The Nigerian music industry is run by men. From top to bottom, every facet of the industry has men at the helm, holding in it a crippling choke hold.
The music creators are the worst hit by this. At the top of mainstream music and pop culture, for every one successful female singer, there are 10 men. For every one hit by a female singer, there are countless by the men. In rap, this is most pronounced, with the only popularly accepted rap artiste being Eva Alordiah at the moment. And she isn’t even at the top of the genre.
Female artistes have it tough. First they have to deal with the restriction of a conservative society of Nigeria, which has resulted in the rife perception that women in entertainment are not exactly role models of purity. Over the years, through work by many singers, this view has been slightly made obsolete with advancement in education and ideals, but a sizable percentage of people still hold this view.
Then they also have to deal with the sexism that is prevalent in the Nigerian music industry. No sane person with a career would admit to sexism, but the women are groaning under the weight of it.
Being a women is a hard job in Nigerian music. While the male artistes are judged on their material and its quality alone, the females are judged on more criteria. Music has no gender, yet in the media, it’s obvious that gender usually precedes the talent. It’s common to see women described as “female rapper”, “female DJ” or “female singer“. This gender description is hardly ever used in the case of men. Women also have to work harder with promoting their music. “Everything that a guy says once, you have to say 5 times”, Icelandic singer Björk told Pitchfork in an interview last year.
Whether we care to admit it or not, the (sexual) attractiveness is a marketing criteria. Sadly that’s why many women struggle to stay fit, battle weight issues and wear provocative costumes to ensure they keep eyeballs on them when really it should be about the art.
The struggle to stay ‘sexy’ and attractive results in more expenses. A popular industry saying goes, “If you spend 1 naira in maintaining a male music brand, a female brand will cost N10.” From makeup to dance classes, through weight loss programs, female acts have it tough in the packaging department.
Women also have their careers affected by childbirth, the gestational period and motherhood. Naturally, women are created to bear children. This function affects the career of women who decide to wear the hat of both mother and singer. There are some women who once their babies arrive their careers go silent. This is not always the case though. Tiwa Savage for example had a baby on July 22, 2015, five months later she released a new album.
All of these reasons mitigate to make the job of being a female singer more difficult. At the moment, only less than 10 women are at the top with Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, Waje, Seyi Shay, Omawumi, Asa, and few others leading the art.