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Should Africans be excited about America’s Billboard Afrobeats charts? [Pulse Editor’s Opinion]

Already, Billboard aggregates its charts based on streams across the most popular music streaming platforms; Apple Music, YouTube, YouTube Music, Deezer, Spotify, Amazon Music, and streaming platforms that are popular in America.

In 2021, the company also announced that it now aggregates streams from Audiomack and Boomplay in its charts. Billboard, which has over a 100 charts, which tracks music from streaming, direct sales, radio, rhythmic radio and other platforms, also has a Triller Chart, which Nigerian artists have been dominating since inception.

Already, Nigerians and Africans dominate the World Music charts.

The first Afrobeats chart will be published on March 29, 2022. The chart will only aggregate the consumption of African music on American soil, not African music across the world or African music in Africa.

Is it a good or bad idea?

It can be a good idea. It’s also an endorsement of the growing impact of Afrobeats. K-Pop got its chart in 2011, leading up to the success of ‘Gangnam Style.’

It also shows that Afrobeats is penetrating as the new sound, which ABC alludes to. Nicki Minaj and Joe Budden recently noted that ‘Essence’ was the American song of the year. Yes, African-Americans love to push agenda, when it comes to black-owned things.

It might just be the song of the year in African-American communities, which is under 15% of America, but it goes a long way when African-Americans say that about a Nigerian song. Moreover, we’ve had five Billboard hits in the last one year from; two from Wizkid, one from Fireboy, one from Ckay and another from Amaarae.

The internet, social media and streaming. Yes, ASCAP recorded a YoY slowed growth in 2021. Yes, Spotify’s influence is getting diluted by the rise of other streaming platforms, but that’s the blessing. The lockdown increased the impact and usage rate of DSPs in emerging markets, with low internet access and affordability. Thus, the world became a global village and discoverability of music became flat.

Social media also became a leading marketing tool for music companies. Even in Nigeria where TikTok is only used by under 7% of the country, people plan for TikTok because 7% of Nigeria is about 16 million people, of which half might be regular users of the platform.

That might not be enough to genuinely move the needle, but it’s something. If you make one million streams on Apple Music or Spotify, you’re good. People are using ‘Finesse’ so much on TikTok, that it became the No. 1 song on Shazam, just two days post-release. Songs like ‘Ameno Amapiano‘ and ‘Finesse‘ have also had their impact.

I recently spoke with an organization that does shows, and they noted that there was a 8% YoY increase in the number of White, Hispanic and Asian attendees at Nigerian/African concerts over the past 18 months.

The UK Afrobeats charts didn’t do much for Africa or Nigeria. The world is becoming a global village. It’s promoting the success of Afrobeats as artists dare to dream. But our industry is still in development. We’re better, but we need to put more effort into building our own charts.

America has a history of using and moving on from genres. What will happen if Afrobeats isn’t the darling of American music capitalism in 10 years? Our artists will still be relevant in that space, but we’d need to rely on our own industry more, if interest and our rate of exporting talent/hit decreases – just ask the UK.

The possibility of this will increase, if there’s a bar on Afrobeats revenue, especially if Africa is still not a hotbed for revenue. Building out own industry can help with that.

Why are some people excited?

  1. It suits the agenda.
  2. People can can brag about topping US Afrobeats charts.
  3. It means they’re making money.

Look at it this way: the Apple Music Top 100 doesn’t really mean much, but people celebrate it for three reasons:

  1. The desirability of the Apple as a brand.
  2. The absence of a veritable Nigerian chart when Apple Music charts gained popularity. Its popularity then catapulted during the lockdown, when artists only relied on streaming for revenue, thus its value on increased further.
  3. It’s became evidence of revenue generation.
  4. Fear of missing out then became its result, when people started using it to showboat. Every other person wanted to join in. But in reality, to top the Apple Music Charts, you might need less than 25,000 streams sometimes.

If Spotify starts its own charts, the noise around Apple’s charts might decrease a bit.

But the popularity and elevation of the Billboard Afrobeats Charts will follow a similar trajectory, as the Apple Music Top 100, minus the absence of a veritable chart because there’s Turntable Charts – which is growing fast.

But the Afrobeats chart will tick the boxes of;

  1. Desirability of Billboard as an American phenomenon, which heavily impacts the world.
  2. Evidence of revenue generation.
  3. Optical excellence.
  4. Creating a fear of missing out, which will make it become a trend. 

Should it be called an Afrobeats chart?

No, it’s a disservice to our own charts and music, because America will box a lot of African music into the Afrobeats narrative, including Rap records and Folk records. Africa is more than Afrobeats.

As Ezegozie Eze, the head of Africa and the diaspora at EMPIRE says, “It should be called an African music chart.”

The K-Pop chart has this problem already. Americans don’t truly understand the sonic dichotomy and the range of African music. It’s also willful ignorance, because anybody can tell that Rap is different from Afrobeats, which is essentially contemporary African Pop Music.

What does it mean for how the success of African songs will be perceived?

Going forward, there will be a difference between the biggest Nigerian song and the biggest Nigerian song in Nigeria, because our music is now a global community.

We’ll see a lot of songs achieve incredible numbers on Apple Music and Spotify, without really charting high anywhere. We’d also see Nigerian songs that won’t be big in Nigeria, but will be big across the world. We need to make that distinction fast.

For example, ‘Love Nwantiti’ was never big in Nigeria in 2021 or it wasn’t one of the biggest songs in Nigeria that year. But it was one of the biggest songs in the world. People are saying that it’s because of media, but it wasn’t. Nigerian had enjoyed the song in 2020. We’d moved on when the world started loving it. Simple…

Will we get an Afrobeats category at the Grammy soon?

Yes. But as I noted earlier, it should be called an African Music category, not an Afrobeats category.

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