We are proud to introduce our resident contributor, lyricist, professional hobby rapper and opinionated Hip Hop enthusiast, Harry M.
For his first post Harry shares his thoughts on what it would take to turn our local talents into international stars.
1. Artist management: (self-management or professional)
Proper artist management is a factor of success for most major artists. Independent or mainstream. An example I often refer to is Tech9. He is an independent artist who laughed at a $60 Million (US dollars) deal cause he knows he would make that and own the profits without having to split it with the label. Earlier in his career he was signed, had management and his talent as well, but that didn’t work out too well for him. It was only when O’Guin started to manage him when things changed.
Forbes refered to Tech as Hip-hop’s secret mogul not too long ago! He may not floss like rappers are known to, yet he is the third highest paid rapper on tours. Only K-West and Jay Z get more than him. Let that sink in a little, what got him there? Management!
Elemotho is a great local example. When I say ‘local example’ I mean local in origin but not local in reach. He is a formidable Namibian artist more than capable of winning a few Namas, but why have we not heard of him being nominated. I would like to think it is because his management has a different vision for his music. The international tours, festivals and awards that are familiar with Elemotho are quite impressive.
2. Knowledge of the industry:
Our music industry is flooded with talented one-man-band type of artists. Let’s take a typical Hip Hop CD launch for example. The artist will most likely head up the publicity, promotion, publishing, stage management, program arrangement, art direction, ticket sales… you get the idea. It is impressive if they know how to head up all fronts but unfortunately they end up doing the running and admin if they don’t efficiently delegate (or has a manager that would delegate).
As a result, a few things would suffer –
– There will be less time for the artist to be an artist. This is why most individually organised shows are one size fits all in terms of structure.
– The quality of work across the board suffers and their standard will remain stagnant.
– The artist is too busy DOING to take the time to reinvent their craft, have new ideas or break the mold.
And the list goes on.
Ultimately for an industry to grow, there has to be business. And there are certain buzz words that hold weight in business like ‘branding’, ‘innovation’ and ‘networking’ and that would be easier for an artist to achieve with a team than without. Here are a few examples why these are essential to an artist with ambition:
If you want to make money you need to link or work with businesses, and there are many ways to do this, there are endorsements, brand ambassadors or co-branding to name a few. Also, businesses work with businesses or entities that will benefit them and their brand.
This is why an artist may find the need to build a brand. One of the few rappers to get this right is/was Wambuseun. He did not have to be the best lyricist or rapper, but he built a brand that made it easy for companies to partner with him.
Paul Rosenburg is responsible for one of the biggest brands in Hip Hop, Eminem. He was so focused on building the brand he did not compromise but made Eminem turn away from endorsements worth millions just because endorsements would not work with Em’s brand image. Look where that got them today.
Without branding, innovation is often just a matter of where the wind is blowing. And without innovation artists just blend into the bunch and do not stand out and seem like the next man. The number of times I have heard people put all the rappers in Namibia in one box, believing if you have heard one, you have heard them all.
5. Business strategy:
Most times, there is not business strategy other than, ‘what worked for so and so?’ A little while ago, on a Hip Hop community page, I asked why artists using independent distribution methods charge N$100 to N$120 dollars, was it because that is the price in music stores? Was it considered that stores and the channels to them add to the mark ups to arrive at that price?
So it seems like artists will not consider their target market, their spending power and the effects of price elasticity. They could actually make more profit if they dropped their CD’s price if they did a little homework. Or even come up with another strategy on how to make their money without relying too heavily on sales. This would be smart considering pirating is a norm in Namibia.
There is so much more to say but let’s conclude. There is no one seize fits all solution for musical success, but knowing your unique identity as an artist is a really good first step, because that will help with the many decisions to follow. Also remember, the next time you see your inspiration international artist on stage, remember the contributions of the team behind the scenes. The good news is there are some people rallying behind some of our budding starts, so we just might be on the right track.
Harry M. @hmanmenace