Money Stops Nonsense
When musicians go to bed at night, what do you think is the most dominant thought that lingers before they drift off to sleep? Why do you think they wake up daily, create the music they sell and put in all this effort into creating a piece of art that you interact with? You think they go through this hassle because they have a burning desire to share art with you? In Nigeria?
No. That guy who spends endless nights in the studio pushing out materials for you to consume needs money. He has bills to pay, bottles to pop on the weekends, dependents with needs, and many more. Perhaps the decision to pursue music stemmed from a deep place of expression, and a willingness to utilize their gifts. But, once you go pro in this country, and interact with the music industry, you will decide that money stops the nonsense, and you would be better off with a bag in hand, than just your talents and praise from family.
Money is the central driver for everything in the music industry. At all levels, and facets of the game, it’s an end in itself. Everything and everything in the music industry costs a ton of cash. Do you want to pay for studio sessions? Cough out that dough. You want airplay? Share the money. How about access to TV? No money, no party. The cost barrier for any project or campaign in the music industry is so high, that it makes very little sense. Every grass to grace story that has happened within the past 5 years, has been via the help of a huge investor. Kiss Daniel had G-Worldwide. Patoranking had Timaya as an investor first, and then Foston Music splashed the wads. Mayorkun was blessed by Davido’s pocket, while new kid on the block, Teni, has Dr Dolor’s cash flow directed into her career by a strong pipe. Any artist who wants to blow, has to have someone in their corner with a big bag.
I have had numerous conversations with upcoming artists. They understand this is a grim reality for them. Every time they attend a music conference and sit still to acquire knowledge, they are put off by utterances from successful music industry professionals who always tell them, “You don’t need money to succeed.” It breaks their heart. I once moderated a music panel this year, where an accomplished musician said that to a frustrated newbie who felt like he was ramming his talent against a wall, with no result. These artists are on the street. They know how the lack of money limits their options. They feel the bite of poverty. Some think low-key, society has a general resentment towards them. And on some level, that’s true. Did you know that on the day Kiss Daniel was signed to G-Worldwide, he was chased out of a studio and water was poured on him?
Money stops nonsense. That’s why upcoming artists have a different way to blow now. They aren’t trying to get their music out because they want to blow. They work hard to get their music in many ears and spaces where an investor can find them, sign them up and fund their careers. Only then are they ready to blow. Nobody wants a hot song on radio without the funding to properly create and work on a follow-up single. That’s why they flood your DMs with numerous requests, and engage you in conversations about their music. They are trying to get plugged into money.
The pursuit for money is partly responsible for your complaints about the music. You know how you whine about all the music from Nigeria being cut from the same artistic cloth? That’s because everyone wants access to that money. When a trend becomes a massive hit, it becomes a hill for pop stars to die on because they want money. People did the Shaku Shaku because it was the fastest route to the money. Before that, the ‘Pon pon’ sound ruled the air, and had numerous disciples flock to it. It was a straight line to the money at that time. One artist, during one night of introspective conversations told me, “I hate this shaku shaku sound. But I have to stay relevant, and eat.” He wasn’t lying. He understands the most important industry wisdom: Money stops nonsense.
Artists in Nigeria take pride in their bank accounts over their achievements. It’s the reason why when faced with criticism for their work, or elements of their art, they point towards their bank statements. “I’m catching cheques, you are catching feelings,” is a popular line with musicians. Impact is an empty buzzword. Money is the religion. It’s what validates their existence and their artistry. It’s what puts smiles on the faces of their mother, and opens up a world of options on how they choose to approach their existence. It makes it all makes sense to them.
Ideally, people should be able to navigate this industry without incurring huge costs, or needing a Central Bank in their corner. Ideally, art should push itself, and money should be a bonus. But that’s a distant dream. Artists know that money stops nonsense. And so, whether by hook or by crook, they have to get a bag of it.