TurnTable Charts & Radiomonitor: The Partnership That Changed Nigerian Music

Writers: Ayomide Oriowo, Blessing Oreunomhe

December 18th, 2020

A deep look into the history of music in Nigeria and the lack of documentation (or inadequacy) is prevalent throughout the various stages of the Nation’s musical evolution. This problem is most notable in sales and chart history – frankly, there is almost no history of sales and chart history in Nigeria.  In the 20th century, sales figures were reported by record labels when they deemed it fit to make it public. The authenticity of those figures would always be contentious due to the nature of record labels and the music scene at the time. In 1971, Haruna Ishola’s Oroki Social Club  album reportedly sold five million copies while Salawa Abeni’s 1976  Late General Murtala Ramat Mohammed  earned her the honor of becoming the first female artiste to sell over a million copies.  TurnTable Charts set out to create solutions to some of this problem that is as old as the Nigerian music industry. Music consumption has evolved over the years with online streaming replacing digital downloads and physical sales. However, radio and TV have remained vital in the distribution and consumption in Nigeria.     Having identified the problems, the publication sought out to provide solutions. But creating solutions required partnerships with data providers and the publication landed a big one in Radiomonitor.  Radiomonitor, a British radio tracking service and official airplay chart data provider for several European countries including the UK, is the biggest radio and TV tracking service in Africa. And with the Nigeria music scene still heavily dependent on the offline market influenced directly by radio stations and satellite music channels on TV, the incorporation of those platforms became imperative. Together with Radiomonitor, the publication created a couple of music charts that were considered impossible by many in the industry.  Here, Jarrod Aston-Assenheim, MD Radiomonitor South Africa, who played a major role in facilitating this instrumental partnership, talks about radio tracking service and its challenges in Africa, new opportunities and plans in the next year, his journey into music, the importance of partnership with TurnTable Charts, royalty collection from radio stations and more.  ![Jarror Aston-Assenheim]( When did you get into the music business?  So I’ve been in the music business for 35 years, I started when I was very young. I started in the music industry as a drummer and I did this for many years before I started singing. I had quite a lot of success with some bands that I was in, here in South Africa. I was both a singer and a songwriter for these bands. So after years of touring and being part of the music industry, I got to learn a lot about the music side of the music industry and when I turned 30, I left the music performance side and I moved straight into the business side because I thought there was a gap for managers, agents and business managers that needed to be bridged.  I worked very much behind the scenes working with the top artistes in South Africa and my business grew quite quickly. We started promoting local and international concerts with some big names from the U.S and Europe as well as most of the big artistes here in South Africa. We also worked with quite a few of the African artistes from Sub-Sahara Africa and did lots of festivals. That worked really well for many years and subsequent to that. However, 5-6 years ago, I brought Radiomonitor to South Africa.  Is it possible to get any of your old catalog on streaming platforms?  Yes it’s possible, it’s from the ’80s, very much pop and it’s venal of the band named CINEMA and we had a big hit in South Africa called “My Kind of Girl.” The song is available on Apple Music and Spotify. So you just need to search for the tracks but it’s very dated, we are talking of well over 23 years ago. Well, I haven’t been writing music but I’m very much involved in a lot of artistes here and I do a lot of consulting work for free. I work with local artistes here as a mentor and I’m involved with a lot of music conferences here in South Africa and other parts of Africa, just sharing knowledge about the business side of the music industry.  The music business is one area of the industry that musicians specifically don’t really cloak us on and it’s probably the most important part of the business. It’s great to write a song and have a big hit but if you don’t understand how to monetize that then it’s almost pointless to do it. I try to encourage artistes to see the music business side of it because that’s what it is, I mean that’s what they call it and it is a business.                                                 Okay. So you brought radio monitor to South Africa in 2015? How many countries do you operate in now in Africa?  We are operating in about 12 countries in Africa, we got more than that but our focus is on 12 at the moment. We understand that this is the core market where we know that there is a lot of local attraction in terms of music releases, and of course an interest in a global market. We initially started with Nigeria as a market and we grew to add Ghana, Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Zambia, and other territories. We want to try and partner with as many local companies like TurnTable Charts as possible to ensure that our charts are accurate and we will start on-boarding many territories as well as we go. We are monitoring in places like Burkina Faso, Angola, Mozambique but those are smaller countries and we have limited radio stations that we monitor in those countries.  Radio monitor is the official air-play provider for the United Kingdom, right?     Yeah, we do the charts for the Music Week, which is one of the biggest publications in the U.K, it is similar to Billboard in the U.S. Radiomonitor has become the industry standard for 12 years, it’s a very well respected company, it’s a very well respected chart because of its accuracy especially in the higher-profile markets like Europe and Australasia, and of course, now, Africa, since we have now been involved.  So when did you start the airplay chart in South Africa? Do you have an official chart in South Africa? Yeah, we have an official chart in South Africa which was started at the beginning of 2016. When Radio monitor started monitoring in South Africa in 2015, we took some time to ensure that we have all the stations that were required and we grew from initially at about 45 radio stations to 180 radio stations as well as 25 TV stations that play music.  The intention back then was to provide some data and information that was more tailored to the market. The Radiomonitor chart has grown to a state that every week, people are waiting for the chart to be released and many of the top South African artistes are always wanting to be on the chart because it the official airplay chart. It’s not based on just one specific radio station, it’s based on all radio stations combined making it a very powerful chart. When you have the Number 1 Song or even the Top 20 Song for instance, on the Radiomonitor chart, this means that you are getting a huge amount of airplay across the radio stations in South Africa. We base our official airplay chart on the audience measurement that we have in South Africa, so it’s become known as the “Radio Monitor R.A.M.S Chart” where R.A.M.S stands for “Radio Audience Measurement System.” That’s what everybody waits for on a Friday morning when we release the chart. We get a lot of attraction on our Instagram profile, Facebook, and Twitter.  You’ve mentioned that you operate in 12 countries in Africa and that’s a decent amount of countries, then you talked about operating in smaller countries that you don’t have exactly that much radio stations that you have tracked yet, So what will you call the biggest challenge for Radio-tracking services in Africa?  The biggest challenge for us is the reliability of the broadcast. We’re finding out that because of the other radio stations based in rural areas, they don’t always get access to certain infrastructure, which makes the streams and broadcast drop on a regular basis. This is a problem for us because we monitor by streaming and we encourage radio stations that want to be part of the Radiomonitor system to have some form of streaming platform. It is definitely the way to go and it’s definitely a way for them to be moving forward. However, it’s not always possible because it could be financially restrictive, though it’s not an expensive process. We know that some of the challenges with the community stations in these rural areas, which I’ll say is our biggest challenge for now.  We found out that even the biggest stations in some of the larger territories like Nigeria for instance have issues with the reliability of streams, so that’s something that will be addressed once the technology and the infrastructure are created. But it will take time because we have found out that in the last 5 years that technology and streaming have become a lot better but we still have issues, unfortunately.  So from what I can gather now is that your system only tracks airplay that is from a streaming service or platform? That’s correct. So we use the streams available to monitor. However, in some territories, for instance, Europe, we track by FM as well but there is a lot of challenges when it comes to tracking by FM broadcast due to license availability in certain countries and also cost. This is because if we have to stream every station broadcast by an FM broadcast, it would increase our cost to the client, which probably wouldn’t be financially viable at the end of the day. So we try to make our monitoring and registration cost low for everybody to have access to it. That’s why we take the streaming root which is definitely the most effective for everybody ![Jarror Aston-Assenheim](  And your decision to partner with TurnTable Charts in creating an official airplay chart in Nigeria, what was the major reason behind that?  Our main focus with partners, in this instance TurnTable Charts in Nigeria, was to partner with the company that has local knowledge and has some good reference and audio base within the territories and to assists us with ensuring that we get the latest content on our chart. It is very important for us as Radio monitor to have local partners, we believe that that’s the only way to ensure that we are up-to-date on the content. By having these partners within their territories, it saves a lot of stress since we don’t understand all the markets completely.  Having local partners makes the work a lot easier and it has been exciting for us for the last 3-4 months working with TurnTable Charts making sure that we created a really nice partnership. We have worked with other companies in the past and this partnership lasted for a short period of time. But working with TurnTable Charts, we have had some great feedback and some great communication between ourselves. The partnership is looking great and the charts are looking good as well. How many radio and TV Stations does Radio Monitor track in Nigeria? At the moment we are up to about 52 radio stations (now 54 radio stations) in Nigeria, 6 TV stations and we will add more as they become available. We will probably be looking at adding more TV stations soon because we are getting a lot more interest in the Nigerian market from major labels and other independent labels in South Africa. We find a really good partnership happening between South African and Nigeria artistes and once there is an interest, you find out that labels are requesting for more radio stations to be monitored and as we get those request, we look for a viable broadcast that we can add them to those stations. Is there a way that TurnTable Charts could help in getting more radio stations in Nigeria?  Absolutely. Our ultimate goal is to have as many radio stations be a part of the system. The way to do that is to reach out to those radio stations and find out if they have viable streams that are reliable and if they do, we can add them with no cost to our data point. What that does is that it provides transparency as well; radio stations at the moment can be more transparent by having airplay monitoring and detecting companies like ourselves look at what they play and give that feedback to the artiste which is important and that grows the relationship between the radio stations and the artiste, managers, and labels. It creates a little more transparency to the radio stations themselves and we will find in the future that radio especially in terms of royalties and a lot of countries now will very much add those processes, so once there is a reputable tracking company that is working those territories, we can assist the performing right societies in each country to start paying royalties and to assist them with doing it. At the end of the day, everybody is benefiting financially, commercially, and in terms of partnerships. You mentioned royalty collection – Do you have a partner for that in Nigeria?  We don’t have a partner yet, but we have had several conversations with prospective partners but nothing has been confirmed, it’s still very early and we know that there are some challenges with the Performing Right Societies in some of these territories. So we are definitely looking at a very strong partner in Nigeria that we will be able to work on these processes with a good local performing right societies. What’s your plan on online radios as they become more popular within the Nigerian music scene, is it possible for Radio monitor to track them? Online radio stations, we can add those and that’s quite simple to do because what we usually do with online radio stations is that we separate them. We have a term that we call “Terrestrial Radio,” which is the Underground radio stations that are based at a location in a certain area. What we have done in South Africa and other territories is that we have a terrestrial chart which will be based just on local underground radio stations and then we will have an online radio chart as well, so we can separate the two, and then we have an overall chart that is based on online and terrestrial radio. We can do a similar thing to Nigeria as long as we know the online radio stations and we can get the URL of those stations. The URLs are what we can feedback to us.  What will you say are the peculiarities that make the African radio market different from European, American, and other international markets? In my own opinion, what I see is there are diverse music genres and styles from each of the African territories. When we sample music from Europe for instance, especially English-speaking countries, we have pop, rock, R&B, urban, we have those generic styles but when it comes to African artistes there are so many styles and sub-genres.  In South Africa, we have different styles that are unique to the territories and we find that’s the same in other African territories seeing as some specific genres and styles are only specific to those territories. But if we look at the French and the Russian artiste, the only thing that’s different from them is the language, they are still playing pop and rock music but in a different language. As such, there is no different style in Europe and other international markets.  The African market is coming up with some great content, very original sound that’s specific to the African continent which is why we are seeing such great collaborations that are happening between a big artiste like Beyoncé and Drake featuring African artistes on their tracks. Some of the beats are produced by Africans, which is great. I’ve seen a huge shift in the focus to the African music and style from the European and American point of view making people sit up and take notice of the African continent.  Africa as a continent is a powerhouse, it is a very vast region, a very strong music industry, and a very strong music culture across the continent. My hope with all of these is that we will start seeing some huge international stars breaking out. We’ve already seen that recently in the last few months, with Master KG ‘Jerusalema’ in South Africa hit 200 million views on YouTube, it was a huge song on Radio here in South Africa and we have seen that it has become a huge hit on stations in Europe and U.S and artistes like Janet Jackson and others are tweeting and talking about it. So it’s starting to happen and it’s really exciting for the African continent. Just last week it was Number 1 on Global Shazam Charts and it debuted on Billboard Global Charts too.  Yeah, it’s great to see and I’m excited for Master KG because he has been around for a while now and has been recording for years. It’s nice to see that he is having success. In fact, this week his other song with the same featured artiste in "Jerusalema" is the No. 1 song in South Africa, so he has got another hit song, which is great.   Do you plan on any other venture or project anytime soon, perhaps writing a book or something that is coming out soon?  I think the answer to that question is that everybody got a book in them. I think everybody should write a book about their experiences. I’ve written quite a few blogs over the years and I’ve started writing a book about seven years ago about the music business but I’ve never gotten around to finishing it mainly for the fact that I’ve been busy building the business.  My focus for the short term is to grow Radiomonitor in Africa to a more substantial base and I’ve got a lot of other businesses I’m involved with. For example, the Royalty Administration and Publishing Administration with the Performing Right Societies here in South Africa, we will be rolling that out to the other countries in the continent as well as globally. That’s my focus for the next 2 years but whether I’ll have time to complete the book or whether anybody will even be interested in what I have to say, I’m not sure, so I’ll put that back on the bookshelf for now (laughs). Alright. What’s your favorite song at the moment? That’s difficult to say but I must say that "Jerusalema" is one of my favorites, anytime I hear it I just want to start dancing. I think many music lovers across Africa and the world would agree with you.  It got some magic but I listen to a lot of music and I couldn’t say there is one song that’s my favorite. Because of Radiomonitor, I get to hear a lot of new music before it's released and it’s just such amazing and I love a lot of Nigerian artistes especially Johnny Drille, I mean he’s always got some nice track and often the tracks that we get from Nigeria are amazing. So it will be difficult to say who my favorite is because I just have so many at the moment.

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