Consider this profile of an artist: proven entrepreneur, informed social commentator who makes conscious music. Then this: a popular musician with numerous hit singles, just as many scandals, and notoriety for glorifying internet fraud and substance abuse through music. If you are to pick from the two, a candidate to occupy an influential public office, what would your choice be? Mr. Socially Conscious or the notorious alternative?
With ease, the former is the likely pick, except you fancy the idea of a gangster in Aso Rock. What separates both artists is image – the first artist is associated with success in business and an understanding of how a society should work; the other is a famous musician with expertise in hedonism. Even if the latter is the more popular of the two, the socially conscious artist still represents a better image for a leader.
This leads to the case of popular singer, Banky W, who announced his political ambition to resounding cheers. The reception that followed the announcement is not just as a result of his fame or due to the factor of his age – a number of youthful entertainers have declared similar ambitions in the past that never raised hopes to the height that Banky’s is currently doing – his identity as an intellect, as a leader and as an advocate is the stimulant of the belief in his ambition.
The raised-hopes that greeted Banky’s declaration can be linked to his exploits in the Entertainment Industry, particularly his achievements with Empire Mates Entertainment (EME), where he has recorded successes at maintaining a prosocial character, mentoring younger artists and in setting himself up as a man with inventive ideas – like the decision to morph EME into a creative agency for continued productivity. These form assessable track-record that a lot of Nigerian politicians can only pretend to possess.
In general, politicians are believed to make the best promises that are never kept, but for Banky, sceptics only make a point of the (lack of) strength of his political structure and his near-zero experience. However, his decision to contest for the Lagos State Eti-Osa Federal Constituency seat in the House of Representatives, as against higher targets like the gubernatorial and Presidential offices, suggests that there is a measure of realism to his aspiration – and this is important, especially for celebrities and business personalities making their way into politics.
Looking at it, Banky’s decision to make himself available to be elected to represent the people of Eti-Osa Federal Constituency makes proper sense: he has severally demonstrated understanding of the needs of the public, he has a reputation for making good cases for important subjects, he possesses a character that may not be stainless, but it is gold when compared what commonly exists in Nigerian politics. Although the history of elections in Nigeria has shown that it is not enough to have a good profile, Banky has made a significant impression with his declaration of ambition, while also standing out as a model for his colleagues in entertainment industry.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to find artists like Banky – with bankable image – in this present age. A growing number of artists are becoming less concerned with maintaining a decent public image, which is the reason a lot of musicians are in the practice of normalising crime through their music and celebrity prostitution is (rumoured to be) a thing in Nollywood – even if not every artist nurses political interest. However, the importance of image for artists goes beyond aspiration to public office, it extends to other career aspects including marketing and merchandising of their art.
The Banky W brand, for instance, has been proven in this regard. As far back as 2008, when endorsement deals were scarce, and almost an impossible feat for an artiste with only one popular song, Banky was named the brand ambassador of the then new Telecommunications company, Etisalat – a deal reported to have been worth N150 million. His ambassadorial ties with Samsung is another testament to the effectiveness of the Banky brand at representing such a multinational company, having consistently sustained the high-profile deal for almost a decade. Such art merchandising formula is rare amongst the new generation artists, most of whom are yet to understand the value of image in art.
Although there are no textbook rules to it, artist image – or what is often referred to as artist’s brand – is crucial to the general success of the artist. It embodies the style, personality, ethos of artists, as it aligns with their art. This forms the impression communicated to the public – consumers of arts, potential sponsors and electorates as in the case of aspirants like Banky. It is often said that a good name is worth more than gold, but for artists, a good brand is more valuable than hit singles and big movie appearances.
This article was written by Ibironke Oluwatobi. He tweets via: @ibironketweets