Through the years, Nigerian artistes have endured a love-hate relationship with Alaba distributors - cutting deals with the same group of people pirating your music is akin to dining with the devil, but with a long spoon. However, in the era of digital distribution, there are even more guests at the table, and artists are learning that everyone comes with a spoon that's much bigger than theirs.
Telcos are the biggest distributors of music domestically; through their bouquet of value added services (VAS), they are able to give tens of millions of users access to a rich database of songs and albums. Telcos take up the lion's share from the digital sales of the music, up to 70% of the revenue goes to them. So, for instance, if you pay N50 every month to make your favorite song your caller ring back tone (CRBT), your network provider could pocket up to N35 and leave N15 for the artists, their label (if any) and the content service provider (CSP) to split; more on the CSP later.
Since they started operations in 2001, network operators have invested millions of dollars in building nationwide infrastructure, hiring thousands of bright professionals and attracting tens of millions of customers. They spend additional millions every month to get new customers and to make sure that their network infrastructure keeps on running. The cost of delivering value added services (VAS), such as access to music, over these expansive networks are significant, but the artist community is adamant that there's no way that telcos could possibly justify such high percentages simply for transporting and marketing a service.