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Music of Thursday, 23 August 2007


What is happening to our musicians?

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You might consider this to be out of place for this column but it is worth mentioning since it was part of a program I heard on the airwaves.

I am talking about the state of our musicians based on something I heard on Channel R’s “205″ about Rex Omar and his decision to go into “Agricultural business” to earn ample income as supplement for the shameful financial gains he is making in the Ghanaian music industry.

This ace musician has been so peeved with the state of the country’s music industry for a long time and in my work as a journalist, I have actually heard him say candidly that doing music as a full time business in Ghana is completely a waste of time and priceless resources.

He had said that radio stations and presenters do not help the situation at all since they fail to promote good highlife songs done by the real professionals but instead project some unappealing songs done by amateurs just because they pay payola to the presenters. Now that is where I come in.

This subject is in two phases. Firstly, I do agree that our presenters and DJ’s have not done well in promoting really good Ghanaian music on our airwaves though they know very well that any music becomes a hit based on the number of times it is played on air…That is the truth.

The second phase of this subject lies in the fact that it is about time our musicians woke up to the reality on the ground. You cannot depend on music business as your major source of income in this country and therefore this call for you to develop an alternative business strategy while capitalizing on the fame, name and connections which your music career has brought you over the period.

My first take on presenters is very realistic and woefully painful for our musicians. I haven’t heard of many presenters taking payola from musicians of late but you know what they say, “the evil that men do lives after them”. Since they have been known over the years for demanding unbearable charges in terms of payola before your music sees the light of day, presenters are likely to be mentioned as malicious contributors to the demise of our music industry.

They may try to defend themselves, but we all know that they have been already branded with that reputation and this has caused some musicians to have a bad perception about presenters and DJs. They would rather prefer to pay huge sums of money to TV stations just to see their clips on the screen for once or twice (if they are lucky) instead of being charged to have their music heard on air.

I am not revisiting the issue of payola. I am giving another dimension to Rex Omar’s laments. Radio presenters and DJs play a very crucial role in the development of our music industry and this must not be overlooked. It is a factual thing to note that a musician’s song (no matter how good it sounds) can never be recorded as a hit if it doesn’t gain the needed airplay. It is what the public hear on radio for a long time that actually pushes them to either approve of it or loathe it. Truly, the more a particular song enters the ears of the listening public, the more they become familiar with it and eventually accepts it as good and radio presenters are the main crusaders of this venture.

Thus, if the station refuses to play your song the way they ought to, you (the musician) stands the risk of losing publicity and extremely losing your market. Radio is very important but there is no need to charge these musicians who invest their virtual life savings into their music and even have no proper structures in place to support them.

In effect, all I am asking for is that I urge our presenters to be reasonable enough to understand the plight of our musicians and help promote their music (I mean music which is good, not just any music), for they are suffering indeed.

Anyway, I have spoken to some presenters who have said that they can’t remember the last time a musician brought in any payola and yet they still play their music. This is a positive sign of good things to come since this affords the presenters the chance to be selective in the types of songs they select to play on air and I know they would play nothing but the good ones.

Take those who have been bombarding our ears with good old highlife tunes from the 1970s, 1980s and the 1990s. You could mention Papa Destiny, Joe Diggy, Wofa K and a host of others; they remind me of the good old days. Together, we can help, in our own small way, to promote the dying music industry.

My second concern lies with the musicians themselves. Some them have decided to go into agriculture and other business to have more income to add to the little they are making in music. This decision should have come to them the very day they entered the limelight as musicians. You cannot depend on music as the only source of income for you and your entire family, it doesn’t work in Ghana.

It is actually a basic fact that putting all your eggs in one basket in this context will not help make you a billionaire because your fame, name and connections in high places as a musician should teach you to be more business inclined and use those as grounds to establish other sources of income. Until the structures these musicians are fighting for be established, they must not sit there and fight in vain while wasting away in poverty, they must find alternative means of making money, right?

For instance, Akosua Agyapong opened her own restaurant a long time ago and do you think she is not making good money out of that? She really is because her fame as a musician coupled with the number of high profiled personalities she may have encountered in the music business could be fetching her lot of customers and sponsorship to boost her restaurant business…

Do you get it? So long as you have fame and you are approved by great personalities in society, there is a higher possibility of you gaining a lot of clients, customers and sponsors in any other business you would like to establish.

Let’s not talk of American celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Oprah Winfrey, Puff Daddy and others who have established other businesses despite the big money they make in their acting and music careers.

Even Some Nigerian celebrities like Onyeka Onwenu, Liz Benson, Emeka Ike and Nkem Owoh (Osuofia) are doing other things apart from the showbiz industry work. It is not out of place if our musicians decide to earn extra income aside showbiz, in fact, it is no news at all and nobody should blame their decision to go into farming or any other thing on the music industry, let’s just say, they have rather seen the light of variety and diversity in terms of money making.

Nana Agyeman Prempeh of Channel R’s 205 was right when he said that if not for anything at all; music has given Rex Omar fame and a good reputation in so many countries apart from Ghana. It is up to him to actually take advantage of this fame and good name to develop business ideas and seek for recommendations from influential people, I am sure they would never shut their doors in his face considering his fame and status.

Wake up! Ghanaian musicians, realize the potential in the fame and good name you have gained as musicians and start thinking of alternative ways of making money other than sitting down to always lament on our ailing industry and how it is affecting the people involved.

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