Tekno’s debut album has taken too long
The Headies are running on African time again this year; the previously punctual annual award show hasn’t taken place in 15 months, and the last ceremony took place only after a prior break of 17 months. In the 2016 edition, Tekno was disqualified from the “Next Rated” category after the pop star lambasted the event organisers.
The Headies’ coveted Next Rated award is given to new artists who’ve shown great promise before they release a studio album. Tekno was included in the category, but being an already established star, the singer felt disrespected by his (belated) nomination. He exclaimed: “Next Rated after how many years! Let’s be honest, please.” However, what’s remarkable is that three years after that episode, if the Headies were to hold today, Tekno would still be eligible for the Next Rated award.
Tekno has been in no rush to put out his debut album. The singer’s contract with MMMG expired recently without the Ebonyi star delivering a body of work. Under most circumstances, his time at Made Men would have been seen as a failure. But, with at least a dozen hit songs, top brand endorsements and some of the highest performance fees in the game, Tekno has been a resounding success, making MMMG co-founder, Ubi Franklin one of the wealthiest men in Nigerian music.
Ubi made headlines in June when he boasted that his businesses had grossed N10 billion in seven-eight years. He also claimed the majority of that money was made through music. While Ubi didn’t disclose how much of that money was realized from Tekno’s portfolio alone, the singer did disclose that the terms of his MMMG contract stipulated a 60/40 split in Ubi’s favour. Tekno signed on to Made Men Music in 2012. If you want to have an idea of how much the singer might have made since then, just do the math. But adjust for exaggeration.
Tekno himself has been in the news lately. The singer was included on Beyonce’s The Lion King album, but prior to that, he’d been relatively quiet. In a recent interview, Tekno explained that his absence was due to a severe case of acid reflux which kept him away from the public eye for several months. Unfortunately, in plotting a comeback, the singer then entered hot water with Lagos authorities after videos of him in a mobile display truck with half-naked women dancing went viral. Tekno was then forced to explain that the display was for a new video, “Agege”, featuring Zlatan; yet another single.
Tekno claims that his debut album Old Romance will be out in the coming months, although I wouldn’t advise his fans to hold their collective breaths. Tekno has been teasing that album for years while releasing trendy single after trendy single to hold fans over. And it’s worked. In the streaming era, you’ll often hear industry folks say “it’s a ‘singles’ market”; meaning that nowadays, it makes more financial sense for artists to put out singles and monetize instantly, than whole albums that might flop and slow down their momentum. This sort of behaviour from artistes is global, but in Nigeria, Tekno has become the poster child for it.
Inasmuch as music purists detest this trend, the truth is that it has yielded results for artists like Tekno. The pop star has more monthly listeners on Spotify than artists like Tiwa Savage, Olamide and Yemi Alade who have multiple albums in their catalogue. Furthermore, of the 2016 Next Rated nominees, Mr Eazi (winner), Ycee, Humblesmith and Aramide, only Tekno is still yet to have a solo project. But interestingly, with the probable exception of Mr Eazi, no artiste on that list has been able to retain their commercial appeal since then as well as Tekno has.
Be that as it may, hit records remain one of the most transactional and inorganic ways for artists to build a fan base. Hits create an explosive connection with fans but the relationships formed are often short-term and trendy. Furthermore, the level of intimacy formed here is usually the shallowest. So, even if they aren’t as profitable as they once were, albums and EPs present arguably the best opportunity for artists to gain deeper connections with their fans after the initial impact of a hit single. These connections are usually longer-term, which gives artists more opportunities to convert devout fans into repeat customers not only through music but also through merchandise and touring. Therefore, as much money as Tekno has made in his career, he could have still set himself up to make even more in the future.
One of the oldest rules in the music business is that the best time to release an album is at the point when public interest is highest. Tekno missed that boat circa 2016 and his hit rate has reduced significantly since “Pana”, a song that shifted the soundscape of Nigerian music in the pon pon era. The Universal Music signee will be hoping that “Agege” reaches something close to those heights but the fact that the song features rave-of-the-moment, Zlatan, is perhaps the clearest indication that Tekno has now gone from trendsetter to trend follower, which is a worrying sign for a singer who’s built his entire career, thus far, off of trends.