I’ve always loved music. It’s been my escape from the world when nothing seemed to make sense. I just put on my headphones and travel to the world of my favorite artists. When I’m happy, Drake helps me celebrate; when I’m sad, Coldplay cheers me up and when I’m jogging, Florence and the Machine pushes me further. Even as I’m writing this article I’m listening to my favorite Soundcloud artist Paige Joiner to set the mood. Music is the love of my life that loves me completely with no questions asked and wants nothing in return but my attention.
I knew music was my soul-mate when I was twelve years old and my Dad took me to a Sean Paul concert. I became lovesick and prayed that I never got healed. The sounds in the air, the energy of the crowd, it was the first time I was lost for words. I knew that day that I had to work in the music industry in some capacity in my future. I just needed a way to get in.
The Nigerian music industry is at a very interesting place; it’s getting more global attention than ever before. Artists like Wizkid and Davido are consistently breaking barriers and taking the afrobeats genre to heights our generation has never seen before. Afrobeats is taking centre-stage on the global market and it’s honestly the best time to be in the game.
I currently provide A&R and legal services for the record label -506 Music. It’s a new record label but we’ve already started making waves in the music industry and we’re not even a year old. Our first single ‘Make Sense’by Shaydee and Wizkid got us a lot of international attention. It was featured in The Fader and got quite a bit of radio play in the UK.
I started majorly working full time in music last summer during the release of ‘Make Sense’ and trust me, I’ve learnt a lot. These are the four major lessons I’ve learnt so far in my short time in the game for anyone who’s thinking of getting into the industry, whether as an artist or on the admin side:
1.GET YOUR FOOT IN THE DOOR
I studied law in university and always planned to find a way to marry the two passions of my life. When I graduated from law school, my first personal client was Adey – I had to draft a record deal and management contract for an artist he wanted to sign to his label – Mockingbird Records. I was finally in the game and my joy could not be contained. Fun fact, I never got paid for the job but I was so happy to be in that world that I didn’t care. I would have done anything to get my foot in the door. I once read that Kanye West used to work at GAP and that inspired his sense of style. I decided that as long as I was learning and improving on my craft of entertainment law the money would definitely come sooner than later. But I just had to get my start. I’ll always be grateful to Adey for giving me my first opportunity.
2. MUSIC IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART
The music industry is tough. Especially when you’re new. You have to be ready to get a lot of “no’s” and a lot of “I’ll see what I can do’s” with nothing done, it helps you learn to handle rejection better. You also have to be ready to provide your services and run the risk of being short changed or worse, getting no pay for the work you’ve done. I’m low-key taking mental notes of everyone that’s told us no or cheated us just so I can laugh when all the doors open up when I find the missing key.
You have to consistently keep up with the trends to know what people like but at the same time ensure your work is still unique enough to not become a cliché; I’m on different blogs every single day reading up on the most miniscule things that could give our label even the slightest edge over all the competition out there.
You also have to be ready for those days when your artist is feeling unmotivated because they feel you’re not doing enough to ensure that they’re successful.
There’s also a lot of schmoozing and socializing you have to be prepared for so you must always be available to attend all the events, befriend all the important names in the industry to ensure you have good footing with your peers. The game is tough but you have to be tougher.
3. HAVING TALENT MEANS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING SOMETIMES
How many of your friends are musicians? I assume you know at least 5-10. How many of them do you feel make music you would vibe to? Again I assume you must have heard at least something from them that you felt had potential. Finally how many of them have made it? And when I say made it I don’t mean you and your friends just listen to the music and go on and on about how good they are. I mean made it in the sense of they go on tours, get consistent radio play, have a loyal fan-base in the thousands to millions? I’m sure that if you’re not in the industry that number is about 1 in every 1000.
I point this out to illustrate the fact that just because you think you have talent would mean absolutely nothing if you don’t have the right team behind you ensuring that your music gets played to the right people and you are getting consistent play on TV and radio. You also need to have the right personality, look, subject matter and so many other things that connects with people. Now don’t get me wrong, an artist’s talent is the main reason why a record label is going to invest in them but if you think the only reason Beyoncé has gotten so far is based on talent alone then you need to wake up and smell the coffee.
Nothing so far, has made me happier than when I heard ‘Make Sense’ in the club. I felt like that 12 year old kid again. A lot of my friends who knew I was in the game gave me a look of “that’s my guy”; it made all the running around worth it.
4. CONNECTIONS ARE KEY
My favourite part about working in the music business so far has been the connections I’ve been able to make. I have the phone numbers of your favourite On Air Personalities, DJ’s and a number of artists. It’s been quite enjoyable. Without making these connections you might as well find something else to do because you’re going to need them in order to get your artist’s career to the next level. You need to be able to get out there and make all the useful connections you can cause it’s the only way you’re going to see growth and progress.
Now all my focus is on 506’s new signee Oz (@ozbeazy). Trust me guys, he’s the one. I’ve never seen an artist that hates going out and prefers to be in the studio like him. His versatility is close to unparalleled. Sing, rap, melodies, hooks. He’s the full package. But he’s new so we’re back to the grind of building something from the ground up. I love it because I can’t wait till I get that feeling again. Knowing that everyone loves your song and has the same energy as you. From the responses I’m getting, we’re close, we just need to keep at it. I can’t wait for you all to hear what he has coming, it’s nothing short of spectacular.
Here at 506 we’re on a mission to change the game and for the first time in my life I feel I could really make an impact at something. Right now I love what I do. I get to meet the most talented people, work with my idols and I feel like that I’m at the pulse of youth culture in the country. I hope that we’re successful enough to get the chance to write another article about the pitfalls of fame and success.
Music has always been a part of me and I hope that I get to do this for the rest of my life because nothing compares to getting joy from something you truly love, especially when it loves you back.
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