In this interview Muna Martins, one of the founders of FREEME DIGITAL , an entertainment content distributing firm in Lekki, Lagos talks with Anthony Nwosu on the need for artistes to monetize their contents and meet reputable distribution firms that would give them value for their works. He also talks on piracy and how the company is trying to reach out to other African countries.
Can we know about Freemedigital ?
Freemedigital is Nigeria’s foremost online digital music distribution network with a growing array of artists, labels, comedians and content creators across the region on our platform with radio rights to all content licensed. FreeMe has been in existence for 4yrs and counting, We have worked with notable artistesand content providers in the country. We ensure that they have value for their work. Freemedigital is Nigeria’s foremost online digital music distribution network with a growing array of artists, labels, comedians and content creators across the region on our platform with radio rights to all content licensed.
The issue of other free on-line platforms like notjusOK.com, Mp3juice and other free sites,don’t they impact on your business negatively?
Yes they do, they are blogs and as such they do more of promotion than distribution but they do in the wrong way as they do not help the artiste promote the appropriate links that sell their music they put up free download links for the public. This is the erroneous impression that we try to correct amongst artistes especially the upcoming ones. Do I say in desperation to be popular they use these free blogs, sites and other channels to cheapen their contents.
Artistes have complained that most of online music distribution firms like yours have a problem with remittance and payment of royalties. How true is this about your firm?
I will never say we have a problem with remittance of payment as we do pay all artistes under our platform, I also believe every aggregator is faced with this as some artistes do not understand the calender quarter, FreeMe has gone a step further to create an artiste portal where everyone can log in and access details of content uploaded, revenue generated and request for their pay. We try as much as possible to be transparent. Though majority of artistes doesn’t understand the business and the distribution art of the entertainment business, we on our own do everything to carry them along and make their engagement with their fan a fulfilling one.
The issue of piracy is another thing. How are you dealing with this ?
You can never take away piracy as it stands, we try to curb it in different ways, some platforms have takedown and piracy protection policies in place while we also work with DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) to take down illegal content online. It is not only a Nigerian problem or a problem that is peculiar to us. In Hollywood , piracy is a big issue, just that over there, they have machineries and laws that are very effective that would be used to fight these piracy. We also have these laws in Nigeria, the Nigerian Copyright Commission and other bodies are doing enough. I think the problem is the implementation of these laws. I know that with times, the issue of piracy would be curtailed.
What are the challenges you have in managing celebrities ?
It boils down to contractual understanding. These misunderstandings happen with everyone, Celebrities demand are quite high so they need to be careful with their content, but we do our best to have a balance. I would not say that we don’t have issues, you know celebrities are surrounded by many people and most time they are ill advised. This they take it on us. They might see that their music is been downloaded or streamed but what fans do or some of them do is that they keep clicking on a particular track for many btimes without allowing this music to play till end. The system sees that many download as one but on the side of the artiste, he would see this as many clicks and we have been able to resolve this amicably.
In your business, do you deal with the artist directly or with the recording label?
We deal with both , it depends on the way we meet the artistes. If the artiste comes to us we can do business with him and we try as much as possibl to have the manager in loop so that he can be a witness or carried along.
With impressive partnership with iTunes, Spinlet, YouTube and others, one would say it is all roller coaster ride for you. How has the experience been like?
It has not really been smooth with these platforms as they do not have people on ground, no one to cater for the local market, data costs are also high, The local platforms are doing more, it’s our hope that they become more aggressive with the local market, YouTube are doing doing a good job by being on ground at least but their streaming royalty rate could be better. All in all we are happy to work with these partners and we hope it all grows.
Do you think that government is doing enough to ensure that the industry and environment is enabling for firms like yours to thrive?
I would say they are not doing enough but we recently received a grant from the “Growth Empowerment” project (GEM) but still await funds. I believe there can be more done
Your into other music allied services like mastering and video directing, do you think that you can export this to other African countries?
It is in our plan to reach other African countries not only with the allied services but with the distribution and publishing arm of the business. We have our eyes in other African countries. Mind you Nigerian music and movies are not only watched in Nigeria, it will be foolhardy for us to focus on Nigeria only. Also, we are open to other African artistes and this would be a gateway to other African countries. Not only artistes, we have come to understand that Internet breaks boundaries, with the Internet,there is no need to have national boundaries, so we try as much as possible to have engagement with other Africans not only vie the Internet but physically.
At advise do you have for young artistes that want to monetize their content?
Make sure you understand the process of monetization and work with a partner you are comfortable with and trust.there is no need to rush into agreement, always involve the services of lawyer when needed.
It is in our plan to reach other African countries not only with the allied services but with the distribution and publishing arm of the business. We have our eyes in other African countries. Mind you Nigerian music and movies are not only watched in Nigeria, it will be foolhardy for us to focus on Nigeria only.