Following the success of the 2018 African Tour, which took place in Johannesburg, Lagos, Abidjan and Brazzaville, Midem returns to Africa for a second edition in April 2019, with a focus on the region’s music market, touring three other key African music cities – Dakar, Douala and Lagos – and culminating in a dedicated day at Midem next June.
midemblog: How do you think the market has evolved since the launch of the African Forum in 2018?
Alexandre Deniot: We are truly witnessing a growing internationalisation of African artists and their music. Talents such as Davido, Black Coffee, Yemi Alade and Maleek Berry, who are ambassadors of the African Forum, but also DJ Maphorisa, Aya Nakamura, Fally Ipupa or Moonchild Sanelly, are breaking barriers, not only in the continent but also beyond. Africa produces a melting pot of musical genres that contribute much to today’s contemporary culture. Afrobeat is one example of course but other genres and alternative artists have the potential to export and reach new fans all around the world.
There is a great willingness to come together and create a common narrative to put African talent on the global music map.
What is truly exciting is the massive potential within the continent itself, driven by a music-hungry fan base that is young and mobile-friendly. There are an estimated 453 million internet users in the whole of Africa. 500 million African citizens are expected to own smartphones by 2020, with a majority of Africa’s Sub-Saharan population aged under 20. Growing mobile penetration has made it easier for recorded music to be sold and to collect revenues via mobile phones. More and more companies are seeking to professionalise and structure the African music market, and allow African music in all its diversity to reach international audiences.
As the local music industries unite and structure their businesses, it’s interesting to see that we are clearly seeing a growing interest from leading international players to grow their presence in the continent and work with African artists.
Starting with digital distributors and services, with Spotify making its African debut in March 2018 with the launch of its South African service, and joining Apple Music as well as Joox and Voov, two streaming services originated by Tencent Holdings. The presence of African repertoire on these platforms is growing. Key international labels and publishers, both major and independent are also showing renewed interest in doing business in Africa, which is why it’s important for the local music industries to be united and structured.
>What is your objective for the second edition of the Midem African Forum?
The Midem African Forum is here to bring together local creators, executives and businesses to develop solutions relevant to their respective domestic needs.
Our goal is to pursue the efforts and conversations initiated last year, and to provide African artists and music companies with a neutral platform to connect, reach more fans and generate new revenues globally.
By including new countries like Senegal and Cameroon in the Midem African Tour, we want to enrich the pan-African network of music professionals. This second Forum will welcome again a series of conferences, concerts and workshops showcasing different musical cultures and professional ecosystems to promote African creativity, share professional expertise and knowledge, to create a relevant local and international networking, exchange ideas and involve local politicians and industry officials.
Social media has galvanised the entrepreneurial spirit among African artists. They pioneered the move into DIY (do-it-yourself) music, promoting their music, handlingthe PR, producing and booking shows directly. They are now looking for partners to take their business to higher stage and that is why Midem is willing to help by connecting them with the global music community.
> What do you think is the biggest obstacle to further internationalisation of African music?
Artists, labels and governments need to improve their understanding of the value of copyright, to structure (or establish) their rights collection services and to provide copyright protection so that artists and composers can register their works and be paid for it. Digital penetration is strong in Africa, but it is important to get the fans to pay for their favourite artists’ music legally. During the workshops of the 2018 Midem African Forum, one of the ideas that emerged as a common and pan-African solution to these challenges would be to create a pan-African guild representing and promoting music rights owners across Africa, providing a forum for cross-border discussion within the music business community and capable of lobbying at an inter-governmental level.
Such a guild could create links with the achievements in the UK, France, Canada and South Korea, where the governments have understood why the creative industries are critical to a nation’s economic prosperity. Creating value for the artist and the region’s heritage in monetary terms should be a priority.
Today, technology can make the collection and distribution of royalties simpler and more transparent. The development of regional music streaming platforms such as Mdundo, Deedo or Black Coffee’s Gongbox, with strong local repertoires giving visibility to African artists in all their diversity and richness is essential, as the region’s artists still depend on mobile phones’ Caller Ring-Back Tones to generate any income from recorded music.
As much as technology is helping the growth of the African music markets, it’s important to note that the price of data, in these extremely mobile-centric territories is a true obstacle to fans accessing music; especially as telcos are at the very heart of the ecosystem, serving as the connection point between artists and their audiences. With this in mind, to facilitate access to music online, accelerate mobile usage and allow new digital services to grow, it is essential to develop a more adapted pricing policy.
Another important challenge that was identified during these workshops is the need for adequate concert venues to simplify the movement of performing artists throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. One recommendation also raised was the concept of an African-wide passport, which would enable artists to apply for region-wide visas, making it more manageable to tour the continent. Today, artists have to apply for visas on a country-by-country basis if they want to tour Sub-Saharan Africa’s almost 50 territories.
Finally, African markets music also establish a network of talent agencies, talent-management firms and booking agencies to safeguard artists’ interests.
>How can Midem be useful in this evolution?
Midem provides a platform that allows artists and music professionals from all around the world to connect and work towards common goals. As the leading event for the international music ecosystem, and by organizing this forum in Africa, we want to create the opportunity for music creators and related rights owners in Africa to learn from the global music communities. We truly believe that, by creating a dialogue and allowing music executives to meet, ideas grow and business opportunities come for African artists and professionals around the world.
>How do you see the African music industry in the next few years?
Africa is an artistic volcano! There have been fantastic “eruptions” when major artists have broken through on the international stage, from Youssou’N Dour to Wizkid, Angélique Kidjio, Fela Kuti, Magic System, Cesaria Evora, Yemi Alade and Oumou Sangaré, to name only a few, but there could be so much more.
The potential is massive, and I am convinced the next “Despacito” will come from Africa in the near future. There is incredible talent and appetite for great music and the world is ready to discover new artists coming from the continent and bringing their unique sound to the global music scene.
Beyond a “one hit wonder”, a truly structured African music industry and a strong network of music professionals throughout the continent can create a new era for African artists to reach truly global audiences, to tour internationally and create strong music partnerships.
Find out more about the African Forum programme here.