in this top 10,000 category, indicating that the continent was “still in its infancy”. This is confirmed by a look at the top 10,000 artists in the United States over the past two years, which shows that this year to date only 0.1% of all streams are made by African artists. Two-thirds of these flows are generated by English-speaking artists.
A key driver of international growth will be collaborations between African and American, British and European artists. Burna Boy did this in the most effective way, collaborating with Justin Bieber, Sam Smith and Storzmy on different occasions, Wizkid worked with Beyoncé and Drake. Robin Schulz teaming up with Wes for “Alane” is another example.
Kosinski explained why she thinks African music is likely to experience the kind of boom and success that K-pop has seen in recent years. She spoke of Psy’s huge viral worldwide hit, Gangnam Style, which has racked up more than four billion views on her official YouTube channel since 2012.
Like Jerusalema, he entered the US charts and became a hit around the world. The song was not performed in English and it created a dance craze, as did Jerusalema, released in late 2019. “From that point on, we saw a gradual increase in the success of K’s groups. -pop and K-pop artists. in the United States and the rest of the world. 10 years of K-pop growth has led to today, where we have the largest group in the world, BTS, which is a true worldwide success. The rise of K-pop was not something immediate, where all of a sudden everyone is finding out about it. It has been over 10 years of constant growth and new acts and success progressive. And I think that is something that we will see music from Africa, in various forms, ”she said.
Kosinski’s five most important indicators that Afro-pop is going to get huge in the coming months are (1) collaborations with international stars, (2) great “Despacito” or “Gangnam Style” success, which helps to cement music that is not performed in English in the psyche of listeners, (3) the immense African diaspora, especially in the United States, which is “very influential” in shaping tastes, (4 ) traditional artists and producers incorporating African influences into their songs, and (5), “the demographic power of Africa as a continent of over one billion people [and] many countries.
One of the continent’s emerging artists is Joeboy from Nigeria, who gave an introductory interview to Juan Gomez, Music Curator at Pandora Media for the African Continent. The artist said there is a lot of potential to make money with music, especially compared to three years ago when many building blocks were still lacking in the continent’s music infrastructure. According to the artist, the country still lacks structural organization and monetization of content.
Finding the missing bricks and putting them in place was the central theme of this inaugural edition of Midem Africa. And while the different sessions have shown that collaboration between artists is already strong, the conference also underlined that meaningful collaboration between music industries and African companies has yet to be forged. It may be a continent, but it is vast and each territory has its own culture, language, demographics, economy, as media consultant Juliana Koranteng, founder of JayKay Media Consultancy, pointed out during the panel “Jerusalem”.
Michael Ugwu, CEO of Freeme, confirmed this during the Fostering session at Pan-African Music Industry, where he said: “We are not a homogeneous body as people seem to believe on the continent. It is very different from what is happening in the East. , what’s going on in the west, what’s going on in the south. Fostering better relationships across the continent is something I’ve worked on over the years, but it hasn’t been easy. We still have a lot of work to do. “