Steve Osagie is a UK-based music business consultant and professional with over 15 years of experience in nurturing and managing artistes. In this interview by SEGUN ADEBAYO, he discusses the status of Afrobeats, the challenges of managing artistes, as well as the new direction of music promotion, among other issues.
The new wave of Afrobeats appears to be dominating the music sound across Africa. How long do you think it would take for the rest of the world to catch up?
I think the rest of the world has caught up, or a large percentage. I participated in a music conference in France a few years ago and I mentioned that Afrobeats was already going global. That’s about three years ago. But now, it has gone global. You look at Paul Pogba, a Manchester United player, dancing to Afrobeats in the dressing room, you see UFC champion, Israel Adesanaya being welcomed to the stage with Burna Boy’s song. In the United Kingdom, people listen to Afrobeat songs. Even though there is still a lot of work to be done before it can be consistently played across mainstream radio, the world has caught up with this vibe. However, they are watching to see whether it will be ephemeral or long lasting. We have come a long way and we have to keep up the consistency to conquer more markets. But I can tell you, the world has known about Afrobeats.
With over 15 years of experience in the music industry, how do you discover talents in their raw form?
I have come to understand that talent contributes between 10-20 per cent to achieving success in the industry. I am able to tell if someone is going to be successful from their work rate, personality and strength of character. You may be talented but if your character is nothing to write home about, you are not going to get a lot of people to support or vouch for you. Unless you have a lot of money to spend and spray around, you are not going to get that organic love for you and your music.
From the analogue days of promoting music to the new order where technology is the order of the day, it is usually believed that a lot of Nigerian artistes are keying into the new order. What is your opinion?
I don’t think so. I think a lot of Nigerian artistes are still in the old model of music promotion – going to media stations, doing PR and that’s all. I am not saying there is no place for these things, but looking at the amount of money spent on radio and television and there would not be any return revenue. However, if you put those same resources into digital promotion, YouTube ads, Facebook ads, Instagram ads, you can tell that a million views on my YouTube would attract a certain amount of money back to you. Radio stations can play your songs till tomorrow, that doesn’t mean you would make a penny, unfortunately.
It has already been said that digital marketing is the new order of music business. Do you think that it can curb piracy and other copyright infringements?
A lot of people have tried to fight piracy for a long time and I think digital marketing is doing wonders suppressing it. Yet, I think the most important thing is to find a way to have added value to music. There is something called content id on YouTube. Anytime someone uses your content on their own page, you still get paid because your id is on the content. I don’t think artistes should get worried about copyright infringement. Rather, they should focus on creating music and people loving it. If the songs of an artiste are being pirated or the rights being infringed on, then it means the artiste is doing something right. S/he has good material. Too many a time, people worry about piracy when they have not even got to the stage that they can be pirated. So, artistes should focus on creating good music, building a fan base and giving added value. For instance, an artiste could give a signed shirt to fans that download his/her songs from a particular platform. Pirates wouldn’t be able to do that.
Looking at the success you have had, what area do you find most challenging?
What I find most challenging is trying to change an artiste’s perception on how they should do things, compared to how things were being done before, and getting artistes to be patient. Many people think that success in the industry is an overnight type. They see a lot of people coming from nothing to becoming big. Their own perception is usually that somebody turned on the switch somewhere and all of a sudden there is light everywhere. Somebody turned on the tap and money started rushing. They don’t realise the amount of time, consistency that go into sustaining a successful career. I think that’s the most challenging area, artistes not taking their time and believing in the process.
As an international artiste (manager), when you look at the current landscape of African stars, what are your fears?
My fears are a lot of artistes coming into the industry now do not understand the business of music. They are just doing it because they want to ‘blow’. Other people are into it because they see people making money and they want to go into it too. They may be talented but they have not taken their time to understand the fundamentals of the music business. My take is that people are going to have great music hits but they would not make money from it in four, five years’ time.
It is a popular belief that one must have a money bag supporting one’s music career to be successful. How do people without financial support survive in a competitive industry?
I think that belief is correct and incorrect at the same time. I know people that have spent over a hundred thousand pounds and have not made a thousand pounds back and there are those who didn’t spend much before making huge funds. The main thing is have a plan and understand the music industry and the music business. That education is very important. If you do not understand the music business, you can spend hundreds of thousands, even millions, and if you are not signed with a publishing administrator who collects your royalties for you, you may make no penny from hit songs. That’s where the education comes in. Even if you don’t have the financial might, social media is free. There are a lot of creative sources you can go to. There are platforms where you can record freestyles, cover of songs and someone somewhere would notice your efforts and talent and be ready to invest in you. There is so much you can do by yourself without money but have a plan in mind should you hit some sum of money. If the money arrives and you are clueless, you would just waste it.
As a respected figure in music artiste management in Nigeria, what is your take on the proliferation of songs that lack relatable content and lyrics?
Music is subjective. I am a purist and I love great song writing. I love artistes that have a message to pass. But at different times and periods, music is a reflection of what people are going through and what they want to express. Music is an expression. I can never stop anyone from expressing in whatever form they wish. Some people want to talk about love, some want to write music about having a good time. Others want to write and sing about what they are passing through in their lives. So, an artiste may not necessarily write the same theme years apart. So, music is subjective. Once, you are writing music you love and want to listen to, there would definitely one or two million persons who would love it too. You may not know what people like and would not like. Just write your music and put it out.
Many artistes are believed to have been affected by what is called the one-hit syndrome. What is your take on this development?
This is particularly why I am passionate about educating African artistes. There is nothing wrong with being a one-hit wonder. There are people who have made a living from their one hit. Being able to sustain oneself and have a successful career should be the goal. If you have a one hit wonder, it has created a big awareness for you and your brand. You should then think about where else you can take your brand, music and sound to. What’s really important is having a long lasting successful career.
What is the way forward for artistes and labels who keep dragging themselves by the jugular over breach of contract?
First of all, this is where character comes in. I am under the impression that if you sign a contract, you are over 18. That means that you should honour your contract. On the flip side, as a label, you should never take an advantage of an artiste on your books. That is why I always say to an artiste to always consult an entertainment lawyer before signing over the dotted line. Once you sign because you are desperate or have no leverage, you can’t blame anyone. Everybody is going to give a contract that benefits them. You should also make sure you sign a contract that benefits you to a certain degree. When the stature of an artiste changes over time especially before the expiry of the initial contract, such an artiste should try and renegotiate the contract. Everybody should try and act in an understanding manner. It is a music business, not a charity neither nobody is a slave. In the game of signing a contract, there is no standard for anything. if you are an artiste who didn’t have any name before being invested in, it is high risk and much returns would be expected. The situation would be different to an artiste with a couple of hits and an established fan base.
Who is Steve Osagie and what has helped you remain relevant till today?
Steve Osagie is a music business consultant and professional. I run a management and digital marketing company. I want to help artistes and creatives to put the spotlight on their career so that you can live off your talent. What has made .me remain relevant till today is that I am good at understanding where attention is going. I’m being able to utilise the new methods of communication and reaching the right audience. I help to push artistes, make them understand who they are, how they can plan and achieve goals, and have a 5D perspective of reaching the right audience. It is not just to blow but also have a sustainable and successful career.
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