The Nigerian music scene is one rowdy and unforgiving arena that aptly portrays the book Talent is not Enough. Irrespective of how brilliantly composed your music is, the chances of reaching a larger audience and hitting mainstream is almost never guaranteed. Getting the music out is akin to running for Presidency: it is difficult, expensive and has turned out to be a frustrating venture for many.
With the influx of streaming platforms, things have taken a slightly different turn. One of the major music streaming sites SoundCloud (which recently survived a takedown notice) has grown, not just in America or Europe, but has evolved into a mega scale file sharing service and a home for artistes across the world to reach their target audiences. By integrating other social media platforms into its service, SoundCloud is a large and centralized community for music producers, artistes and everyone in the industry to promote as well as control their music whilst allowing the audience from any part of the world plug into it.
In Nigeria, SoundCloud has birthed a new generation of talents who are not under the pressure to conform with the prevailing pop sound on the airwaves and can make music as they deem fit. Thus we have seen the discovery of talents like Nonso Amadi, Crispy, Odunsi the Engine, Lady Donli, Tomi Thomas (formerly of LOS), Tay Iwar, Davina Oriakhi to mention a few over the past couple of years.
Internationally, artistes have gone on to attain mainstream recognition off the platform but back home, although some have collaborated with major names and featured at recent events, none has really crossed over into being a commercial success.
This could be attributed to various factors but the direction of these ‘SoundCloud artistes’ remains unclear to many music critics, some of whom believe these acts are failing to ride the wave offered by the platform and that some do not actually see the music as a serious venture.
What they got going for them
1. One of the major factors working for these set of artistes is the bond and camaraderie that has been created amongst themselves. On almost every project, they are either doing collaborations or supporting one another’s music.
2. They recognize their audience.These are guys who understand that there is a limited reach to their brand of music for now and as a result, they have simply channeled their energy into keeping that particular set of audience amped with regular music
3. They have impressive repertoires. While we complain that a majority of the mainstreams acts don’t have the numbers to back up their status, these artistes have been meeting demands with endless singles and projects within a very short time. Acts like Odunsi and Lady Donli have more than two projects to their name already.
4. They have focused a lot on their creativity; not just in terms of their music, but also in their cover art and packaging.
So with all these one wonders, what is next for them?
For a minute during the whole buzz about SoundCloud collapsing, it got me thinking what if it had indeed packed up? What was the fate of the many artistes that had gained leverage on the platform, could they have lost their relatively new audience whose loyalty would be suffering its first major test? Or would the audience be able to successfully transit to other platforms especially as the likes of Spotify and Apple are not as accessible in this part of our world…
Now this is where it gets tricky as there are no laid down steps to guarantee success. However if the bigger picture for these acts is to become mainstream names, then its time they begin to show it by looking beyond the numbers of people who streamed their music and seeking a wider audience.
For most of these acts, it’s an uphill task for fans to place a name to their faces and as a result, it is high time they began looking at more videos. Entertainment writer and blogger Notiki Bello believes now is the time to convert their online audiences into physical ones through regular shows and hangouts. ‘You look at some of these guys and they are averaging 2,000 plays per song in a month. Imagine a small show where they can banter with their fans and people pay to watch at moderate prices.’
Apart from Nonso Amadi whose ‘Tonight’ song is getting steady spins on the radio, most of them have not even attempted getting their music from the internet to the radios or send their songs to major blogs or OAPs. Music critic Tosin Adeda is of the opinion that the people who should pay attention to platforms like SoundCloud for new talents are not doing so, and therefore, artists who have gained some leverage and popularity from their online following should get acquainted with OAPS and DJs who connect to the audience in the real world.
Collaborations with big name artistes may also be key to unlocking the Pandora box. Few will argue that Poe’s alliance with SDC was a factor in him getting his big break into the industry.
SoundCloud has thus far been a great platform for independent acts but that should surely be the stepping stone unto greater things and not the ultimate.
It will be interesting to see how these artistes transform their online numbers into profitable numbers in the years to come.