I recently read a neat article worth mentioning and bringing your attention to. Since this 2013, I have seen a couple of articles written with a focus on “13.” This by far is most topical and on point. The author indeed takes the words out of my mouth. I couldn’t agree more. While he focuses on Nigeria, his points apply to all African artists, at least from where I sit. The same issues present in Nigeria’s music industry are mirrored across other music industries in Africa and also here in the States, especially in smaller local markets. AML artists, check out an excerpt from the feature on Jaguda.com.
“1.ORIGINALITY : As an artist, would you rather have just 1 hit that sounds like all the other big songs around just because that style is the In-thing and end up fading away fast because there are many other songs like yours that can give listeners the same feeling they get from yours because everyone else is making that same style of music, or would you rather have a hit record that will last for a long time because it sounds like no other song that’s out at the moment and pulls the attention of people away from the style everyone else is doing, and no other song gives listeners the same feeling? The choice is yours as an artist.
A wise man in the music industry once said to me, “The best way to make an original hit record is by turning off the radio”. Use radio, blogs and TV as reference points but don’t let them dictate what a hit record should sound like to you. Be creative, carve out your own niche, focus on your own identity and create your own sound. Music in Nigeria won’t grow if everyone just wants to take the easy way out by just copying anything that’s in vogue and trying to emulate the same thing. We won’t grow if everyone keeps trying to sound like everyone else.
2. ARTIST DEVELOPMENT : Just as a house built on a weak foundation will collapse in no time, no matter how much potential you have as an artist, no matter how talented you are, jumping head first into your music career without sacrificing and spending time to develop yourself will cut the career you think you have short in no time. No one is really doing any developing these days. People aren’t really going around looking for and picking up the young man with the great singing voice in church or on the street corner who might have the most amazing voice but knows nothing about song structure and song arrangement and just needs to know how to put a song together. Everyone is just looking for a ready made product to market, an artist who already knows how to do those things own his/her own. That’s why the need for development is even more essential now.
If you really want to have that edge, you have to show that you are ready for the industry, you can handle things on your own, not just come up with one “accidental song” with a catchy hook and beat, and then you can’t back it up with another song because you never took out the time to develop yourself as an artist, never spent time honing your craft and knowing yourself as an artist. Season yourself, practice practice practice, teach yourself how to write songs, find out what styles work for you. Don’t just loop a beat by mistake playing around with the music production software you only started using two weeks ago, record on your laptop with your friends on a drunk Friday night and think you’ve arrived! If you take a look at majority of the artists in the industry with longevity and consistency, you can trace back their history and see that they didn’t just show up out of nowhere with a catchy song one day, they worked their way to the top by getting better and better. How well you develop yourself is the difference between “HAVING IT!” and “MAKING IT!” and this development does not only involve music, it’s the whole package, it has everything to do with the artist you want to become, your personality, your performance, your IMAGE.
3. IMAGE : If the late great Fela Anikulapo Kuti was an Afrobeat artist walking around and performing in jeans and a shirt or a suit like every other regular Tom,Dick and Harry and speaking with a faux American or British accent, while still putting out the same quality of music he was putting out, do you think people all over the world would have embraced him and his music the way they did?..NO. When you think of Fela, you think of Afrobeat music, and when you think of Afrobeat, you think of not just the music but Fela and everything about Fela. The way he dressed, the way he talked, the way he danced. Even without his music his image is stuck in your mind, but at the same time you can’t listen to his music without thinking about his image.
One of the biggest mistakes artists have been making is the failure to have a compelling image that is congruent with their music or the music they plan to put out. Too many artists underestimate the importance of image and believe “It’s all about my music”. If it was just about music, then music videos,shows, press conferences and Interviews wouldn’t exist, people would just sit home and listen to your music forever without knowing or caring to know who you are, but that’s not the case. You have to give your fans a part of you that can stay glued to their minds when your music is not around in order for them to think about your music for a long time, an image that comes up in their minds every time they play your music. Believe it or not, if you look like every other artist out there, people will assume that you sound just like every other artist out there and might not give you a chance. If we want to push out our music globally, if you as a “Nigerian Artist” want to make your music spread out globally, you have to be able to give out an image that’s in line with the music you are trying to give out to the world. You don’t just want to be “One foreign artist who made that good song”, you want people to know you as “The Nigerian guy who has that good song”. You don’t what to pitch your material to a foreign audience and have them saying “But he’s just like this or that artist over here” when you’re trying to sell yourself as “An artist from Nigeria” and not just “An artist”.
Jaguda.com has the full story.