As we are still in the first month of a beautiful new year, I have decided to share my opinion on what I think are requisite skills and capabilities to make this year a success for budding and established artists. I hope you find one or two useful ideas from my ramblings. Here goes my list:
This is coming first because I truly believe it is the most important skill for any artist today. Not too long ago, Radio was king of music promotion, not anymore. In fact, if you’re still spending more on radio promotion, in 2019, than you spend on digital promotion, you are crazy! Digital marketing comprises all marketing effort deployed over the internet. Digital marketing affords individuals and businesses the opportunity to connect with existing and prospective customers via digital channels that include search engines, social media, websites, email and you should be exploiting the hell out of these channels for your music promotion. Thankfully, our friends at Google offer free classes on digital marketing, and you should absolutely invest your time in learning this skill. Also, you should understudy digitally savvy artists like Eazi to get some pointers.
This is another crucial skill that you cannot afford to ignore if you’re serious about moving your music career forward in 2019. In this context, communication goes way deeper than what you say on social media. It’s about what your whole brand is saying and how it is coming across. I am a firm believer in the “Everything Speaks” ethos. Therefore, I think it is imperative that you commit to improving and refining how you express yourself in your music, on social media, in music videos, in interviews, and via other channels knowing that it all feeds back into people’s perception of you, and perception is reality. To communicate effectively in 2019 you must improve your listening ability, body language (including style), empathy, develop trust and rapport with your fans and industry players, and be confident.
Like the popular maxim goes, “if you want to go far, go together,” Networking is no longer optional, it has become a necessary tool in career advancement, whether you’re a musician or a space scientist; and you must hone and deploy this skill to your advantage if you’re to make any meaningful progress this year. Let me say this, there is good networking and bad networking. Good and effective networking must be predicated on the philosophy of ‘giving to get’. You must be willing to share your knowledge, expertise and influence to add value to the people you meet, rather than only looking out for yourself and what you can obtain from new contacts and relationships. Don’t be the parasite or the beggar in your network. So, reach out more in 2019, to other artistes, to producers, Sound engineers, publicists, influencers, OAPs, culture writers/curators and others, but come bearing gifts! Finish this year knowing you’re better connected within your industry.
According to Wikipedia, financial literacy is the possession of the set of skills and knowledge that allows an individual to make informed and effective decisions with all of their financial resources. And if you know anything about the music industry then you must know that it is not overflowing with people who tend to make informed or effective decisions with their financial resources. However, to avoid hadaino, you must commit to learning budgeting basics, the value of saving, the impact of interest, basic cost/benefit analysis, the power of delayed gratification and other key concepts that will help you better manage your finances. In addition, hire a financial expert as early in your career as possible! Remember, the best time to learn about money is before you have any. The next best time is after you’ve lost every. Your move.
Artists are generally called creatives and so everyone in this field of endeavor just assumes they are creative by default, but in truth, only few are. These days many artists just look for what’s trending and make sure they create the exact same thing and print a T-shirt with ‘CREATIVE’ in caps. This is not the way. Although nothing is guaranteed in this industry, I have found that the more original and creative an artist is, the better their chances of having a successful career. For instance, take this lazy trend of jacking memorable parts of old hits and casually making it the chorus or pre-chorus of your ‘new banger’, mostly without permission nor any real creative adaptation, that every Nigerian pop artist and their mother is hopping on these days. That shit is about as creative as taking soup out of the freezer, making it warm and claiming you made soup! For real?! No real experimentation, everybody just doing the barest minimum and hoping that able God will shower his blessings. This cannot be your creative strategy in 2019, put serious thought into your craft, observe what’s happening in the music landscape, you may even borrow a few tips and tricks but make sure to create something new out of it. And while you’re creating, focus on creating and refining your sound (not afrobeats); an umbrella frame work on which to hang your works. This makes the process of creating individual songs a lot less tedious and risky.
Sometimes people in the arts make the mistake of thinking that they are different than every other person and that artistic brilliance is something that just happens, if you’re lucky enough to be talented. However, in my experience, I have found that, like Samuel Goldwyn said, “the harder you work the luckier you get”. Talent is not enough, you must be deliberate and disciplined about how you create. My advice would be that you create daily, at specific times, and have an accountability partner to keep you in check. Given the fact that being a musician is not a typical 9 – 5 gig, artists tend to be sloppy about their work even without realizing it. So, I suggest you keep a strict work regimen, for a little sleep, a little slumber can do permanent damage to your career before or after it has taken off. Be guided.
Simply put, if you’re not learning, you’re lagging. Learn all you can about every facet of this industry and make sure you’re up to date with global trends and standards with respect to your craft. Corporates are always training and re-training their staff, ever wondered why? Because that’s the only way to maintain a competitive edge in this age of dizzying technological transformations and to last in the game for a long time. If you need to learn an instrument or perfect your song writing (and I think you do), just go ahead and do that. If you think your singing could be better (and it sure can) you’d better get a vocal coach. Also, always surround yourself with smart motherfuckers for we learn a lot by association. Like I have said before, if you’re the smartest person on your team, your career is dead, we are just awaiting confirmation.
To secure the bag in 2019 and beyond, you must skill up!
Obinna Agwu is a compulsive lover of Music, Talent Manager, A&R Executive and Adviser to Labels & Talents.