First, as a Nigerian signed to a foreign label, he criticized the Nigerian need to sign foreign record deals/contracts. Second, he criticized Nigerian acts who now celebrate their streaming numbers.
He said, “This streaming s**t be making people think they’re actually talented (laughs). If joke things like ‘Baby Shark’ and ‘Gangnam style’ can do more numbers than everyone, don’t think you are talented or respected (because) cuz of your streaming numbers.
“Everyone with real working brains knows what is a joke and what is real. Anyway, plenty talk nor dey reveal all. Time will reveal all.”
Asides that it was simply out of line, he was wrong with whatever his point was. While good streaming numbers do not necessarily equate talent, they are something to celebrate because of the following reasons;
1. Good streaming numbers are an evidence of success
Thankfully, Burna Boy himself referenced songs like ‘Baby Shark’ and ‘Gangnam style’ that don’t necessarily showcase talent, but the ability to craft hits. The power to craft hits don’t always have anything to do with prodigious talent. Sometimes, it’s ability.
A D’Banj is a self-confessed ‘entertainer’ that falls under no classification of singing or rapping. Rihanna’s artistry is mostly centred around her infectious personality and performative skills, not necessarily an ability to recognize hits.
Equally, success is what matters. You can have all the talent in the world, but success will remain the benchmark for judging music.
That said, music purchase is a near-myth in this country that even artists have given up on making any real money from music sales.
Nigerians are not famed spenders on music. With the added advantage of afrobeats as a global sonic obsession, having good streaming numbers like say a Mayorkun who posted a total of over 70 million streams and Simi’s Simisola streaming over one million times on Boomplay are great things.
It means the music is getting a market share.
2. Artists can make money – however meagre it is
Half-a-bread is better than none. In music – more so Nigeria, piracy is the reality. In the old days, even with the piracy, the ‘powers that be’ at Alaba international market still negotiated great deals with artists and helped make money.
During the ‘mixtape/selection CD era’ of single promotion, artists could place their music on certain CDs and get small cash for that.
In this current clime, music sales continue to plummet. Unlike the old days, the internet means piracy is easier and access to pirated media files have found patronage with phones, internet data and phone storage. One can even say ‘collectors’ buy CDs. The younger generation thinks it’s ‘long thing.’
With artists making little to no money in the typical Nigerian market on singles and album sales, streaming means someone is at least willing to pay money to listen to their music. That means value on all sides.
It’s a fact that streaming money is really meagre when you consider the ‘million’ and ‘billion’ tags they come with, but at least you’re now making something off music, to go with the regular touring and endorsement bags.
3. Celebrating good feats is good for the optics
Nigerian artists berate Nigerian music critics every time for supposed ‘crooked representation’ of African music to international observers. Thus, they expect sycophancy in exchange for cheap favours instead of worthy journalism. Some Nigerian journalists have taken heed, others have not.
Considering how international focus is on Africa due to the effortless scaling of ‘afrobeats,’ the optics matter. We need to keep the same energy.
When American labels first focused on K-pop in the mid-2000s, acts like Teriyaki Boys emerged. When it was the turn of Eastern European dance music from the Vori regions, acts like Inna, Alexandra Stan, Vikay Jigulina enjoyed some success and producers like RedOne had incredible late 2000s success off that sound.
There is a certain destiny about it that more acts will follow Tiwa Savage, Wizkid, Davido and so forth into the international market. International deals might be questionable, but good structuring can definitely make them better.
The west will need solid evidence that a structure is in place, as a foremost factor. This will prove the capability of your sound to grab an existing market share.
Streaming is definitely a way to gauge that. Sometimes, you need to blow your own trumpet, you never know who might be watching..
4. An analysis of those numbers could determine the direction of successful tours
Streaming makes analysis of music better. It’s a numbers world and the most calculated artists that plan everything from time of release, to who to feature in which market and when/whether to release a music win.
The centralized feature to streaming means you can easily track things like who plays your music, the kind of artists to feature as determined by suitability and playlist appearances and so forth.
Equally, analyzing age and regions of consumption helps artistic directions and even tours.
5. You can do whatever you want with your numbers
It is their numbers, and they can choose to do whatever with it. It should be nobody’s business.