Complied by Nana Wilson and Sylvester Munanjala Jr
Despite having some of the most influential musicians from Senegalese Youssou N’dour through Cameroonian Manu Dibango and Malian Salif Keita to Congolese’s Koffi Olomide (and not forgetting the late great Fela Kuti of Nigeria and Miriam Makeba from South Africa), African musicians hardly ever feature on Billboard top 100 charts. Billboard features the best contemporary musical genres.
According to a statement from the Billboard site, musicians appear on their charts “based on key fan interactions with music, including album sales and downloads, track downloads, radio airplay and touring, as well as streaming and social interactions on Facebook, Twitter, Vevo, YouTube, Spotify and other popular online destinations for music.
These measurements are tracked year-round by Billboard and its data partners, including Nielsen BDS, Nielsen SoundScan and Next Big Sound. In order for artists and title to chart in Billboard, they must be among the higher ranked performers among the specific metric used to compile the chart”.
So are African musicians not good enough to appear on billboard charts?. Short of creating an African version of billboard (we heartily support this) why do well established African artists Like P Square never appear on Billboard charts?
Here with some Answers
Silverman 21. Singer, song writer, Lusaka Zambia
First of all, let me start by stating that the Billboard Charts have wide criteria used to determine which artists feature on the charts. These include; High album sales through online stores, high live streaming/downloading of your songs, high number of fans on your Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and even Reverbnation pages etc. Artists and their fans therefore play a major role in ensuring that they feature on the charts.
Without doubt, Africa has a lot of musicians who are even presently making an impact worldwide. I’m talking of the likes of D’Banji who featured American based rapper Kanye West in his video, P.Square who featured Rick Ross in their recent song and Ice Prince who recently won an award during America’s Black Entertainment Television (BET) Awards. So if Africa has all these great artists who are well renowned, why don’t they ever appear on Billboard Charts?
I sat down and carefully thought through this question and jotted some of the following reasons and solutions;
Music is all about marketing strategies. African musicians already have good videos but people need to know we even exist before we can be recognized internationally. One thing that disadvantages African musicians from featuring on the charts is that we do not expose or promote our music wide enough. Take a look at American based rapper Jay-Z, his recent album was well advertised months before it was even released. Two weeks before its release, the albums have already sold out through rebooking’s.
Most African musicians do not do this. We prefer announcing the immiment release of an album one or two weeks before they appear and this is a bad marketing strategy.
Musicians need to give fans/ listeners ample time to prepare funds to get your music.
Another thing that ddoes not helpAfrican musicians from appearing on the charts is that we do not follow the right procedures to get ourselves on the charts. Africans are well known for making shortcuts when doing things and I’m not even surprised that this also common among musicians. We need to get ourselves properly registered with the appropriate music registration bodies both locally and internationally for us to feature on the charts. Every country has a music protection body that all musicians should register to and it’s from here that all artists should start.
Get a Universal Purchase Code (UPC) for your songs/album. Most African musicians may not even know about this but every CD/song or album sold needs to have a UPC to be counted as a sale on the charts. Every time someone buys your song, the UPC will be recorded online through Neilson SoundScan which helps count Billboard sales
Promote your music online. Truth is, if you don’t promote your products, no one will know about them far less buy them. So if we African musicians wish to get on the Billboard Charts, lets learn to use social networks such as Facebook, Reverbnation, MySpace, Twitter, Tunecore, Spotify etc to promote our music. Interact with fans promote yourself and your music always
Sell your music through online stores. Billboard charts count the number of albums sold weekly by a particular musician. To get on the Billboard, a musician needs to sell about 450 albums per week which is considered as the threshold to be considered as a Billboard seeker on the Top 150 Charts. So if we African musicians wish to get on the Billboard Charts, we have to start selling our songs/albums through online stores such as Amazon, Itunes, Sony, Wiseband etc.
Tazo Agbor Asanji, Student, Bamenda, Cameroon
African musicians need to open up to the world while maintaining their African roots. They should sing about issues inspired by their African culture and not borrow themes from the West. African artistes should incorporate their culture into their music. I disagree with African artistes employing dressing from the West in a music genre that is focussed on the African continent.
If African musicians bring in their own cultural values in what they do, they will be adding something new in the international scene and from there, they are unique and certainly will break new grounds. Artistes like Cameroonian-born Afoakom are different in their style and music, but they need to be supported. He is a good example of how to export Cameroon’s culture to the rest of the world.
Lerah Leke, Buea, Cameroon
African artistes have a big problem. In order for them to conquer the Billboard Charts, they have to work closely with their respective governments. In Cameroon, the government is not helping artistes. In the USA, there are laws that protect artistes, their copyrights are respected and violators are sent to jail. That is not the case in Cameroon and across the African continent. The artistes should work with the government so that the latter can help the former move forward. African artistes must do a lot of publicity. They are not known around the world so no matter how good the music they release, few people will ever get to listen to them. They need good managers who can manage them because playing music is really a business.
Managers are necessary because they will help take the musicians to a world audience and only then can they start dreaming of appearing on billboard charts.
Elsie Sume, Student Journalist, University of Buea, Cameroon
So far, African musicians are doing their best but they still need to do a lot more. Most African artistes are not bold and proud of what they are doing. They are not exposing themselves and their talents to a world stage.
African artistes have to come to the fore and take centre stage. They have to show people what they got to offer. Their talents are glaring but not harnessed enough. Others like Manu Dibango, Lokua Kanza, Youssou N’dour, Koffi Olomide, Richard Bona, Wes Madiko, Awilo Logomba and others have contributed to the improvement of African music but we expect more from the younger generation.
If they don’t do that, they should not even aspire about appearing on any billboard charts.
Cynthia Akenji, Mile 16, Buea, Cameroon
They should believe in the talents embedded in them. African artistes must do their music, sit back, listen to it and look at the weaknesses and strong points they encountered in the course of arranging their songs.. I will advise that they learn from the good example that others like Youssou N’dou, Lucky Dube, Pepe Kalle and many others have alreadt set. They should strive for the best.
Musicians don’t appear on billboard charts by mistake. They work very very hard and I must admit most African musicians are lazy.
This is the time to build a robust African music industry. If African musicians want to appear on billboard charts, they must first believe in what they are singing and make sure they do a lot of promotion each time they release new songs.
Juliano Mckayi 22. Student. Lusaka Zambia
Put an African as one of the Billboard writers/critics.. This will work both in a good way or bad way depending on how well it is played. If we have an African artist criticizing the Billboard charts/ artists, then the world will want to hear more of what the artist has to say which may also force the chart organizers to put up something for African music.
Charles Mubita 19, Student. Lusaka Zambia
I think the problem is that the rest of the world ignores African music even without listening to it. Like most things from Africa, some people think African music is inferior.
To resolve the issue, I think those who compile billboard charts should also start looking and including African artists so that people around the world can also vote for them.
This will determine which artist appears and which ones don’t. Everybody needs to be at the starting point at the same time.