Every week, Zikoko will share the hustle stories of Nigerians making it big in and out of the country. With each story, we’ll ask one crucial question in several ways: “How you do am?”
Mo’Believe’s hustle story took us through how he built a music career and launched two albums as an independent artist. Now we know how he did it. If you also want to make a career out of your musical talent, this guide is for you.
Firstly, know your sound
You’re probably considering a music career because you have a knack for singing or songwriting. That’s great, but to make a career out of it, it’s important to figure out what music genre you excel at. Is it rap, alté or afrobeats?
This may involve a lot of trial and error, but it’s a crucial step in discovering your sound and building a brand as a musician.
Hone your skills
You know how people who have a natural talent for, say, art or solving mathematical problems still go to school to learn better techniques and turn their talent into marketable skills? That’s how it is for musicians too.
Perfecting your craft requires consistent practice and an open approach to constructive criticism. You can do this through regular voice training, writing songs as your creative spirit directs, and getting people to listen to your work and share their thoughts. Apart from external validation, perfecting your craft will boost your confidence in your skills as a musician, and that confidence is key for the next step.
Put yourself out there
The music industry in Nigeria is already saturated with artists hoping to blow, but you’re trying to enter the same industry and get people to know your name. How do you put yourself out there?
- The choice of a producer is an important one: You can’t really call yourself a musician if you haven’t released a track, and that’s where music production comes in. Like Mo’Believe noted, music is made up of two important parts: songwriting and production. The production needs to convey the talent you already possess in a way that thrills the audience. The Nigerian audience tends to gravitate towards danceable music, but there’s still an audience for meaningful lyric-powerful music if that’s more your speed.
- Brand and market yourself: If you don’t do it, who will? Social media is an advantage because everyone is already there. Share your work on social media, and interact with your fans/anyone who shows appreciation for your work. You could even have a mailing list where you share updates with your audience so they feel invested in your journey.
- Don’t be shy to perform for free: Remember, the goal is putting yourself out there. New musicians aren’t always able to command as much performance fees as their well-known counterparts, but performance gives visibility. And visibility eventually leads to profitability.
You’ll need funds
Music is a career that’ll hold onto your resources like superglue. You’ll need money to record songs, network with others in the music industry, and promote your songs from time to time. So, for a musician just starting out in the industry, having a side gig
or glucose guardian will be beneficial, something else that funds your music career before it becomes profitable.
So, how do you make money?
Musicians in Nigeria make money in a number of ways:
- Music performances: This is pretty straightforward. Individuals or organisations may approach you to perform at their events for a fee. Upcoming musicians may also send proposals offering to perform at certain events for visibility or a small fee. Payment is usually determined by how much influence the musician wields.
- Revenue from streaming music: While payments from streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music or Deezer are quite small, it tends to build up based on how many streams are accumulated on your song. For example, Spotify pays between $0.003 to $0.005 per stream.
- Music shows or tours: Once you’ve gathered a reasonable fanbase, you can organise shows or tours and sell tickets.
- Partnerships and endorsements: This is usually an option for the more well-known ones, but musicians also make money from brand deals and endorsement payments.
- Record labels: Getting signed to a record label may be the goal for many young musicians, but you should take care to avoid falling into dubious record deals that leave the artist with little to no earnings. Before joining a record label, it’s best to do your research, preferably with a good entertainment lawyer.
Building a music career requires a lot of effort, passion and consistency. There’s no one way to “blow”, but consistency is definitely one of the ways.