Like I stated in previous articles, the two key issues facing the rapid development of the Spoken Word Poetry industry in Nigeria (West Africa) are awareness and funding. However, the potential for the art is high, given there is a huge market for it and the primary market are Educational Institutions especially secondary schools. This is helped by the fact that Spoken Word Poetry is a genre of entertainment, a tool to increase the level of literacy, a means of livelihood and a medium of communication among people across the globe. But there is a big need to put a “career path for poetry” in place so that people can see and work towards the possibility of living, loving and enjoying life as a Spoken Word Poet.
How can we define/ describe the career path for poetry?
We can describe the “career path for poetry” as platforms that includes (but not limited to) the following: a standard weekly online TV show and/or a Radio show on poetry (that showcases/ gives both pre and post event information, interviews of poets, live performances etc), a twice yearly slam poetry competition and 2 major poetry concerts/ festival in between the competitions.
What the above events would do is to create awareness for the art form and show intending poets a Poetry career path which can be broken down thus:
The poets get into the poetry slam competition(s), the winner(s) get to perform at the festivals/ concerts (and other related poetry events), do interviews on the Poetry TV and Radio shows, do a campus tour of major Tertiary Institutions across the Nigeria and beyond, as well as, attend open mic events.
With all the above comes invitation to perform at private shows, business meetings, corporate gatherings and international events, for which he or she will be paid for performing. Alongside this would be the need for Managers/ agents for the poets (who will earn commission from shows gotten for the poets), sale of merchandize/ branded products of the poets, speaking engagements, music and comedy collaborations etc. These further defines the structure of this emerging industry so also increases the interest in this art form amongst the populace which creates the need to train and mentor aspiring poets.
Where is the market to train in the art of Spoken Word Poetry?
We have about 160 million people in 36 States in Nigeria, and in Lagos State alone, we have over 2,000 secondary schools with an average of 200 Students per school. A minimum of 20 students in 20 schools paying $25 (i.e. $1=N320) per student is about $10,000 (i.e. N3.2m), and the training can be once a week for 6 weeks. This is just a tip of it because we have not talked about guys in Tertiary Institutions or the unemployed and underemployed graduates, as well as, poets in other African Countries. Fact is, Education is a key sector, and as long as we can show and provide the career path, then we will attract the market.
What are the signs/ figures to back up the above assertion?
In our own little efforts thus far, about 3 of our past poetry slam winners/ home grown poets have been invited and have gone to perform abroad, all expenses paid. The invite abroad has worked out on its own, and we did not ask for it, the event organizer(s) abroad got in touch with us after they came across our poetry videos online. Our slam poetry competitions records about 100 entries for every edition (mind you, we only advertise on social media). Also, our ‘old’ poetry TV show is still being shown on NTA International (i.e. Nigerian Television Authority) and it still has a lot of following judging by the mails and calls we get weekly. In addition, we have engaged over 10,000 people through our interactive social media platforms, provided a stage for over 200 poets to showcase their talent to the world and facilitated at various poetry sessions organised for teenagers and young adults for a fee.
Currently, Poetry shows in Edo State (i.e. Benin) and the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria (i.e. Abuja) average 1,000 people per show, and right now almost all poetry shows in Abuja are covered by NTA. This also shows that the market for poetry is not limited to Lagos, but the major platform for Poetry is in Lagos. So we need to build the platforms and the market will seek out the platforms.
In conclusion, the budget to put these Poetry Platforms in place is pocket friendly as the basic structure and lines of engagement are already in place. Thus, the collaboration with potential investors/ financiers/ sponsors can only be mutually symbiotic.