Business of Music

How Independent African Musicians are Hacking the System

Many musicians don’t make money from their music. This is not a stirring revelation and in Africa, challenges are even more pronounced. As an independent musician in Africa with little to no financial backing, no friends in high places and no miraculous benefactor, it’s hard to put yourself and your music out there and even harder to make money from it. However, there are a few who have managed to use their gift, to fund their gifts. By merging business strategy and creativity, artists have found ways to engage, push their brand and fund their projects without breaking the bank.

We highlight four musicians from West Africa: Amaarae, Bryan the Mensah, Lady Donli and Kula; who have all gone the extra creative mile to make sure their music is pushed.

AMAARAE

Ghanaian neo-soul musician Amaarae burst onto the Ghanaian music scene in 2017. Her popularity has risen steadily and it was not by chance or accident. Amaarae tapped into very simple, yet cost effective methods to promote and push her brand and music.

Social Media Amplification through Strategic and Innovative Engagement routes.

  • Everyone knows the key to winning over a visual social media app like Instagram is through striking and original images. Amaarae definitely locked that down. Her instagram is a visual Candy Land. Her images, coupled with her colourful hair and out of the world clothing style makes her Instagram page one to always look out for.

 

  • She provides a plethora of video content for her fans to engage with. These include everything from snippets of her trips to BTS clips from her shows as well as Q&As. Her engagement goes beyond answering Twitter questions or putting up polls. She actively includes her fans in her journey and her plans.

  • Using an age old method of enhancing popularity or reach, Amaarae has grown her brand. In marketing, this is called brand association; in music, its called collaboration. Amaarae has not only collaborated with established or popular musicians, but emerging ones as well. She’s also extended her collaborative prowess to other creatives such as photographers, designers, make up artists and more.                                                                                                                                                                                                  Amaarae’s strategic collaborations, intentional or not, have helped propel her to new audiences. She worked with Ghanaian popular artist Stonebwoy, which introduced her to a wider audience. Her work with AYLØ, a Nigerian neo-soul musician, also introduced to a Nigerian audience that immediately fell in love with her sound. Her work with Goolis, sharing a stage while in New York with the group also gave her a few new fans in the States. Amaarae extended her arm of collaboration by sharing a stage with upcoming Ghanaian musicians at the self hosted Julyfest. These collaborations has put her in the eyes of audiences in Ghana’s popular music scene, as well as Ghana and Nigeria’s budding alternative music scene.

 

 

 

BRYAN THE MENSAH

Rapper Bryan the Mensah is slowly carving his name in Ghana’s hip hop scene. Like many independent musicians, the quest to find funding for projects is a difficult one. However, Bryan uses his art and creativity to generate funds to support his upcoming project.

RAISING FUNDS USING CREATIVITY TO SUPPORT CREATIVITY

  • Through his website, he released an exclusive EP, called Freesound.  For only $6, fans could purchase this EP (Which is all sorts of flames btw) and get discount on merch and an invite to a BBQ party which coupled as the listening party for the upcoming album they were paying to fund. By creating an impeding scarcity on product (i.e. music) and creating exclusivity (party invites and access to new music), Bryan the Mensah was able to use his existing fanbase as a way creating revenue to fund his new music while concurrently growing it, introducing new fans to his music.
  • Merchandising is an age old tactic that allows musicians to make money aside their music, or shows. Musicians create items, usually t-shirts, caps, jackets and other apparel for their fans. Bryan the Mensah adopted this method to create a merch brand that could be worn by people who didn’t even know of his music, inadvertently selling his brand. His “Me Ho Twa” merch and “Wildlife” merch gained popularity because of its subtlety.

  • As a way to make more money, he is also selling beats on his website. This gives him an added stream of revenue for himself and his art. If you are into Hip Hop beats that sound like something Chance the Rapper would rock with, check out Bryan’s catalogue here.   In addition to this, he also has a Patreon link on his website so fans can support him directly. Patreon is a membership platform that provides business tools for creators to run a subscription content service, as well as ways for artists to build relationships and provide exclusive experiences to their subscribers, or “patrons.”

Support Bryan on Patreon here.

 

 

 

LADY DONLI

For Nigerian crooner Lady Donli, she hacked a system that makes it difficult for new artists to create personal relationships with their fans. By creating a one-of-a-kind experience for her fans, she managed to create a brand with an intimate vibe and reach new fans in a fun, creative and cost effective way.

CREATING IMPROVised VENUES

Finding venues to perform in Nigeria can be daunting, especially if you’re an emerging artist. If the prices don’t knock you down, then the opportunity to play in these venues wont even arise. To solve that, Lady Donli decided to be the mountain that’ll go to Mohammed. Setting up with her band in living rooms across Lagos, her “Living Room Tour” saw her in her fans’ living rooms, offering an intimate experience of her music along with an unfettered access to her.

PR GAMES

To promote her new single “Games”, Lady Donli created an online video game to provide her fans a new way to interact  with her music.

You can play the video game here: http://www.games.ladydonli.com/

 

 

 

KULA

Funding a music video can be a helluva ride, especially as an independent emerging musician. For Ghanaian rapper Kula, he had to take matters into his own hands, literally.

GO GUERRILLA

Many believe that the streaming era brought an end to CDs and tapes, but in a developing country like Ghana, that may not be the case. A large number of people still lean towards CDs to listen to music. That’s why rapper Kula hit the streets, CDs in hand, to sell his music physically. He did this to raise funds for a video. He went from city to city, region to region and show to show to promote and sell his music. Though he didn’t end up raising enough money to fund the video, it gave him a lot of traction and led to him grabbing the attention of popular Ghanaian rapper, D-Black who offered to shoot his video for free!

Guess it all worked out in the end, huh?

 

 

Being a musician is hard, yes.

Being an artist is expensive, no doubt.

But there are ways around it. Be creative, look at things from out the box. Be different, explore, and most importantly LEARN. There are many ways to learn, but the internet is a great way to start. Use your super power to your benefit.

 

Benewaah is the lead curator and editor at Harmattan Rain. Her love for music is closely rivaled by her love for plantain.

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