Christian gospel music has always been popular in Nigeria. In the early 2000s, some gospel artists were able to defile barriers to create music that transcended demography, language, and to some extent religion. Resonance achieved popstar level fame with her single “Chinwe Ike”. Gospel group Infinity did magic with “Olori Oko” which saw them slug it out with secular stars. And Midnight Crew became a household name with “Igwe”.
The success of gospel music in this era can be largely credited to the form of music distribution which was primarily CD. The limited amount of music in circulation meant that quality music gets the largest chunk of attention and the genre or the inherent massages had little consequence. As the industry grew and more secular artists filled the industry, there was more quality music to choose from and secular artists gradually outnumbered their gospel counterparts. By the early 2010s, gospel music had been relegated to the fringes of the industry and it largely became niche music with gospel artists were left with no choice but to share in the small fraction of the industry that still actively consumed gospel music.
Today, there are numerous gospel artists with a considerable following in the gospel community but these artists have found it increasingly difficult to penetrate the mainstream. Some gospel artists sell multiple records and get impressive numbers on streaming platforms especially YouTube but these numbers are significantly dwarfed by their secular counterparts. While it can be said that the consumers of gospel music know where to find it, there will always exist a lingering desire to restore gospel music in Nigeria to its previous glory.
Today, there exist Radio and TV stations dedicated to gospel music, however, the fastest way to breach the gap between gospel music and its potential consumers remains through harnessing the powers of digital platforms. A company that has taken on this challenge is Continued Entertainment which is on a mission to digitalize gospel music in Nigeria. Continued Entertainment is currently one of the largest distributior of gospel music in Nigeria and they intend to get gospel music on as many digital platforms as possible.
TurnTable Charts met up with Continued Entertainment's General Manager of Operations to discuss how the company intends to deploy digital platforms in rebranding the consumption of gospel music in Nigeria.
TTC: So can you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got into this line of work?
OYINDA: My name is Oyindamola Akerele and I have a master’s degree in Managerial Psychology and then you would wonder how a Managerial Psychology graduate is in the music industry but then you know the Nigerian factor, studying one thing and doing something entirely different which is not a new thing. Four years ago, I was looking for jobs and then someone recommended me to my boss that they think I can do this kind of work, so I got a hang of it and then I heard about distribution which is about putting songs into digital stores and 4 years into it I think that it’s been great because I have gotten to meet a lot of people, a lot of artists that come in day in, day out, different genres of music, and different types of people.
Content acquisition is a whole different level on its own and then there’s staff management because I am the General Manager of Operations in my company so I have to interact with every department at every phase. Its been great doing this so far, I enjoy working in the music industry because it opens doors of opportunities like you have Entertainment lawyers, Copyright people, Publishers so there are just several branches to this tree and being in the industry gives you access to everybody and that’s how I found myself in this line of work and that's how it has been going so far.
TTC: What is Continued Entertainment Limited?
OYINDA: So Continued Entertainment Limited is a music distribution company. We also do content creation because we even have a project we are working on, it’s called “Merry Go Kids”. It’s a kids platform for basic animation for kids. However, the main thing that we do is music distribution for artists either your gospels, R & B, whatever you are doing you can bring your content to us and we can help you get it on digital streaming platforms.
TTC: Regarding the kids content creation team, this is clearly something different from what most Nigerian kids consume.
OYINDA: Exactly. We are trying to do something that relates to African kids so on the Merry Go Kids page, we have these Christmas tunes, different tunes for different events and then kids can relate to them. We are trying to create something for the African child by bringing it down to the root, to something they can relate with.
TTC: On this kind of project, you have to work with seasoned artists, producers, and all of that, so how has the creation process been?
OYINDA: As I said before if you are in the music industry, it opens doors to connections and people in the industry know that this is our baby project. Although it’s a different thing from what they are basically used to, it seems kind of interesting so it peaks everybody’s interest trying to do something like this in Africa Andd you are being invited to be part of something that might eventually be big.
TTC: So from a little bit of research and a couple of questions I’ve asked around, your company is responsible for most of the gospel music that in the mainstream market in terms of distribution. How did you guys find yourself in a position that makes you the go-to company for the distribution of gospel music?
OYINDA: So the gospel market is like the biggest market because everybody can relate to it. Some people don’t like secular music. Some people don’t even allow their children to listen to the likes of Naira Marley, Zlatan, and the rest on a Saturday morning when most people are trying to clean their houses, they listen to gospel music. So everybody can relate to Gospel music both old and young which makes it the biggest market. But then, when we started we had a lot of artists basically old ones and everybody was used to doing it the Alaba way which is just to make your CD and send it to Alaba and then digital platforms started coming up and everybody is trying to go with what is trending and we just strategically put ourselves in that position so that like anybody that is trying to come into the digital space will mostly go through us. So we infused ourselves in that market by talking to them and explaining to them that not everyone buys CDs anymore, now they listen to songs on streaming platforms so you can put your song there and that’s how we started.
Word of the mouth is key. We talk to someone and that person tslks to another person and then it just opens up like that and the work that we do is really good because we have top Gospel artists today and our biggest catalog is the Gospel catalog. So we do a good job for our artist that’s why everybody keeps coming back and referring their friends to us. And the fact that we were able to infuse ourselves in the market when digital platforms started coming up and bringing them on board because people talk to people and we keep our words. So it’s just like the hard work being put into it and at the early stages of the shift, we were able to be in the right position.
TTC: Your company does management and a little bit of content creation, so can you give a run-down of how that works?
OYINDA: For our distribution and aggregation, right now for Boomplay music we are one of their major aggregators. For Boomplay music, if you are an artist and you are trying to sign up you have to come through us or another aggregator so instead of you going through Boomplay directly to upload your content, they would refer you to us or any other aggregators on their list because they no longer accept content directly unless your catalog is like 5000 to 10000 content.
It makes the job easier for everybody since we are like the middlemen so artists come to us and we put their songs under our catalog and send it to Boomplay and get their links for them and that DSP’s as well. So some artists might want us to do all kinds of stuff for them or just one stuff for them. It basically depends on what an artist wants. So that’s it for distribution and aggregation. Regarding management, we don’t do management but we do business development for some of our celebrity artists. We have like two celebrity artists that we do business development for but we don’t have a management company where we manage artists. Basically, our distribution is our core strength and then we dabbled into content creation through Merry Go Kids.
TTC: You have done a lot, you’re still doing a lot, and you have had to work with a lot of people over the years. What will you say has been the major challenge in making Nigeria be part of the digital wave?
OYINDA: Well, I’ll say that the biggest challenge is the fact that people do not want to pay or spend to stream music. They will rather go to blogs and download them rather than go to apps and support their favorite artists. Like when you download music of your favorite artist from websites instead of DSPs, the artists aren't getting the support they need and that is a challenge and you also see some artists' music on another person’s profile because they are trying to profit from it.
We know how many takedown emails we send in a week because of someone uploading our content on their profile making us lose streams and support, that too is a challenge. People don’t want to pay for music though it’s getting a little bit better these days. I feel like an artist can make a lot more from streams if people try to help them instead of going to places where they can download their songs for free and some of these apps, the numbers matter to them.
TTC: Do you think it’s a matter of purchasing power because listeners can’t exactly afford to stream the music or it’s more about consumer orientation where they don’t know that the music that they are downloading from these blogs is not exactly putting money in pocket of the artist?
OYINDA: People like free things. I think that some people might know but I don’t think that a lot of people might know that it’s better to help their artist by downloading the song on the stores. I think it will really help if the artists could promote their songs in a short video and this doesn’t mean that blogs won’t still put the songs for downloads but it will make the takedowns easier and a lot of fans can interact with the artists on their social media platforms. So artist should use that as a channel as much as they can. So before someone has the chance to put up your song on a blog, most of your fans have streamed the song already and the bulk of the work has been done. So I think some people know but they like free stuff. I also think some people can be educated on how these stuffs works.
I will advise artists to carry their content on their head because I see many artists don’t really like to promote their songs on their social media pages. They don't try to generate buzz before the song drops and they rarely talk about the DSPs. Artists must understand that this music business is tit for tat, you can’t expect me to promote your song if you don’t promote my platform. These digital streaming platforms like to see their platforms being promoted on an artist's page. Some people say that it’s not about the money but then you don’t go to the studio for free, you don’t do your beats for free, even marketing too.
TTC: Lately, Tiktok has been one of the major channels of how past music is being recognized especially by the younger generation. So as a distributor, is there a thing you do that will make a song you are releasing get the proper kind of motion in becoming a hit song?
OYINDA: So in terms of distribution, if you are giving me all the content to distribute on all DSP’s, Tiktok is definitely one of the sources that I’ll push for anyone to put their songs on because it’s a platform that blew up during covid when people were at home and didn’t have much to do which gave people a chance to be creative. I advise any artist to give me a time stamp on their song either the chorus or a catchy line and do a video for it and upload it on Tiktok and tell people to jump on the challenge, that way you are massively promoting your song. Fans want to see that you are including them, that you want them to be part of your content drive, so it’s good to engage your fans when they repost or comment on anything concerning your song. The key is to be creative, there are plenty of platforms and apps that you can use for this. So it boils down to carrying your market on your head.
TTC: So you are the General Manager of Operations in one of the biggest distribution companies in Nigeria, it’s not often that you see women at the top of the executive chain in the Nigerian music industry so do you think it’s better than before and do you think it will get better as the industry continues to grow?
OYINDA: First of all, I’ll like to say that a lot of women have gone ahead to pave the way so it’s easier now as long as you can do the work. The thing about the music industry is that if you can do the work and you do the work well, you’ll be seen and then you move straight up. I started as an operation specialist, I was just in charge of getting people their songs and lobbying for promotions and then I became in charge of operations and now I am the General Manager of Operations all in the space of 4 years. So it boils down to how hard and well you want to do your work. Sometimes, people get on your nerves and you try so hard to keep it all in. You are a woman being in your lane, doing your work and being the news of the day because of the wrong reasons is not something that will help so it’s getting better these days. A lot of my friends are Entertainment Lawyers and are doing so well these days, I also have a friend who does royalties and accounting for an artist so I have a lot of female friends doing well in the music industry, and we can do these things because we have seen other people do it and we believe we too can do it.