An upcoming Nigerian musician known as WiseKid has sparked some controversy after he uploaded another musicians’ album to Apple Music, Amazon and Tidal and claiming the music was his own. The scammer managed to get over 9 million streams and sales giving him an estimated US78 000 per month (30 million Naira).
WiseKid steals from Wizkid
The bizarre scam starts from the names of the artists themselves which are pronounced the same from what I can ascertain. It’s not clear why WiseKid chose a that sounds very similar to that of an already famous musician Wizkid. Wizkid already has millions of fans in Nigeria and around the world. WiseKid in comparison has a modest following numbering a few thousand at most on all social media platforms.
It could well be that WiseKid chose that name because he was planning to impersonate Wizkid all along or it could be that it was all a coincidence and he just got tempted along the way. The latter is more likely because WiseKid does have his own music as well as the events that led to him getting caught.
It’s not clear when but at some point, Wisekid took an album released by Wizkid called “Made In Lagos”, renamed it to “Lasgidi Made”, made a few tweaks including changing the titles of the songs as well as their order, then uploaded it wholesale to the above-mentioned platforms. To be clear, he did not record his own versions of the songs, no, he just changed the text in the titles before uploading.
The uploaded tracks proved popular, receiving millions of streams from Wizkid’s enthralled fans who were none the wiser. Strangely no one seemed to notice the album’s names had been changed. It may be that those listening just assumed the musician had made the tweaks to suit international audiences. It’s after all not unusual for tracks to have multiple titles in different places.
The popularity of these tracks proved to be WiseKid’s undoing, however, although his own foolish boasting played a big part in bringing about his downfall. The thieving musician actually ratted himself out when he shared screenshots showing off his millions of streams on social media. Social media sleuths quickly noticed that something was amiss here and called WiseKid out.
Like a deer caught in headlights, WiseKid offered anaemic excuses. One of which was to claim that his music distribution company, Freeme Digital, was to blame. He claimed they might have probably uploaded the songs to these platforms without his knowledge. The digital company, however, was quick to forcefully deny these aspersions and immediately cut ties with the musician.
The RIAA grinder eviscerates WiseKid’s empire
Wizkid engaged the famous Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) which went on an online hunt, looking for all instances of infringement. RIAA quickly sent takedown notices to Amazon Music, Apple Music and Tidal and all the offending music was taken offline as the platforms complied with the orders. It’s not clear whether they were involved or not but, WiseKid’s Twitter account was also permanently suspended.
A lesson to Zimbabwean content creators and thieves
There are some important lessons here for content creators in Zimbabwe. If you are not uploading your music online you are missing a trick and potential thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars in revenue depending on how popular your music is.
Most current musicians are wise to this fact but past musicians and the estates of deceased musicians are missing out on this potential revenue source. Streaming is the future, if you don’t upload your music on platforms such as Spotify, Amazon and Apple Music someone will cash in on your hard work.
We already see blatant pirate uploads on YouTube where popular songs from the past rake millions of views each month and the money goes to dubious sounding uploaders who are most certainly not related to the singers. This is especially true for nostalgic songs from the old Ezomgido, Prime Gospel Show and Coke on the Beat days before ZBC lost their magic touch. Just search for Ezomgido on YouTube and you will see what I mean.
Another thing to learn here is that musicians should learn that fragmentation is not a good thing but when it presents itself they have to go with the flow. Some of these platforms e.g. Tidal were formed by disgruntled musicians the hope being that they will be able to charge more in subscriptions and fairly compensate each other.
Instead, it just leads to just another platform. It also creates the risk that some “WiseKid” character will simply appropriate your music and upload it to the other platforms where your music is not and cash in on your music. If there is a platform, your music should be on it. This whole exclusive to Tidal or etc thing only works for Taylor Swift, that’s if it even works for her at all.
There is also wisdom in engaging a distribution company. These are likely to be more professional and informed on which platforms to target. You can focus on making music and they focus on distributing it. Just make sure you sign a formal deal that spells out your rights and what you are entitled to. Otherwise, these companies will rip you off too.
As for the WiseKids, you should know that all it takes is one errant Tweet and your empire will fail. There are some people who are actually making a career by stealing from other creators and have amassed thousands of followers and views on media platforms. It’s wrong, illegal and you can actually be arrested and dragged to court and lose everything.