Being an artist isn’t any easy. It is the reason why many seek for a record label contract or constantly tag several potential investors to the visual content uploaded on their social media platforms. With inflation rising so is the difficulty that comes with recording at studios, negotiating with personnel in charge of marketing a record and it ends there. There’s barely any talk of video shoots because that is nearly impossible.
Most rising artists have only one talent: to sing. There it becomes more hard to achieve the “impossibles” when there’s no avenue to channel in funds to aid their music career. For years, Daniel* was in this hole when he hopped on a freelancing platform, connecting him to multitudes of artists willing to launder on him dollars in exchange for a chorus, verse or a full song.
Here, Daniel tells the full story of how he’s self-funding his career through writing songs for other artists.
Tell me, how did your journey into the music industry begin?
Funny enough, I didn’t plan on doing music. Music was never in the works. Football was. When I was young, I was in several football academies from Pepsi to Segun Odegbami school for sport. In between playing football, I discovered writing in JSS3. I was always singing along to people’s songs and stuff. From there I just started writing my own songs subconsciously. But it wasn’t like I planned to be a songwriter. Writing gave me freedom. It made me happy somehow, made me feel complete. Growing up I wasn’t one with like plenty things to always say. I just like to play and have fun. But with music, I had an opportunity to say my mind or say things I always wanted to say.
What challenges did you face then as an upcoming artist?
One problem was people already knew me as a footballer. Most people in my neighborhood had me in their mind as that guy who played football and thought I was only doing music for fun. So when I focused solely on music, it was hard convincing them that I could do music.
Then asides that, it was the funding. I didn’t come from a place where money was being lavished on me. It’s always been me trying to get funds and pushing this music thing. There were times I had to go and work. My first studio session I had to go and work for like a month or two then use the salary to record my first song. There was one period I had to go and work at a site in Lekki. Worked there for a week where I was sleeping on the ground and on an asbestos ceiling. Plenty hustle to get the money to do the music. It’s always been about the funding.
When did you realize this music thing gulps money? At what point did you know you had to have a source of income to advance your career?
I realized that since like 2012. At some point you’ll know as an artist that you need to have this personal bank to push this music. It’s not about talent alone. I knew I had to work more on myself, get better and be sure of myself before I started pushing money into something I feel like maybe I might lose interest at some point later. I had to be sure of myself first before thinking about how to generate money to push the music. From like 2012 to 2014, I was basically just recording.
Personally I’ve lost track of the number of songs I’ve recorded. There are certain songs I’ve recorded and I’ve never heard them again after leaving the studio that day. Perhaps someone has even sang it or one producer has released it without me knowing. Because I was basically traveling from state to state, going from one school to another school to meet up with my guys and attend their shows and afterwards record in their best studios.
When did you come up with the idea of song writing becoming your main source of income? Like you can actually write for other artists and make money.
Before I started getting paid to write, I had been working on myself a lot. Sometimes, I’ll play up to ten beats in a day and I’ll write freestyle to them. I’ll download beats from websites, I’ll just search for type beats to record on. I tried to be comfortable on all kinds of beats. So I trained myself to that point. I also had friends in Abuja who were very bad guys, extremely good songwriters and the music they were creating then in 2013 had this innovative style. We started rubbing minds together. I started listening to them. We began working together. They started rubbing off on me and with that I got the idea and began mixing everyone’s styles.
Meanwhile, all those moments I began practicing all that I’ve learnt. Sometimes I’ll be in the studio with some artists, I will write chorus sometimes or even pen the full song and won’t even request for money. I felt like it was fun. I wanted to get to a level where if I write for you, you’ll feel compelled to pay me. When it is worth it, you will want to pay for it.
Around 2015, 2016, I started writing and collecting money. Then in 2018, 2019 I started making plans, having a structure and charting a proper path for song writing. I wanted to take it as a serious business. So everyone working with me knew the amount I was charging for songwriting.
I started getting one or two people who if I have written for them in the past kept coming back. Began having deadlines so when everyone is sleeping at midnight, I’m always up.
How and when did you hop on freelancing? Tell me about that game-changing moment.
It was at the beginning of 2020 I joined the whole freelancing thing. I remember talking to one of my producers about some issues and the bills that kept piling up. So he told me about Fiverr and said I should try it and that he trusted my ability to do well on the platform. I just said I should give it a try.
The first day I signed up was also the day I got my first gig. Like I signed up and hours later, I got my first gig. Five star rating straight up. It didn’t feel like I was doing a hard job.
95% of your reviews on the platform say you’re an amazing songwriter. How do you manage the pressure to deliver especially within tight deadlines?
It’s not really easy but when you’re used to something, it becomes like nature to you. I’ve been writing for some years now and I know some tricks and hacks to this thing.
What I just need from most people who order from me is the concept. I need to understand what you want. You want a sad type song with a storyline. I got you. Give me some minutes to process this in my mind and I just come up with a story.
Sometimes I’ll just play the beat and freestyle from the beginning to the end. Then from the freestyle I’ll pick out one or two things that are related to the concept and from there construct the whole music around it. There are different approaches to writing music.
There are certain times I’ve recorded up to six songs in a day. Because most times I’ll have to record reference tracks and send it back, sometimes you can’t just write and send lyrics, you’ll have to voice it too. So most times I’ll record five, six tracks and send it back and everything will get 5 star ratings.
The funny thing is I might have finished writing three or two before I get to the studio but as I’m recording those three, I’m having ideas for these ones. Once they play the beat, I just start freestyling. Once I can get the hook, that’s the end. The hook is the most important part of the song. Once you can create a very catchy hook, the rest is easy.
You’ve made thousands of dollars on the platform. What has helped you record so much success which has made you a top seller?
First off, when it comes to freelancing, I work with people all over the world, from different cultures and backgrounds. So I try my best to listen more. You don’t talk too much or impose an idea on somebody. Try to listen to what the person has in mind first. There are some people who know what they want, they just need someone to help them actualize their vision. They know what they want exactly.
There are also some people that don’t have a clue, they’re like I just need something nice. Try your best to like, ask them some key questions, I try my best to understand the client first before you can understand the order. If you don’t understand the client, you’ll have issues with the order. You have to understand what the person wants first before you can deliver.
There are some people who just want your voice on the track, do you get paid when this happens?
Yeah I get paid extra everytime you need my vocals on the track. So there’s a price for songwriting and there’s an extra charge for featured vocals. It’s just about the variety. I feel like my edge in the whole freelancing game thing is just the variety. I bring this variety, It’s not like there’s only one style I can do.
I’ve done a lot of trap songs, I’ve done hip hop songs, there are certain Spanish songs. I had songs I recorded in Spanish, French. Different songs. These are languages I’m not conversant with. I don’t speak them. I just know Good morning or hello. But I started using Google translate or researching what does this word mean or how does this sound.
I started using the A.I, the A.I will tell me this is how to pronounce so so word, so I listen to the pronunciation and start to put it into melody, a lot of work. So those types of work cannot go unnoticed. So when you do stuff like that, people hear it and the past work samples you’ve done, they’ll be like this same kind of guy is doing all these type of jobs.
Different kinds of genres, different types of voices. Some people will just come, I need a Pop Smoke type song, if you cannot sound like Pop Smoke or you have this tiny voice, you’ve lost the job already. I have songs like that. I have to put up impressions. There are some clients that will say I need a RnB song or Chris Brown type song or sound like that person. So you need to have this facility at least to some extent to be able to pull up a lot of jobs.
What will you say to artists finding it hard to fund their careers? What would you advise them to do?
Try to get the money. There’s no way you’ll go on a radio tour as an upcoming artist and expect people to do the stuff for you free. Like there’s a price that comes with the music, you have to pay the price. A lot of people have sacrificed more, some people didn’t have to do much. The grace is different for everybody. Some people won’t have to do much, some people have to do so much.
As much as possible, get a job, get sponsors, hop on freelancing platforms you can work on with people and get paid. At least that will settle your own personal bills aside the music.
Even if you don’t make it through this music, the whole freelancing thing is also an avenue to make money, you can make a career from there also. It’s not everyone that will make it as a performing artist. Some people are recording artist, you don’t get to see their faces but you just hear their voices on different songs, backing vocals a lot of stuff underground and they make mad money but they are not on the stage, they don’t perform, they just write the music
There are other angles to music. Find what you function best as. Find what is best for you.
This article was written by Olabode Otolorin; connect on Instagram with him here