Whether you want to call it Afrobashment, Afrobeats or Afroswing, there’s no denying that a new sound has taken over Britain’s clubs and charts. But with so many new artists fighting to break through, and new acts emerging every week, just what can aspiring new talents do to stand out from the crowd? Here are ten tips to help you along your way…
1. Don’t give up your day job until you’re so busy you don’t have a choice
Making it costs money. There’s no two ways about it. You’re going to be paying for studio sessions, video shoots, photo shoots, PR people, radio pluggers and transport to get round all of this. You’re going to need some funds to back all this, and unless you find an investor with deep pockets early on (and always read the small print to check what they’re gonna want in return) you’re going to need to speculate to accumulate. So best not to quit working in Westfield ‘til you’re so busy you have to...
2. Work on your live show
Studio technology has made it easy to be lazy. Rappers can record verses in tiny chunks, never having to perform entire tunes from start to finish, and autotune has become a crutch propping up the entire scene. When you’re on the live stage, unless you are blessed with phenomenal charisma (and if you are why are you even reading these tips?? Just get out on stage asap) you’ll be exposed if you haven’t put the hours in getting good. Weak stage shows may (just) cut it on a small club stage, but if you ever want to truly blow, you need to be able to replicate a studio performance in front of a large live audience.
3. Check what DJs are playing
It helps to have a good idea what sounds are blowing in the clubs – if you can produce a tune or two that will easily fit into the bpm your favourite DJ is currently playing, it’s that much more likely to get slotted in.
4. BUT don’t be afraid to change what DJs are playing
At the same time, it’s no good merely following trends – you can be aware of what works in the club or on radio, whilst still trying to pull it forward so you can stamp your own personality on a sound. Don’t be afraid to get in your own lane.
5. Learn some basic engineering
If you’re a singer who’s always relying on engineers to record your music, you’re always going to be beholden to another person – it doesn’t hurt to learn your way around Logic or Ableton so when inspiration strikes you’re not waiting for someone else to show up and record.
6. Be consistent
There’s no point releasing one great song then vanishing for months at a time – the only people who can do that with any success are already established artists. In our attention deficit age, once you get a foothold you need to feed that early fanbase to help it grow – once people are actively waiting for your music, then you can slow down.
7 Chose your name carefully.
It’s amazing how many artists get held back by their name being a nightmare to Google. One of Yxng Bane’s various clever moves has been the x in his name – you’re always going to be able to find him on Youtube – on the flip side, search for Sona in Spotify and you’re confronted by a range of artists from house producers, to Bollywood stars, to the Afrobeats star responsible Ginger – you want to avoid this.
8. Good management makes the difference
Picking a manager is a really tricky balance between getting someone who you can trust to be loyal, and getting someone who knows the business enough to help you progress. There are a lot of people who think they can be managers based on the flimsiest of research (for the record, binge watching Empire does not make you a good manager). The most basic things you should expect a manager to do is to keep track of your diary, help sort out your PRS, get you to and from studio sessions and gigs, and have some understanding of how record deals, distribution and streaming works. If they’re not doing most (if not all!) of this, what are they doing?
9. Send out clean versions
This is such basic practical advice and it’s still foolishly forgotten by so many people. Radio DJs cannot play your song if it is going to offend aunties across the land. When you finish a track, make sure you have a clean version (and an instrumental) to send out. It automatically looks more professional, and is going to save you about 15 emails and untold hours spent chasing down the producer to get it sorted once you’ve left the studio.
10. Work work work
When Don Jazzy and D’Banj recorded the classics that would end making them household names in Nigeria they were living in the UK and working in McDonald’s (Don Jazzy) and as a security guard (D’Banj). They worked relentlessly with real passion and believed in a dream. They also knew that one hit wasn’t enough – you need multiple hits over multiple years to truly blow. Now Don jazzy has a fleet of cars and runs his own music empire, yet he’s still in the studio working every day. The message is, embrace it, work at it, love it, and you may just win at it.