The meteoric rise of artistes like Wizkid and Kiss Daniel, cash cows for their respective labels, has altered the Nigerian music industry on a grand scale. Labels have found themselves on the prowl, handing out record deals to anyone with a voice or presence distinct enough to rake in money. The result of such record label desperation in a poorly organised industry like Nigeria’s are misfire signings and label experiments that fail woefully.
Gone are the days when labels had meet and greet showcase sessions with their potential artistes, when countless A&R men would scout the lot for the next iconic singer. The process of discovering and signing artistes now is just a little less complicated than setting up a Facebook profile. All an artiste needs to do is get on the internet, make it to the radio and
famz affiliate with people with the slightest hint of an in-road into the industry and voila! a record deal is in the works.
This relatively simplified process of getting new talents and inking record deals has been marked as an improvement from the old industry ways. The mistake made in this regard, is the assumption that an obsolete tradition must be inconsequential. Record labels used to hold showcase sessions not only to sign the artistes but as a dedicated measure of understanding the craft of an artiste. This helped the labels discern if the particular artiste is marketable, after factoring their strength and market audience.
Cases in point.
Despite being signed to a label owned by 2face since 2012, Dammy Krane’s career is yet to fully take off. The reason for this is obvious; his label’s brand does not know how to sell him. Before 2face crossed into the afro-pop genre, the African Queen star was a R&B artist with doses of reggae and hip-hop. This did not only make 2face a more versatile artiste, it also gave him boundless marketability.
Dammy Krane, in contrast, makes music that leans towards the afro-pop and nether regions of a Fuji pop fusion. If Dammy Krane were to be managed properly by Hypertek, they would require extra hands on deck with fresh direction on how to sell his music. His peers, Davido and Wizkid who emerged alongside the youngster on other labels have already leaped many milestones ahead of him. Yet nothing has been done to particularly cater to his style of music or improve his sound to appeal to the Yoruba audience his music directly speaks to.
Dammy Krane follows a long line of artistes many record labels have taken on as experiments, either for the label boss to fulfil some false sense of a legacy or in a desperation to find their own young artists to serve as a milkable cash cow.
North Side Record’s Cynthia Morgan and Chocolate City’s Koker have somehow found themselves in this category of tactless signings. They have found their most success with the singles they recorded as independent artistes while their later work lies buried in record label hell. This happens when the labels are not used to marketing their primary genre.
Chocolate City has even taken this poor artiste scouting and signing process transnationally as Kenyan songstress, Victoria Kimani who was signed by the label in 2012 to huge fanfare, has been unable to hit it big time four years after despite the obvious superstar element her brand possesses.
Adekunle Gold is another artist on the watch list as a possible experiment. His meek folk music sound directly contrasts the hard hitting party bangers YBNL is used to dishing out. The label will either attempt to alter his sound for their own market or will run his career into homeostasis when he begins to tackle deeper subject matters. Both of which are possibilities we cannot rule out going by his current career trajectory.
The solution to these lab rat record deals may be for labels to do their genre and market scouting, analyses and repertoire properly. This will allow them to weigh the pros and cons of signing an artiste before offering them contracts. Artists alike need to stop jumping on just anyone who offers them a pen and paper to sign. This solution is at the end of the day, more ideological than managerial because artistes are just as concerned with making money as the labels are concerned with milking them for it.
One party has to blink first.