Making Music

So you want to be a music star…but you don’t want to end up on the street, singing for your supper. Right now, you’re too small to be noticed by labels, and all you’ve got are your lyrics, your dreams, and that amazing voice. How do you go from talented nobody to bonafide singing/rapping superstar?

Well, “the Internet” which is really us music pundits, are here to rescue you. Here is a guide to getting your music heard (and hopefully bought) in 2015.

1. You Need Beats!

The best way to earn a solid reputation in the music industry is to create your own beats from scratch. Like Noah “40” Shebib, you may want to use Fruity Loops Studio and an 808 drum kit to learn the art of making your own original beats, or if you’re not much of an audiosmith, you can try using one of the thousands of freely available beats on the Internet.

Some artists take a less authentic, albeit tried and tested route, and flip an already recognised song to make it theirs. Banky W’s career took off with his take on Rihanna’s global smash hit, ‘Umbrella’ or more recently Adekunle Gold’s ‘Sade’, a cover of One Direction’s ‘Story of My Life’. The upside of this shortcut is, you save money, but there’s a downside: you can’t make any money off the song if it becomes a hit, because you don’t own it.


2. Get a Soundcloud page!

This cannot be over emphasised, a one stop shop where all your music is available makes it easier for curious listeners to discover you! Have you heard of Fetty Wap? Well, he made this summer’s anthem, ‘Trap Queen’. The song had actually been out on Soundcloud as part of his six song EP. The play count rising to one million in two months allowed him to monitor in real time which of the songs which the public liked. The play counts also allowed him, an unsigned and unknown act, to make his case to radio stations for his song to be aired.


3. Get local content sites and influencers to promote your joint

This is the afrocentric version of two. Send your song to NotJustOk, TayoTv, Jaguda, et al! NJO has a play and download count. Users also tend to leave candid comments, this provides immediate feedback on the release.

4. Earning Your First Fan; Making Your First Sale

So, you’ve done all of the above, what next? Well, let’s say your song is taking off. If it’s an original work, it’s time for you to sell it. This is where a site like Spinlet, iTunes or Google Play comes in.

For Nigerian artists, it is important that your music is available for paid download on a site like Spinlet. (If your song takes off, you need to make money from sales).

Nikki Minaj Get paid

5. Creating Buzz

By now, your music might be creating a little buzz (if it’s any good or different enough). How do you get it to the next level? Identify influential music heads in your social media circle, send them links to your Soundcloud page, ask them for feedback. If they like it, they’ll share it without much prompting.


6. Negotiating a.k.a. Just Say No

You’ve scored yourself an internet hit now, what’s the next stage? Labels will start looking for you and here is where you need to keep your cool. Instead of signing up to a deal where you give away 45 percent of your earnings for a fixed number of years, get a manager instead. Someone who has a proven track record in the music business.

Tyga Say no

7. Mind your social capital

Make sure all your social media pages include current contact details for your manager, ensure you also have access to any email, Twitter or Facebook fan page opened on your behalf (this way you can gauge your manager’s performance)


8. Shoot a video

If things are going as they should, then by now, you should be able to buy some screen time to go with that successful single. Shoot a nice video and send it off to all the aforementioned sites and satellite music video channels. Get some publicity shots done, commission the artwork for your single from one of the freelance graphic artists looking for exposure.


9. Hit the road!

You’ll know you’re on to something when you start getting booked for shows. This is where most of your steady revenue will come from, so this is very important.


10. Endorsements, baby!

As well as shows, this is the biggest one-off payment an African act can score. If you as an artist can nab an endorsement of note, it means you’ve followed 1 to 9 of this quick guide and  you can be sure you’re a star.  But don’t forget, nothing beats hard work and if you’re lucky, your song will pop! So, keep working.

Photo Credit: CJ Sorg via Compfight cc

Tola Sarumi Author

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