The under-the-table transaction to manipulate airplay is regarded as dirty by creators of content who believe their work is good enough to merit airplay.
Payola has been institutionalized in Nigeria's music scene with chilling stories of how certain and radio and TV stations have strict pay for play policy. You have to 'drop bar' even if Michael Jackson moonwalks in your video or if Celine Dion sings the hook in your latest single.
This is totally wrong and should be unacceptable. Unfortunately, it persists, and talented acts are made to pay outrageous sums of money for meager spins. The Nigerian music industry should do its utmost best to abolish this or reduce it to the most minimal level.
There are however scenarios when artists want popular on-air-personalities to use their clout and influence to help push their songs and help it 'blow' as they say in the industry.
Many Nigerian artists hungry for airplay reach out to OAPs directly to help them spin their songs as a way to fast track the success of their song. Essentially, they are reaching out to these radio taste makers to be amplifiers and influencers.
Now, this is where there are many shades of grey. Do you want an OAP to pay special attention to your record and use his or her clout to influence people to like and buy your record?
In essence, what you are telling the OAP is that I want more than the regular spins you are obligated to do as a promoter of good music on your show. I want you to promote this song using your clout, influence and reputation.
Now, there are radio stations that will take your record or single and if they find it good enough they will input in their library without taking a dime.
An OAP who has a daily show from Monday to Friday on this radio station might stumble on it and if he or she likes it, can play it five times a week without collecting a dime.
If the artist who owns the record approaches this same OAP and says I want more than the 5 spins, I want you to help me promote the song beyond the boundaries of your core duties as an OAP, then the issue of payment becomes tricky.
Some OAPs will do it for free, while some will charge you for their services of music promotion. Is this right or wrong? I truly do not have an answer to this.
There are however horror stories of artists striking these promo deals with OAPs (or shady middlemen), paying huge sums of money and at the end of the day, their songs don't get played. This is straight up fraud.
This is where honest truth comes in. As an upcoming act, if you shell out six figures for the radio promotion of your new single that shows no promise or sign that it is going to be a hit, then you have played yourself. Big time.
No amount of radio promotion is going to turn an average song into a hit. Yet, artists who do not understand music business cut cheques and splash cash around thinking their song is going to blow. It won't.
For upcoming acts with potential, the answer isn't for you to throw money at OAPs to help you break your record. It is not their top priority. Remember, radio stations have to deal with ratings and to keep people tuned in they have to play hit records 90% of the time. It's cold but business is business at the end of the day.
Sadly, Nigeria's radio industry is not structured where we have community radio stations, college radio stations, state radio stations and radio stations with national coverage.
Ideally, an upcoming act should promote his song with his community radio station first and not a radio station with national coverage. Having a well-structured radio industry can allow for upcoming acts to climb the rungs of radio promotion without intense pressure.
A radio station as big as Raypower is in the business of playing hits or songs that are sure-fire hits. They can cater a few hours within the week to play songs from upcoming acts but really they are not in the business of adding these songs to their main playlists.
There are other ways to make your song blow in 2019 without banging on the gate of a radio station. The truth is that many Nigerian artists are ignorant and lazy. You have to think out of the box.
In 2018, Lady Donli went on a 'Living Room Tour' in Lagos. It was an ingenious way of promoting herself and her songs by performing in the living rooms of friends and acquaintances.
There is also the Internet. Odunsi and Santi didn't become the poster boys of the alte movement by paying OAPs. They used the power of social media and the Internet to spread their music. A Nigerian rapper Psycho YP just scored 1,000,000 stream on Apple Music just off the power of social media.
For non-alte acts, you can hit the streets and meet local DJs to play your songs. The Zanku Shepeteri songs blew from the streets thanks to the power and network of street DJs and not radio.
In essence, know which kind of music you are pushing and look for the best way to promote it. For acts who want to be mainstream, you still need the radio. The job of you and your team is to identify OAPs who have a soft spot for breaking new and promising records.
Reach out to OAPs like Kemi Smallz Douglas Jekan, Raezy and a few others. Send them your song and if it is dope enough, they will spin it. And that starts the process.
Radio promotion is a game of patience. You are not going to be on the playlist of all major radio stations in 2 months. You are going to grind your way to success. The Nigerian mentality of ‘I must blow now, now’ is a big problem in our music industry. You have to sweat it out.
Remember, make sure you have sure-fire songs, do mini-tours, give dope performances and use the power of social media to boost your profile.
Also, drop the sense of entitlement that radio stations must play your song. They have a right to turn it down.
Payola is bad and we must kick it out of our system urgently. OAPs, radio librarians and middlemen who defraud artists should be treated as regular fraudsters and be arrested.
If you must pay money to an OAP to massively promote your music, then make sure you are going to get your money’s worth.