Recently, it has become the norm for Nigerian music superstars to post a picture of their song or album topping the Apple Music charts. The top spot has become a bragging right and is sought by everyone because it represents an artist’s popularity and acceptance in the market. Zlatan Ibile, a Nigerian hip-hop artist, recently likened the chart to “a report card for Nigerian musicians”, but the data from just Apple Music does not always paint the complete picture (Apple Music accounts for only 15% of the global music streaming market and had only 140,000 Nigerian subscribers in Nigeria in 2020).
With other sources such as Spotify, Youtube, radio airplay, Audiomack, and Boomplay not in the picture, the full acceptance of an artist’s music cannot be determined. This is the problem that TurnTable Charts, a Nigerian music chart company, is trying to solve.
Why are music charts necessary?
In a world with endless choices, especially in music, a chart can indicate to the average music consumer what type of song they should listen to. A casual listener will likely look for the hottest track when they want to consume music, which can help with an artist’s discovery.
Matt McNeal, the vice president of A&R for Warner Records, put it this way: “For a younger artiste who’s developing, it can be career-changing to get on the chart early on.” Joey Akan, a Nigerian music journalist, shares the same opinion. He told TechCabal, “If you chart well, it means you have many more people streaming your music, which means your music is good in the country.”
For Ayomide Oriowo, the co-founder and CEO of TurnTable, the company fills a void in the Nigerian music scene by “studying consumer behaviour, being able to identify changes over time, and determining what is popular at every period”.
Oriowo added that TurnTable solves two significant problems: misinformation and the need for a credible music chart. “There’s a lot of misinformation within Nigerian music; there are many things that people do not have credible data to verify. Also, no standard music market worldwide doesn’t have music charts.”
Akan shared that data from music charts can help drive investment into the Nigerian music industry. “Financial analysts need the data to create papers about the industry and know the level of investment that can come in,” he said. For example, Mavin Records raised an undisclosed “multimillion-dollar” investment from Kupanda Holdings in 2019. “If you talk to them [Mavin Records], they will tell you they need to measure the music and be able to know what is valuable,” Akan added.
Music charts can also help reduce the profligacy of pirated music by affecting consumer behaviour. Oriowo told TechCabal that music charts “allow people that listen to music illegally to know that if they want to contribute to the success of their favourite artistes, they need to switch to a streaming platform that can account towards what TurnTable does.”
How does TurnTable get its data?
According to Adegoke Similoluwa, the CTO of TurnTable, the company gets its data from multiple sources through partnerships. “The radio and television data is obtained through collaboration with Radiomonitor. We also have a partnership with Audiomack and Boomplay for their data. In addition, YouTube and Spotify data is directly from the website, while Apple Music data is from label and distributor reports,” he told TechCabal.
Oriowo told TechCabal that TurnTable was able to get all these partnerships because of the value proposition that the company offers. “I think it’s just a matter of seeing what we had done with what we had and realising that they should be a part of what we are building. They saw the potential. Most times, when we meet with anyone, they say they have seen our work, loved the idea, and wanted to be part of it,” he said.
He added that TurnTable does not account for metrics that typically go into other music charts, like physical sales and digital downloads. “Because of the absence of many things in the Nigerian music industry, it means that, for now, we can only account for streaming and airplay,” he said.
What type of impact do streaming farms have on chart data?
Almost everyone who follows music in Nigeria has probably heard of streaming farms. Last year, BNXN, a Nigerian artiste, tweeted, “There are streaming farms in Nigeria now. A room where your label bosses pay money to get your songs up by automation, no real fans, no real people, just a facade. Y’all make the people who really work for this bleed, and your day is coming.” His tweet was part of a series aimed at Ruger, another Nigerian artiste.
Streaming farms are a network of devices engineered to inflate streams or add a lot of fake listens to a song. Engineered listening is not new in the music industry; before streaming platforms became the norm, artists and labels gave DJs and radio stations a secret or indirect payment for promoting a particular record, called Payola.
Akan told TechCabal that streaming farms harm everyone in the music industry. “When I want to draw my inferences from the markets, and I open these spaces where I’m supposed to find basic data that I’m supposed to use to educate or consult for brands about the direction the industry is headed or how the brands can engage with the industry and who they should engage with—if I have straight-up lies in front of me—that ruins the entire space. It’s happened a lot. This is such a big problem that it has skewed all our charting numbers. Everything is all fugazi [fake].”
Oriowo told TechCabal that TurnTable has no power over streaming farms. “The places where people stream are the places with the issues, not the places collecting the data after the fact. So combating stream farming rests solely on the shoulders of digital streaming platforms (DSPs). The only thing we can do is work with the DSPS and ensure that the data we get from them is the real one, not one that has been doctored.”