The New Norms of the Creative Industry

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Vanessa Obioha writes that as the Nigerian creative industry continues to attract top financial institutions and stakeholders, old norms will be eroded

Streaming Into the Future: Nollywood actress Genevieve Nnaji’s laudable deal with online streaming giant Netflix last year was a good pointer that digital distribution is the way to go. Once frowned upon, filmmakers are now embracing the opportunities such streaming platforms provide. However, the downside of films released on Netflix is that they are easily pirated. For instance, some online platforms already have Nnaji’s ‘Lionheart’ film for free download before it’s official release on Netflix.

Apart from piracy, the high cost of data in Nigeria is another conundrum. With a majority of the citizens paying large sums for data consumption, the expected growth will not be in leaps.

Nevertheless, the helmsmen at Filmhouse Cinemas and FilmOne Distribution and Production are still putting final touches to their view-on-demand platform ‘Myfilmhouse.ng’, which they hope will be a better platform for Nollywood filmmakers whose films didn’t make it to the big screens to reach their audience.

Album Decline: The last few years have seen a decline in album sales. Currently in the US, album sales have drastically plummeted due to streaming platforms such as iTunes music, Spotify and TIDAL that avail consumers contents to stream as many times as they please. Although stream numbers count towards sales on the conversion table set known as the Album-equivalent unit. What this means is that for every time any song from the album is streamed to culminate into 1500 streams, one album sale is recorded. With this measure, album giants like Taylor Swift, The Carters (JAY-Z and Beyoncé) have had their taste of new lows. The negative implication suggests that artiste get paid a particular agreed percentage as opposed to them selling and getting the money directly from music lovers. It doesn’t feel the same as the traditional album or singles sales albeit placing well on the music charts. Think of it as more money to the streaming service, more fanfare, less pay for the artiste.

The same is replicated in Nigeria, although not all artistes can afford to be on platforms such as Spotify. What is largely obtainable is that musicians now vie for attention on social media platforms. As such, the demand to release music is very high. Instead of having a two year break to release a full body of work, artistes are confronted with the challenge to release singles or Extended Play (EP) almost on a quarterly basis. The downside of this is that music produced within such time frame enjoy a shorter life span, thus putting much pressure on the artistes.

Virtual Reality: As technology continues to make inroads into filmmaking, filmmakers are encouraged to embrace new ways to tell their stories. One of such is the virtual reality. Last year, young documentary filmmaker Joel Benson produced a documentary in virtual reality titled ‘In Bakassi’, a first of its kind in Nigeria.

The film plunges the audience into a simulated 3-D Bakassi IDP camp in the north-east conflict zone, Maiduguri.

Though the 360 camera is not an easy gadget to work with due to the director’s off presence, its closeness to reality however is its hat-trick.

Another technological intervention that may storm the film industry is the interactive reality. Netflix is already sampling it with the latest ‘Black Mirror’ series. This form gives the audience the power to choose the outcome of the narrative. It is a bit cumbersome but a brilliant way to bring the story closer to the audience.

Rise of Local Cinemas: A recurring issue in the film industry last year was the rejection of films by multiplex theatres such as FilmOne and Silverbird. Sometimes, the films are rejected for failure to meet with necessary requirements or lack commercial appeal. A typical example is Ema Edosio-Deelen’s Kasala, which was later accepted after gaining positive reviews from local and international festivals.

While multiplex theatres enjoy more patronage, local cinemas are beginning to spring up in communities. Filmmakers can leverage on this instead of waiting for their films to screen on bigger screens.

Female Stars Breaking the Norms: Since the afro-pop era in the 2000s, female musicians in Nigeria have struggled to meet up with their male counterparts. While some succeeded in creating popular music, others were unlucky in creating sounds that are uniquely theirs. But in recent times, there’s been a shift. The likes of Asa who created niche sounds that penetrated the mainstream now have other female artistes following their path. Take for instance, the adjudged breakout star of 2018, Teni the Entertainer, and Simi. These ladies are not primarily producing songs for commercial appeal, but their artistry have beamed the spotlight on them. They have found their own voice, used their talents to create sounds that are uniquely theirs and resonate with music denizens. Falana, another alternative singer who has been in the industry for a while garnered much attention last year as well. 2019 may see the birth of more female artistes.