If you live in Lagos, Nigeria, hell if you leave anywhere in Nigeria, chances are that you’ve heard about Alaba Market.
The biggest electronics market in Nigeria, and possibly West Africa, Alaba Market is synonymous with all electronics of any kind, and also pirated material.
The market, located in Ojo, Lagos state, is the number one source of pirated music and movies. Over the years, hundreds of millions of pirated material has been churned out into the streets by the market.
In an article shared on Nigerian Entertainment Today, legendary Nigerian singer Eldee spoke about how Alaba market became a force in the music industry, and how greed and technology saw the market lose its position as one of the biggest distributors of music in Nigeria.
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Eldee, one of the pioneers of the music industry in Nigeria with his Trybesmen group, revealed that he had convinced popular distributor Tjoe into becoming legal and distributing their music.
“Our pitch was very simple, to license the music to them in order to guarantee nationwide penetration,” Eldee wrote.
“I wrote up a distribution agreement (from some templates I found online) and met numerous times with a gentleman named Tochukwu a.k.a Tjoe.
“He was the only one at the meetings that seemed smart enough to understand our play and was receptive to the idea of going legal. It worked!
“Tjoe agreed to distribute and we drew up a marketing plan. We also had to figure out how to market CDs (which were still relatively new technology at the time).
“Our biggest challenge was how to make the CDs cost effective for the average consumer of music. Blank CDs sold for between N100 and N150 but the jewel case was going to cost an additional N30 to N50 per CD.
“The only way to guarantee decent profit was to retail for N200 to N250 which was still expensive and was ‘not going to move’ according to Tjoe. So we came up with a less expensive packaging alternative, the cardboard paper sleeve.
“The paper sleeve only cost N5 (if we printed in bulk) and it guaranteed a more affordable retail price of N150. We designed our art, printed and got CDs made and the first official Alaba release hit the market; Trybesmen’s LAG Style repackaged and re-released with new single ‘Plenty Nonsense’.”
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Eldee revealed that the market grew meteorically, and soon Alaba dealers were paying artistes millions of Naira for their albums. He revealed that many artistes began to lose confidence in the market when they found out that they were being shortchanged by the marketers.
“When you hear about Alaba today however, the story is different. Unlike Tjoe in 2001, many of the merchants got greedy and it was only a matter of time before most if not all the distributors began ripping off their content creators.
“They went legal for a few months, but soon went back to being pirates. They figured out ways to produce more than they declared to the creators, sometimes up to millions of extra copies of music and movie works.”
The increasing lack of trust, combined with the growth of digital music through mp3 players and blogs, effectively ended Alaba market’s reign.
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“There were multiple raids on many Alaba stores by content owners and the police and then portable MP3 technology began changing consumer habits.
“Numerous Alaba marketers who were once capable of paying content creators distribution advances of up to N50,000,000 can barely pay their store rents at the market today.”