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Make Music Lagos: MTN’s contribution to the growth of Nigeria’s music industry

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Music is, without doubt, one of Nigeria’s biggest exports. It has placed the country on the global stage, and not only does it get the world dancing, but it has also attracted some of the biggest accolades.

Wizkid and Burna Boy clinched Grammy Awards only a few months ago, Nigerian songs have been featured on the soundtracks of international movies and video games, and Nigerian artistes are currently in high demand: Justin Bieber recently featured Omah Lay on a remix of the hit single “Peaches”, and Davido has scored multiple collaborations with foreign acts.

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It is for this reason that many young Nigerians aspire to take up a career in music. They have seen the success stories of some of Nigeria’s biggest pop stars, and they are motivated to dream. From Ikeja to Port Harcourt to Enugu, a good number of Nigerian youths study the electrifying performances delivered by the likes of JoeBoy and Fireboy DML, and hope that one day, they too would be at the receiving end of thunderous applause at sold-out concerts where adoring fans sing along to their lyrics word for word.

This interest in music is not without good reason, as the industry appears to be a goldmine. According to Statista, Nigeria’s music revenue grew from 26 million U.S. dollars in 2014 to 34 million U.S. dollars in 2018, and by 2023 the revenue is expected to amount to 44 million U.S. dollars.

Very recently, MTN Nigeria, the country’s leading telecommunications company, collaborated with the Lagos State Government and Make Music Nigeria organise the sixth edition of Make Music Lagos, in commemoration of Make Music (World Music) Day. Since 2016, Lagos has organised over 100 music events, and over 500 artists have performed on the Make Music Lagos platform.

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World Music Day, held annually on June 21, was launched in 1982 in France as the Fête de la Musique. It has become a celebration held on the same day in more than 1,000 cities across 120 countries. Open to everyone, regardless of age or skill level, the week-long event is an opportunity for people to share music with their communities.

This year’s Make Music Lagos celebrations involved a Live From Home Concert which held on June 21, 2021, featuring performances from artistes like Peaches, Daniella Orji, David Operah, Banke, Khemmie Sings, Kolly Dee, J’Dess, Bibicentric and Idono.

There was also a Make Music Lagos Shutdown Concert which took place on June 26, 2021, at the Muson Centre, and featured brilliant performances from some of Nigeria’s top-rated and emerging acts, including Iyanya, MI Abaga, Brymo, Cill, Laolu Gbenjo, Femi Leye, Johnny Drille, Etuk Ubong, and MTN Y’ello Star winner DOTTi.

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The sponsorship of this year’s edition of Make Music Lagos lends further strength to the fact that MTN Nigeria is a brand that not only supports music and entertainment in Nigeria but also invests in the dreams of the country’s youths. Over the years, and in fact, for over a decade, MTN has been committed to furthering music, from providing platforms for aspiring artistes, to securing the careers of promising music talents.

In 2008, MTN Nigeria launched Caller Tunez, consequently creating the largest music distribution network in Nigeria at the time and an avenue for artistes to monetise their music. With Callertunez, MTN users could get access to a wide range of music by simply paying a token. It became popular and by 2013, there were already 17 million subscribers on the platform, with over 12,000 caller tunes to choose from.

Between 2008 and 2016, MTN Nigeria played a pivotal role in launching the careers of some of the continent’s finest artistes, via the instrumentality of Project Fame West Africa, which was Africa’s biggest music talent show while it lasted. Featuring contestants from Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Gambia, the show churned out stars like Iyanya, Praiz, Chidinma, and later, Johnny Drille.

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The telecommunications company has also worked hard to improve the appreciation and development of classical music in Nigeria. Since 2006, the MTN Foundation has collaborated with the MUSON School of Music to sponsor talented young Nigerians who intend to study a genre of music whose major proponents are Handel and Mozart. For nearly 15 years, MUSON graduates a minimum of 30 students each year fully sponsored by the MTN Foundation, which is impressive, given that classical music is not popular in Nigeria.

Much has been made about how emerging acts are able to sustain fame and their music careers after winning talent shows. To this end, MTN Nigeria goes beyond organising music competitions and boosts the profiles of artistes by granting them ambassadorship deals. Over the years, the company has handed brand endorsements to the likes of Ruggedman, Praiz, Falz and Wizkid. These deals reinforce the assertion that few brands care about music in Nigeria the way MTN does.

MTN Nigeria’s investment in music also extends to digital streaming services. The company launched its first digital music service, Music+ in 2014. The platform provided the necessary impetus for streaming opportunities and availed subscribers with easy access to millions of songs from popular African artistes featured on the platform. In December 2019, MTN Nigeria took things a step further by launching MusicTime!, a music streaming service that allows users to have the best listening experience of local and international music. The service functions without being subjected to subscription costs, allowing consumers to stream music even without an active plan, because what they pay for is the actual time spent listening to music on the platform.

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In 2020, MTN Nigeria further reaffirmed its commitment to the growth of the Nigerian music industry when it launched MTN Y’ello Star, a music talent show aimed at empowering Nigerian youths by providing an opportunity for growth and talent discovery. The most refreshing attribute of the show is its departure from the winner-takes-all structure of reality talent shows, in that it provides an equal opportunity for all participants to benefit. The maiden edition of MTN Y’ello Star was hosted by Tobi Bakre and Hilda Bacci, and had Banky W and Omawunmi as judges, with Dotti emerging as the winner.

It can be argued that with respect to the music in Nigeria, MTN has operated as an unofficial record label of sorts. The company has provided literally everything, from viable platforms to financial backing to logistic assistance. This is not to say that other brands have not been supportive of Nigerian music, but MTN Nigeria has been a lot more consistent about it and has come through for the culture on multiple fronts. Make Music Lagos was yet another instance of the immense support that the company extends to music in the world’s most populous black nation. This love affair has lasted for years, and long may it continue.

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