Nigeria: Iman Entertainment launches the country’s first proper national distribution system for film and music CDs

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Piracy has been a curse on African artists, producer and broadcasters who desperately need secondary income from the sale of physical CDs. About 48 hours after a copy of a legitimate CD is in the market, it will be picked up and sold as a pirated version. Until now, Nigeria had no professional distribution system but has relied on the “marketeers”. Russell Southwood talks to Lanre Dabiri, Iman Entertainment about the CD film and music distribution system he has launched.

Iman Entertainment launched its physical distribution system (called Iman One) in July 2012 and it has signed up 5,000 outlets nationwide. It wants to increase this to 15,000 outlets over a 12-24 month period. The service carries Nollywood films and music videos. Before long it will also carry magazines as Dabiri says Iman is in discussion with several companies already. It wants to add to its portfolio of products and to include things that are easy to distribute like pre-pay cards.

In tackling piracy, the service aims to do two things other systems don’t do: provide price and convenience. Firstly, it aims to get product into outlets rapidly on a national basis rather than waiting for the ripple effect of the marketeers taking product back. This rapid availability of product will make it much harder for pirates to succeed. Secondly, it aims to provide quality product at the same price point as the pirates.

The distribution system it’s competing with is uniquely Nigerian. The Alaba Market is where those selling ICT goods like PCs, laptops and TVs can be found. One of its subsidiary functions is to act as a location for the Nigerian marketeers who people sign to sell their films or music videos.

But these individuals in Alaba Market provide the equivalent of a “cash and carry” warehouse to a series of sub-marketeers who come from different parts of the country. These people collect the videos and then take them around to their geographic area.

The average retail price point for CD products is N150 (US94 cents) per unit and the wholesalers get around N10 (US6 cents) per unit. It is hardly surprising that on these thin margins, there is a great incentive to cheat the system by pirating copies and not giving money back to the rights holder. Lanre Dabiri (also known as the rapper LD) eloquently describes the rather depressing process of trying to get money and sales information out of his Alaba wholesaler:
Without this information, it’s very difficult to get a clear sense of which music artists or Nollywood film titles are more successful than other titles. Iman One claims it will provide real time sales data from the POS outlets and that customers will have direct access to this data. Furthermore, it wants to be able to try and shift the margins slightly in favour of both the distributor and the rights holder.

It will be a long road but two things are putting pressure on piracy. Firstly, this kind of physical distribution has only to half-succeed for the retailers and the rights holders to see that there is a better way. The key will be whether the promises about accountability on sales information is kept as the network of outlets grows larger. Secondly, the arrival of online platforms like Buni TV and iROKO/iROKING makes it easier to get product directly to potential buyers at a competitive price and in a convenient form.

Lanre Dabiri on the launch of national distribution in Nigeria for film and video

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