Although Liberian music is getting better, the country still lacks a well structured music industry. Why? There are too many reasons, but the primary one is that Liberian artists and the so-called music investors have not fully grabbed the business concept of music.
Although there are few people who understand the business concept of music, the vast majority who control the music industry have not realized that the only way Liberia can develop a well structured music industry is when they start to apply serious music business practices.
In Liberia, the music industry is a hustle. Whether you agree or not, the people who are currently running the music industry have over the years promote a culture of hustling instead of business building.
As a matter of fact, artists in Liberia believe in getting quick dollars even if they realize that they are being underpaid.
Take for example: When a large corporate entity like Lonestar Cell MTN or Monrovia Liquor Store brings into the country foreign artists like Flavour or Tekno, Liberian artists are fully aware that they will be underpaid and yet they don’t say no to what they are offered as show money because their goal is just to get quick money.
One will like to blame these companies, but they cannot be held responsible because Liberian artists have long sent the message that they are willing to work for less than their market value, which has made them cheap.
The problem here is that since event planners or bookers know that Liberian musicians are cheap and eager to perform with top foreign stars, they always bring you low–paying gigs just to get a deal out of their expense.
The bad news is that Liberian artists are fully aware that accepting such low-paying gigs not only devalue them but also kills the growth of the music industry; but still they continue to accept low-pay gigs.
In addition, since Liberian musicians continue to accept this status quo, they are reinforcing the stereotype that Liberian music has no real value, which sends the additional message that people should continue to offer them low-paying salaries for their services. However, if they can muster the courage and say no, it will help to build the industry, thereby placing value on them. Also, saying no means that the industry is ultimately forced to hit the million dollar mark, not just to hustle up a few thousand dollars.
Lastly, a low-pay gig is good for upcoming artists in order to build fan base, but not professional artists. Liberia has so many professional musicians who continue to accept low-paying gigs, which sends the message that they don’t value their time and work.
Remember this, the Nigerian or Ghanaian music industry is booming because they don’t joke when it comes to applying the business concept of music. Under no condition will Timaya settle for less than his asking performance fee if a promoter brings into their country a top foreign artist. Why will Timaya and his manager not agree?
The reason is that Timaya and his manager know that by doing so devalues the artist and his brand and the Nigerian music industry.
But in Liberia, it is the other way around because artists and their managers are willing to take less money for their asking price; and at the end of the day, they don’t benefit anything.
Secondly, the current players in the music industry have devalued its worth. It is sad to say, but this is the truth. They have devalued the wealth of the industry by neglecting intellectual property rights or copyright over the years, which is the true wealth of every successful music industry in the world.
It is also sad to reveal that almost 90 percent of Liberian music out there is not copyrighted, which means they are denying themselves of making money long after the shows stop and easily exposing their works to piracy.
For example, if an artist produces a song, by international law, he or she automatically owns the copyright or intellectual property right; however, Liberian law requires it to be registered before you can own said right.
As a matter of fact, since the current industry players have degraded the music industry’s worth, they don’t care to pursue copyright infringement cases or collect royalties from electronic media, clubs or hotels who play their work, or even to make the effort to license them.
One thing every Liberian music industry player needs to understand is that his/her creation is an asset; and as such, intellectual property right plays a key role in the life of creators as it gives them the legal rights and opportunity to generate income years after the work has been produced (royalties, license fees, etc.).
Thirdly, Liberia industry players love acting like they are rich when they are not. Today in the Liberian music industry, artists and the so-called investors only care about looking good, meaning they don’t care about exploring strategies that will build the industry or their careers.
Once again some of you may disagree but that is the reality. You may not believe that the industry players have developed a culture of excessice spending, and behaving like they are rich.
Instead of spending the little they have on marketing and building structures for the industry by hiring people who understand the business of music they rather spend their budgets looking successful than being successful.
Take this for example: There are few Liberian artists or players who God has blessed to earn some good money but instead of using that money to invest in the industry or their careers they feel happy purchasing cars, and just trying to live expensive lives.
The point here is that the money they are using to purchase cars when directed to another investment like sponsoring their own tours will double its proceeds, which end result will make their career successful.
Remember this, behind every successful industry, there is a great story; therefore if Liberian artists or players wish is to see the country having a well-structured industry, they need to standup as well as start apply international best music business practice.
The goal of this article is to serve as wake-up call to Liberian artists and players to see more reason to develop that entrepreneurial sprit, which will lead towards having a well structured music industry.
Continuing on this current path, Liberia music will not develop a well structured music industry now. If that spirit of hustling can translate into business mind that means something good will happen.
Note: The term “Liberian artists” used in this article refers only to those that are residing in the country, not outside.