SUCCESS IS HOW YOU DEFINE IT: A MUSIC CAREER TRUTH
By: Nana Kojo Mula (@NanaKojoMula)
I have always been that consumer who always want the very best for the artists I love and follow. However, for some time now, I have realized that no matter how much a consumer may appear to want more for the artiste, we can never want it more than the artiste. That is because, as a consumer, you may not know the reasons behind your favourite artist’s pursuit of music, and, no matter how much you want for them, you will never want better than they.
I always come across tweets and comments which usually calls out artistes out for being lazy, untalented and, or unambitious simply because the artiste is not on a level we, as consumers expect them to be. To some extent, these expectations are tenable but in another light, it sounds very unfair to the artiste since we might not know their exact ambitions. As someone that used to be demanding of artistes to push further, I have gotten to a point where I try to understand someone or situations before I pass my two cents.
This article thus seeks to address what success means to an artiste and who is to define success? As I have indicated in the opening paragraph of this article, what constitutes ‘success’’ can only be defined by the artiste themselves because everyone has a different story. The dictionary defines ‘’success’’ as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. Meaning there has to be an aim which must be met in order to attain success. With that out of the way, let’s delve straight into the major points of this article.
One can hazard a veritable guess based on my interactions with some primary stakeholders and through observation that several artists do not know why they are making music- and that for me is a problem because if you do not know why you are pursuing something, you can easily be consumed by other people’s assumptions and expectations. And, in an industry like the music space, once an individual begins to show promise, there is a huge chance the industry would begin to impose their own expectations on the artist.
If the said artist does not have plans of their own, they could easily be consumed by these opinions; something which can either help propel their careers or consume them. Truth is, with every level of success comes great responsibilities. And, if you are not prepared for those responsibilities, the possibility of it breaking you is high. This seems to happen to a lot of guys that were not prepared for the challenges and responsibilities that come with being on top of the food chain. This is largely because the success happened unexpectedly- they scored a big break, could not manage expectations and went back to ground zero which is difficult to come back from in our part of the world.
I strongly believe your goals and ambitions for making music will determine how to measure your success in the game. Some people measure their success in awards, money, streaming numbers/monthly listeners, number of arena concerts sold, fame/popularity, hit songs, and the number of groupies they have around them. Others measure their success just by seeing random tweets about their music because for them, making music and getting recognised for it is enough.
At the end of the day, especially in this streaming dispensation, one can be a successful artiste and never fill an arena or pub. It is all down to what you want with your career and how you go about it. If you wish to emulate someone’s level of success, you need to first understand their ambitions and be prepared to work towards it, and in some cases twice at that. For example, Burna Boy’s definition of success would be different from what Mista Myles defines as success.
The consumer on the outside will, in their ignorance compare Black Sherif to Stonebwoy and let’s be honest comparisons will always be made in this competitive music markets. But, in a consumer’s moment of comparison, they do not consider what an artiste goes through. One can not fault [a] consumers for demanding more from the acts they support with their time, money and resources. However, there has to be a balance where the consumers minimize their expectations since your expectation of your favourite artiste to win a BET, might not be within their plans.
To them, the greatest award is seeing their fans stream the music, attend shows and buy their merchandises. I understand how laughable this analogy might seem to some readers, but if consumers can take time to listen to some of the acts they follow, they will gather hints of what their ambitions are. The other side of that coin is the acts that want the Gyakie, Tems, Shatta Wale, Joeboy, Mr Eazi levels of success and are doing everything within their power to reach that level but for whatever reason, they are not getting any close. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that is life in sum
Growing up we have been told to work hard and play smart and we would go places. Some have done and still do both but life seems to not get better. If I had an answer for why life is like that, I would be a millionaire. What I understand and have come to accept is that a chunk of us will never reach our full potential in life, we only get to a part where we are comfortable and decide this is enough. That is how the music industry is too. Some artists wanted to win Grammys but at some point and after several tries, they got comfortable with the level of success they attained and stayed there.
In conclusion, it is a painful truth but it has to be said that not every artist will attain the level of success they hope to have. You do not need to be a household name to be successful. Not everyone will win like Sarkodie, Kinaata, or Amaarae and that is fine. You just need to find other ways to measure your success. If you want a level of success you have to be prepared to work towards it. The work that goes into level 1 is different from level 2. The work and responsibilities may not necessarily be down to just you as an artist, but everything about your career has to do with you and you have a part to play in it. Mentally, emotionally, socially, intellectually, spiritually and whatnot. Every layer of success goes with a layer of capacity you need to possess. Always remember success is how you define it.