For the past few years, we have been witnessing a remarkable “transformation” of the African music industry. We hear of Forbes’ list of the top 10 riches African musicians, endorsement deals with multinational corporations, MTV Africa Music Awards, international collaborations and other staggering developments. Many African artists are on the hunt for universal recognition with special focus on being accepted in the African-American music scene. And yet, even with their tremendous and commendable efforts, it is still not common for anyone to watch or listen to P-Square feat. Rick Ross’s Beautiful Oyinye or D’banj feat. Kanye West’s Scape Goat on mainstream European and North Americantelevision or commercial radio.
As much as African artist are aggressively shooting for fame, the millionaires’ club and a global fan base, it is not particularly clear whether they are even ready for such a great leap. Given the accomplishment of many African-American music icons (e.g. they have their own record labels, a number of artists they manage, they sell merchandises & own other ventures ), it is only natural to hear the majority of African musicians talk about their dream of becoming like them. For instance, during an interview with TOF TV in Toronto, Canada, the award-winning Ghanaian rapper E.L told the TV host that he looks up to Jay-Z and Dr. Dre. “Those [ Jay-Z and Dr. Dre] are the epitome of what that whole music thing is about. They have taken it to that level so of course I strive to be as good as them” , he proclaims. As we learn during the interview, the Azonto Pioneer desires to be recognize as a creative African artist on a global level.
Truthfully, it is one thing to aim for the same success as P. Diddy for example, but another thing to make the necessary sacrifice to reach that goal and again another thing to have the right resources and infrastructure to pursue such goals. This is not to say that African artist should not aim for this level of success but rather this is to emphasize that there are several requirements that must be fulfilled in order to become a world-wide sensation. Below I have compiled a list of 10 recommendations which only capture some of the requirements to gain global success. Of course, the majority of the very popular artists like E.L, Sarkodie, Jose Cameleon, Fally Ipupa, 2 Face Idibia and many more are applying most of these recommendations but there is always room for improvement.
10 recommendation on how to internationalize as an African artist
- Professional management company: Sign up with a management company that focuses on artist and product development. Their job is to help you elevate your music, song writing, and performance skills. They are also responsible for ensuring the monetization of your talent.
- Image and branding: Decide at an only stage who or what you want to embody and how you envision your public presentation. Branding should be done holistically. For instance, consider your logos, fonts, album art, merchandise, your appearance, and the overall feel of yourself and your music.
- Stage performance: Your live performance should offer more than just you singing. Include stage props, costumes, dancers, lighting etc. to make your performance more exciting and memorable
- A professional web presence: There are still a number of African artist who do not have a professional website or social media platform. The other day I was trying to obtain the tour dates of a few artists and to my surprise and disappointment, I was not able to find those dates.
- Professional conduct: Displaying professionalism at all time is of utmost importance. Your personal matters and emotions should not interfere with scheduled performance or an interview for radio, TV, or a magazine. You must be present and put in your %200.
- Strategic plan: Ask yourself: What is your long-term agenda? Where do you want to be in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years from now? Create a plan with clear objectives and measurable outcomes.
- Collaborations with int. renowned artists: Collaborations with highly respected artists are key but it is also important not to sell yourself short. All the great musicians had a humble beginning just like you.
- Polishing your craft : I cannot stress enough how important this is. Your craft/music is your main product. Hence you should aim to produce a product with high quality. Set the bar high for yourself and never stop growing your musical talent.
- Understand the business side of your creative work: As an artist you should have a good grasp of copyright, trademark and other aspects of intellectual property rights. Know how it relates to your work and your brand.
- Building a strong independent African music industry: This would require the collaboration of all the various actors within the African musicindustry such as musicians, promoters, DJs, radio stations, television stations, event planners, artist managers and public servants. It is pivotal that these actors come together to develop an infrastructure for theAfrican music industry. Currently, we have a West- African, East-African and South African music industry. We need one unified continentalAfrican music industry! Instead of rushing to penetrate the American market, why not become a satellite ourselves and have other musicians come to us? Just saying…
By Ama K. Mmirekuah (Freelance Writer), TORONTO, CANADA