Independent Musicians
Independent Musicians

As the year 2021 is rounding off to open the curtain for 2022, Nigerian Independent artistes need to sit down to evaluate how well they have done with their music career this year.

Despite the setbacks caused by the Coronavirus, Nigerian musicians stood firm and took the centre stage in global music because of their consistency, persistency, hard work and smart works.

Being an independent who is not under a contract with a record label, you are saddled with a lot of responsibilities, from writing, production, promotion, branding to marketing of your music and yourself. Don’t panic, 2021 has made us realise it is very possible to go global and become very successful without being signed under any record label or music company yet.

This is the digital age. You can start your own movement until you get the right music company or management to give you a juicy contract. It won’t be an overstatement to say all the top songs for 2021 rose to prominence via the internet, however, there are more background efforts put in place to support the online push.

WithinNigeria finds Audu Maikori’s directives to independent artistes very resourceful. For those who don’t know Audu, he is the Vice Chairman of Chocolate City, a lawyer, music executive, entrepreneur and creative industry expert.

He shared these important notes at the end-of-year TuneAfrique Webinar session as a guest speaker. We’re sure you’ll have a good run in 2022 if you followed them.

1. What’s Your Plan? Make a Plan from the Start

Making a great plan is one of the best strategies for indie musicians, and a great way to get to that music success you deserve. Not only do concrete goals give you something to aim for, they also help you decide what your first step should be.

Try to make your goals as specific as possible. Instead of saying “I want to be rich and famous,” “I Want to blow” try something specific like “I want to be able to be a full-time musician with a Monthly income of at least N 1,000,000 (One Million Naira) and be able to perform at least 4 times a month to new audiences.

Break down your goal into smaller tasks with specific, clear and time bound objectives- this makes its trackable and you can measure your growth. So instead of saying “find all music venues in Lagos to perform at” just state “contact 5 venues this week,” and “open for at least one artist every month”.

Suddenly finding a way to reach that goal becomes more manageable.

2. Understand and Leverage Your Copyrights

Your copyrights are the core of your business. They are your assets and your products, so it makes sense to take some time to understand them. You don’t need to be on the same level as an entertainment lawyer, but it helps to have a general understanding of copyright law.

For example, there are two kinds of copyright: composition and sound recording. Copyright is created when a musical idea is put into tangible form. So, when you write that song down (composition) or record it (sound recording) you own the rights! “NOTE: This depends on the arrangement you have with your manager, label or distributor). All those rights are exclusive, meaning you, have the power to leverage your song. Remember that copyrights are power! You own the copyrights, so you have the power. Think about it, without your copyrights would labels or publishers have anything to sell? Your ability to monetize the copyrights while keeping control of your rights are key to your success.

3. Manage Your Time Properly

In today’s world, artist are also business men (think Jay Z, Davido, Yemi Alade). As much as it makes sense to be involved in your business, you should avoid juggling too many tasks that take you away from your main job- creating amazing music and perfecting your stage craft! It’s great that artists today can be 100% in control of their career, the problem comes when you can no longer find enough time for what matters most – your music!

So, if you’re spending hours each day on tasks that don’t have much benefit, eliminate, simplify, postpone, or delegate to your team members. Try to prioritize your To- do- list. AND REMEMBER, make time for your music!

4. Build a Team that Grows with You

You are only good as your team! So, the DIY (Do it Yourself) mantra as lofty as it sounds, may not be the best strategy for independent and upcoming musicians. There are a lot of artists that are out there with excellent business sense which is great but as much as possible leave the actual work to the experts. So, getting a good lawyer, accountant, stylists are optimum.

But as an upcoming artist you may not be able to afford these services you will argue and I agree! But when you can motivate your team by giving them a piece of the future action and moving from DIY towards a do-it-with-others (DIWO) strategy you will be able to attract some professional and passionate people to help you on your journey even if they aren’t seasoned professionals.

5. Get out There and Network!

Networking is an essential strategy for upcoming musicians, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed with internal tasks and forget to take the time and introduce yourself. You don’t need a big speech or a prepared pitch. Just get into the habit of introducing yourself to one person at every show you play or at every studio you record in. Talk to the guy in charge of the soundboard, maybe he loved your show and wants to produce your next album.

6. Create outstanding Music 

Nothing stands you out more than being the most creative and original version of yourself. All the big names in music may have started by mimicking others but ended up creating original versions of themselves. This is critical. So instead of trying to be the next Wizkid or Tems why not try to be the best version of YOU? And be patient with yourself- greatness is a process!!

7. Learn to Know and Respect contracts

One of the issues with artist, labels and management is that they start of well and it ends up being very murky and turbulent later. The key problem is a lack of understanding of contractual relationships and obligations. No one is saying don’t leave a bad contract- just leave according the terms of your contract. Social media doesn’t resolve contractual issues- courts and/or negotiations do! Besides, the way you deliver on your last contract determines others willingness to deal with you in the future.

8 Strive to grow your own personal brand value

I personally define a brand as a promise made by a company, person or product that consistently keeps its word over time, space and circumstances. It’s a promise based on a representation made to third parties that must be honored.

So, you are not just a musician or just an entertainer – You are a brand.

How are you engaging the crowd and carrying them along? What you say, what you post, your comments and even your dressing speaks volumes about your brand. But remember, no brand wants to soil their brand because of an artist’s scandals or infractions so you must not only build the brand but maintain the brand!

For example, Falz the Bad built out his comedic persona before properly launching his music career, then further pivoted into creating socially conscious music.

9. Show business – is two separate words

The show and the business for this purpose are like non-identical twins! They are borne of the same womb but manifest differently. But though well Delineated both go together!

So, your professionalism is key to converting the show to something lucrative so that you can do more shows. Music promotion, creation, distribution etc need to be financed to growth the artist- conversely, if there is no music content, artist and or brand there is no business to be exploited in the first place- a keen knowledge of both is crucial in today’s world.

So don’t underprice or over price yourself- for example for many artists we’ve worked with we did many free shows just to give the artist much needed exposure but once they gained traction, we gradually began charging fees to ensure the team and music could start making some money to sustain themselves.


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