In an industry with no recognized structures -big labels, financial backing and major distribution channels – the work of the independent (indie) artist is back breaking. These young, passionate creatives put their feet to the pedal to create; find the best cost-effective ways to sell their works while cultivating a fan base in the process. All this is done on a shoe string budget- mostly money from their savings, family (if they are fortunate).
For those with dreams and no dollar, friends come in to offer a little help. Ghanaian rapper M.anifest captured the daily struggles of many young creatives in an article in the Guardian: ‘’Dancefloors are ruled by tunes toasting the glamours of life, tunes that are made in small, bedroom-sized studios, often with broken-down air conditioners rather than platinum discs decorating the walls’’.
One medium young artists employ in growing their fan base and sell their work is social media. Through twitter, Instagram, Facebook feeds, they share updates on their creative process, event updates and daily engagements. A strong fan base is both a guarantor of income and an insurer for longevity. It’s like the river that sustains the growth of the tree. In other to achieve this, an artist must stay creative, innovative, consistent and exciting. Inspiration in this direction abound in artists like Chance The Rapper, Tyler, The Creator and Brent Faiyaz, who have built a legion of fans thanks to this model.
One young artist who embodies these qualities is Bryan The Mensah. Since his formal entry into the music foray, Bryan has always stayed ahead of the curve with his innovative schemes. Not only is he employing social media to advance his visibility, he also embodies the spirit of a true indie artist.
The release of his highly praised debut, ‘’Friends With The Sun’’ saw him picked as Apple Music’s ‘’New Favourite Artist’’. This humble success was enough motivation for more work towards leveraging on the attention that was coming. The team ventured into merchandizing.
From sweatshirts, tank tops to baseball caps, Bryan diversified his income sources by selling these merchandizes. The ‘Me Ho Twa, Whallabow You’ inscription was heavily promoted and caught on with fans. The interest shown in the products steered them on. A source close to the team tells me of parents placing orders for kids wear, a line they are considering.
The paucity of resources meant embracing the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) module. The designs on the merch, their album covers and website were carefully conceived and designed by the team. (Bryan built his own website). The website serves both as an information board on his activities and a shop for his albums and merchandise. This model means that, he can track his core fans and have a certain level of personal interactions with-a model popularized by singer/rapper Ryan Leslie, Talib Kweli and Lupe Fiasco.
Weeks before the release of his second album, ‘’Wildlife’’, Bryan embarked on another smart promotional campaign for his ‘’Freesound EP’’. With an excellently conceived advert that made rounds across social media, Bryan The Mensah, creatively offered ‘a few special people’ (fans) an opportunity to purchase ‘’Freesound’’, digitally. Buying the EP guaranteed a 30% cut on all merch bought from his store, an invitation to ‘’Wildlife’’ listening session and a digital book.
What makes this a novelty is that, many artists -including the A-List artists- usually follow the traditional album release model where they build hype about their projects, circulate their artwork and subsequently release it online, usually as free downloads. The approach taken by Bryan is significant and a break from the normal routine of album releases
So, what keeps Bryan The Mensah going? Well, it could be his passion for music, or he is bent on proving to his family-both medical doctors that, he can pursue music as a career and still make it; that by showing the business side of him, they may be willing to support him, financially.
In an arena where the efforts in creating a piece of art outweighs the benefits one accrues, it is quite a daunting task to give it your all. For the majority of artists, the passion is the fuel that sustains their dreams of fame and riches. Passion will definitely inspire you, but, constantly staying creative and innovative could be the best means to reaping the rewards – even if it’s a small percentage of your overall output. That’s exactly what Bryan The Mensah is mastering.