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We are all in this damn traffic...

March 2, 2017





Last weekend, I was in this long, annoying traffic in Ikoyi, Lagos. People bumping into each other and cars breaking down. Some people who lived near the area and have drivers decided to use the opportunity to exercise by taking a walk home. Then came the ones that have police escorts and sirens… they parted the sea of cars like Moses did the Red Sea and those that could take advantage of the situation, did so and went as far as they could. However, People like me just sat in our cars and hoped we eventually get home in time to catch the last minutes of the football game… Pissed! 


As I sat in that traffic, I looked at the chaos and it reminded me of the music industry; how saturated the industry has become. In the artistes’ quest to move ahead in their careers, they bump into each other… some break down and fall by the road side while others seem to have a way of navigating the music industry traffic. They simply shake it off and move on.  

Others have the necessary resources to keep moving and even when their vehicles breakdown. They simply allow other people handle the issues while they continue moving. They didn’t plan for that surprise traffic but they had someone to deal with such situations. THIS, in all honesty, is what separates the ones that fall off on the side or breakdown in the traffic and those that keep moving. 


This article focuses on how we can deal with the congestion in the music industry as artistes and even as talent managers. 


In my time as a talent manager, I have learnt that only two words make things work. They are Structure and System. 


Structure, in this context, is simply an arrangement of parts of your business as an artiste and how they relate with each other; a system refers to how these arranged parts connect or work together to execute goals and objectives. For your structure to work, you need to find or develop a suitable system! For your business to work as a musician and for you to get ahead of the congested pack, you need to figure out how to get a system that can help solidify your structure. Structure is the vehicle and system is the driver(s).


Metaphorically, lets say the “owners” of the cars are the musicians. The ones that drove themselves are the musicians that do not have managers or publicists or a basic team. Those who have a team in place, we will refer to as the guys with “drivers”. It is only sensible to assume that a majority of the people in that traffic had a destination. The cars… errr… well they are vehicles, aren’t they? We will just call the destination “home”! The traffic is the music business. 


Let’s go back t the traffic situation I was in...


So, the guys that had bad vehicles (structure) could hardly deal with the traffic congestion (difficulties of the music business) and broke down after standing still or being unproductive for a while. 

The vehicles where the owners/artistes had “drivers”/a team continued to run… though they were stuck in traffic/the business, the “drivers” continued with all they were doing. When the owners got tired of wasting time or waiting (congestion), they simply got out and kept walking towards their “destination”/home because they were sure their “drivers” knew the way home. 

The “owners” who still had a long way to go, had to stay put and deal with the traffic because their destination was still very far away. Either that, or they don’t trust the drivers to find the destination. Another reason could be that neither the “owners” nor the “drivers” know where the destination is. 


The truth is, we are not all going in the same direction and therefore we would need a peculiar structure or system to effectively achieve our goals. Regardless, there are basic things we need to put in place formally and/or informally. 


No matter how small you are as an artiste, the first thing you need is legal representation. Some lawyers are more expensive, some are not... Some are more experienced, others have just started… but regardless of the situation, you need someone to interpret your contract. You need someone to help you ask questions about those contracts or other legal documents you are given. Contracts are not like your comprehension passages in textbooks or bullet points in your basic proposal… Contracts are bound by clauses. Clauses that relate something on the 2nd page to a simple sentence on the 10th page are the order of the day and are not new. Artiste, unless you are a lawyer, are not TRAINED to see these connecting dots and to save yourself from issues; you may simply need to find a lawyer. That little payment you make now, could save you your career in a few years. Good lawyers can also help you set up a company structure for your business. 


A financial adviser is also necessary for your career. The thing is you would need to be in a position to make money first. I will discuss this still. A business manager can also play this role for you. Get advice on investment options, savings, loans, payment of staff (manager, cleaner, gardener, assistant, lawyer, etc). I do understand that a lot of you may not see the need for this for an artiste making small money but see it this way… 

The financial adviser helps you prepare for the inflow of the money you hope to make. You don’t need to hire any one on a retainer if you can't afford it. What you need to do is ask the right person, the right questions. Ask for favours… Is there a template you can use? How do you save money? What financial advice can they give you? It doesn’t always have to be so complex, especially at the start of your career. Can you arrange a barter situation? Can you market their business to your friends in the industry in return for financial advice? It is a hustle and you need to learn to offer things people want in return for the things you are looking for. 


Publicists play a vital role in shaping the public perception of the artiste. This makes them a very important and vital part of the system. Now, when I say publicists, I am not talking about the twitter-facebook-and-email-blasts person, I am talking about the person that knows the best ways to maximize relationships they have built for the development of your career. Damage control for some of your mistakes are taken care of by the publicists. I will take my time to discuss the publicist more in one of my future articles… maybe even the next one. 

The publicist serves as a bridge between the artiste, their audience and the media. In other words, the publicist work is to create or increase public interest for the artiste while they help build the brand. From writing regular press releases to creating and executing PR campaigns, the publicist is an important person to have in your system. 

For those who may not be able to afford publicists on a monthly basis, consider working with a publicist on a project-by-project basis. This means, when you are about to release a song, or a video or an album or plan a concert/event, a publicist can be hired to develop releases and campaigns to promote or publicize your event. 

You need to note that the job of the publicist is an activity-based job… In other words, if you as an artiste aren’t creating music or if your music career doesn’t create activities, paying a publicist on a retainer is a waste of money. For the guys that can't afford at all, learn to get and use favours… Learn to network… Make friends… Use the internet (facebook, twitter, etc) and MAKE GOOD MUSIC!!!! 


I may not be able to list every single element of a perfectly working system, but I have one more to mention… The Manager! I will simply focus on talent managers as an element in the system. 


The talent manager is the chief “driver” of the system and care-taker of the structure of your business/career. He is responsible for the processes that keep the talent’s career going. The talent manager is responsible for the actions of the artiste and therefore takes the blame most of the time for the artiste’s mistakes or errors. He/she directs the activities of the artiste and makes decisions on the artiste’s behalf. A good manager gives the artiste’s confidence to continue to record and be better at their craft because they know the manager (driver) knows the way home (destination)… Just like the car owners who decided to walk home and not allow the traffic congestion stop or delay them unnecessarily from reaching their destination. As a talent manager, it is important that you give your artistes such confidence in your abilities that they can rest, assured you will deliver in the end. 


To get the future you want for your career, you have to work for it and since no man is an island, take your time to find the people you need to get you to the next level you want to be. 


Happy Hunting guys! 


Please read, “Is that why you are here?” for some more information on managers.

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