The paralysis of Ghana’s music industry

Several times, questions have been raised about the existence of a music industry in Ghana. Popular artists, E.L and C-Real, just to mention a few, have clearly noted the non-existence of the industry which some people boast of. To clear all doubts, let’s digest the matter to know the end products.

First of all, what is a music industry? And what makes a music industry functional? A music industry basically consists of companies and individuals that make money by creating and selling music. A lot of professionals come together to make this possible. Such people include artists, instrumentalists, producers, sound engineers, publishers, marketers, distributors, promoters, entertainment lawyers, and so on. Other professionals work to bring the best out of an artist­— talent managers and business managers. The companies involved in this are record labels, recording studios, retail and online music stores, etc. The list can go on and on, as it’s a circle of mass media, receiving audience or fans, rights organization bodies, royalty sharing system, artists and their management, and a formidable ministry to handle matters of creative arts. One very imperative factor not to forget is the presence of infrastructure.

Now take a good look at all the aforementioned, and let’s delve into the issue to confirm if the Ghana music industry possesses all these. Tackling it in a chronological order, I’d commence with artists and artists’ management. The Almighty Lord has granted us our wish in the national anthem— “God bless our homeland, Ghana”. He has indeed blessed us with great talents of musicians. Need I mention names? The list is just uncountable— from the legends to the immediate artists, most are impeccable with what they do. However, in the music world, one can be much talented but if the right assistance is not given, the person may rot with a dry throat. There rises the necessity of an artist management. Usually, people confuse record labels with management. To clear the air, there’s a thin line between them— a record label is actually a brand that coordinates production, manufacture, distribution, marketing, promotion and copyright enforcement of music. Independent (Indie) labels however aren’t affiliated with any major record labels, they use independent distribution methods. Artist management, as the name implies refers to an individual or company that oversees the daily business activities of an artist, advise and counsel them.

All of these are good bodies for music commerciality, but a music industry stands firm on the legs of major record labels, so the indie labels can also survive. In Ghana, all we have are indie labels, such as BBnZ Live, Lynx Entertainment, Bullhaus Entertainment, Empire Entertainment, and probably a couple others. Many other so-called labels can be well referred to as music groups.

Ghana, a country of ten regions can only boast of few venues for event organization­— National Theatre, Ghana Trade Fair Center, the most popular, Accra International Conference Center (AICC) and The Dome which is currently undergoing reconstruction. All these centers are located in the capital region. Moreover, AICC can occupy a maximum of 1600 people, hence any event in which the organizers are expecting a throng, say 6000-15000, is hosted in sports stadiums. That’s pathetic!

Musicians’ Union of Ghana (MUSIGA) which was incorporated on December 9, 1975 has taken it as a duty to facilitate copyright service, royalties collection, legal advice, and other roles, among its members. MUSIGA isn’t that effective because the whole system is not well structured. For instance, the royalties collection system is flawed out because the radio stations don’t have log books in which they keep records of every song aired, so how do they know who to pay how much? There are other loop holes which I’ll leave for discussion on another day. There is another body which takes care of artists’ rights, known as Ghana Music Rights Organization (GHAMRO). Their output however is nothing good to write home about.

Moreover, there are no proper distribution channels. Albums, even by some of our mainstream artists aren’t properly distributed, you just can’t find the physicals on sales shop shelves. There is no metric board to check album sales to enable the masses know about the progression of the music business. There are no investors, because of very low business confidence in the music industry. Therefore, music studios are usually established by producers who have hustled enough to afford it, and other artists. It’s just a few that’s owned by non-artists.

Considering the mass media, their performance and output are satisfactory. In this internet age, bloggers, website administrators and publicists are easing up the journalism work.

Gathering all the above mentioned details, I can say without fear of regression that the Ghana music industry even if existing is completely paralyzed and will need healing to rise up to feet. On the brighter side, the public and private sectors can join forces to exert a positive change. The public sector, especially Ministry of Creative Arts with the judiciary should enforce laws that’ll protect artists and their intellectual properties. People who breach the law should be penalized duly. Structures have to be built to take up a huge capacity of fans around the nation. The economy has to be rekindled to boost business confidence to allow private investors to invest, establish well-structured record labels and put up modernized music studios.

MUSIGA and GHAMRO have the greatest task in accordance to the solution. The greatest music body should be full of competent people, who are passionate about the job. There is a list of duties that are not being performed efficiently of which the crucial ones have already been mentioned. In addition, there should be a music sales portal where artist can be paid. Already, Tigo has started with a streaming service known as Deezer of which they give a percentage to artists according to how their songs are streamed. It’s a good initiative by all standards, and should be raised onto a bigger platform.

Artists are to be creative enough to include originality in their songs, and try as much as possible to represent their roots. They should have apt respect for bloggers, and the media as a whole.

I’m optimistic about the Ghana music industry. It can be resurrected if all industry personnel works as a unit with all seriousness. Let the industry be something we can all be proud of.