Nashville in Africa
Vince Gill Room, Belmont University
Cultural industries contribute substantially to the economies of the world’s wealthiest countries – on some measures accounting for more than 10% of GDP. By contrast, in Africa, a continent blessed with rich cultural heritage and talented, hugely appreciated musicians, their economic contribution is minimal.
A major part of the problem is widespread piracy. But piracy is only a symptom of a wider problem: state control of collective rights agencies and a lack of copyright enforcement. As a result, recording companies underpay musicians and renege on agreements; meanwhile, musicians get little if anything from public broadcasts of their tunes.
Musicians in Africa get the worst deal in music – which is why most commercial African music is produced in London and Paris.
How might African countries overcome these problems? This study explains how inspiration can be found half the world away, in Nashville. Back in the early 20th century Tennessee was poor yet blessed with a rich musical heritage. The Country Music industry that subsequently emerged was a result of a legal framework that was conducive to enterprise, in which copyright, contracts and other legal rights could readily be defined, enforced and transferred.
These strong institutions empowered entrepreneurs and artists to collaborate, to popularize their music and to establish organizations to promote their works around the world. Almost a century after entrepreneurs first tapped into the potential of Country music, Nashville remains one of the United States’ most creative and vibrant economies.
"Nashville in Africa" argues that musicians in Africa are already a step ahead of Tennessee’s founding folk-singing heroes because their music is already famous. Yet before these huge talents can contribute to their local economies, African governments must follow Nashville’s rags-to-riches footsteps.
The event will feature presentations from"Nashville in Africa" authors Alec an Gelder (International Policy Network) and Mark Schultz (Southern Illinois University), and Jeff Green (Country Music Association).