In 2020, we realized through a study, there are hordes of upcoming artists scattered across the busy streets of Nigeria. Deep inside of these artists are varying levels of hunger to succeed, this hunger is sometimes stifled out by a setback or being turned down and most times, lack of support.

We therefore sense a need to dedicate a column to aid upcoming artists. 

Titled #ForUpcomingArtist, this weekly column will look critically at the structure behind successful artists, tips to ascend the ladder of the industry and also interviews with rising artists who’ve had their big break.

An average upcoming artist looks at the current crop of rising artists and seeks to know how they were able to break out. What did they do? Is it the effect of a record deal? Or a certain guy is pulling the plugs? 

To be truthful, most upcoming acts are confused. What exactly do they need to do? Drop a single or release an EP? Do they need to seek for a record deal or have an influential guy regularly front them on social media? It’s this confusion that leads to lack of self-confidence when it’s time to record and eventually the artist loses the passion. 

An upcoming artist knows for him to attain industry success, he has to improve in key areas like songwriting and maintaining an active social media presence. 

For the first edition, we examine how Fireboy, Oxlade, and Rema have all bloomed into mainstream prominence in just two years of being active in the industry. How have these artists been able to clear doubts existing in their path and building a thriving brand?

  1. Fireboy: Incomparable Song Quality 

Before Fireboy inked a deal with YBNL, he was also on the streets of Lagos. He had that hunger in him, one that prompted him to enroll into a songwriting school. That might have aided him but when you listen to Fireboy, there’s this exquisiteness to his sound. It’s lush, it’s different, very novel, set apart from anyone in the Afropop space.

It’s this song quality that sets him apart. It’s this song quality that made advertising mogul, Seyi Tinubu notice him and present his case to Olamide who eventually signed him. It’s not songwriting alone, but gelling well with the beat which overall makes your music meaningful. It’s this near-perfectness. 

Of all the artists who were being propelled by the record label huncho at that period, whom also contributed to the YBNL Mafia Album in 2018, only Fireboy was retained. You wonder why? Maybe it’s luck. But the brimming quality was a differential factor. It was there for all to see.

Two years on, he’s emerged from that little unknown kid who spelled out his emotional frustrations on Jealous to having two hugely impactful albums – LTG and Apollo.

Lesson: Fireboy’s songwriting excellence most definitely helped his cause in getting a record deal. And as an upcoming artist, it’s this metric that would be glaring to potential investors. Is your song decent enough? Can people nod their heads or tap their feet when they hear? Or it’s a numb reaction when your track is being been played.

2. Rema: Sign To A Record Label With A Structure 

Many upcoming artists perhaps make a mistake of signing to an “entrepreneur” who serves them with a record deal. Then, a year later, it seems they’ve made little to or no impact. 

Rema however had different fortunes. Backed by a label who had just signed a deal with Kupanda Holdings in 2019 gave them more strength in the area of finance. Bankrolling Rema in terms of marketing and promotion was thus easy.

The wonderkid thus had to do one thing: create a diverse and experimental sound that appeals not only to Nigerians but also to the outside world. His sound had this penetrative ability music listeners warmed up to.

But no doubt, his record deal gave him an edge.

Lesson: A lot of record labels around are being set up by “entrepreneurs” as a second hustle. They invest in a talented kid who pools in profits from performances and royalties. No structure. No plan. No team most times. The upcoming act is then assigned a manager who’s also a newbie on the industry.

The structure at Mavin gave Rema a soft landing. The efforts of the teams at Mavin fast-tracked Rema’s growth. His sound quality was better due to the A&Rs providing insights, his brand image was more vibrant and in a year, he had been profiled by Rollingstone, The Fader and Pitchfork.

If a record label is offering you a record deal, upcoming acts should make sure the record label have a team of experienced hands in the industry.

3. Oxlade: Collaborations 

Many had been in knowledge of Oxlade since 2017. But people started to join the bandwagon in 2018 after hearing his soft, melodious vocals on collaborations.

First, Blaqbonez would enlist his input for Mamiwota and people would further hear him on Melvitto’s joint, Wait For You. With that exceptional ability to bring something different onto records, he would soon be in huge demand.

From 2019 to 2020, Oxlade has been on records with DJ Tunez, Show Dem Camp, Falz, Juls, Simi, Reekado Banks. His delivery has always been spot on with his trademark falsetto and melodious croons.

Indirectly, these collaborations led fans to discover more of his sound and listen to more of his records. Fans would listen to those collaborations and go from there to enjoy more of his singles.

Lesson: The benefits of collaborations are immense. From being forced upon the song’s owner’s audience to people going from that collaborative track to check out your singles, it also helps artists in being sustainable during the times when they’re not putting out individual tracks.

The key however is to always bring your A-game on collaborations. In most collaborations, Oxlade’s pleasant hooks were the star attraction.

This article was written by Olabode Otolorinconnect on Instagram with him here

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