“I Save for As Long as 6 Months to Get Things Done”: 3 Upcoming Artistes on Struggles of Funding Music Careers

“I Save for As Long as 6 Months to Get Things Done”: 3 Upcoming Artistes on Struggles of Funding Music Careers

In an industry where money trumps talent, upcoming artistes are making painful financial sacrifices to fund a career that guarantees no assurances of success...

There are multiple success stories in the Nigerian music industry. For instance, indigenous rap musician, Olamide Adedeji didn’t have it all too rosy when he started out to pursue his heart’s true desire.

Upcoming artistes on their struggles
3 upcoming singers on struggles of funding music careers. Photo: @gida_hills/@blackvotary/@leemzyofficial
Source: Instagram

Although a journey punctuated with an abundance of failure, the rapper stayed on course and nowadays, his story among that of others, inspires the talented young man in a little corner hoping to grab multiple spots on digital streaming charts.

However, what many people may not know is the fact that this was a journey to the top that, in simple terms, rode on money and connection. The Nigerian entertainment industry is brutal, and talent, often times than never, is hardly enough to take anyone to their desired superstar level.

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“ When Asake pay for promotion. Wizkid pay promotion. Burna pay promotion. One small artist go dey somewhere dey think say na grace. Grace is not a currency in the music industry. The space is optimized to kill your grace. Go and look for money. They no dey tell person twice,” music journalist, Joey Akan, wrote in a recent Twitter post.

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The media personality has received backlash on multiple occasions for stating the fact as it is to upcoming artists who tick a considerable number of boxes but are lacking when it comes to their finances.

For Akan, even when artists have found a mix that drives connectivity and acceptance for their art, they still need money to “market aggressively and stimulate emotional centres.”

So in an industry where money is king, what is the fate of barely established talents from average families who are desperately seeking their break-out moment…

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"I'm not from a very rich family" - Black Votary

“I’ve always loved music a lot since I was a kid. I grew up listening to the likes of Michael Jackson, King Sunny Ade and the likes of them,” 26-year-old University of Lagos (UNILAG) graduate, Muusbau Adeleke reminisced as we kicked off our chat.

Adeleke professionally known as Black Votary always had a burning desire to pursue music since his days in secondary school. The second child of four, Adeleke has never had any strong financial backing since he decided to do music professionally.

Moving around the streets of Mushin where he grew up with a notepad of songs he wrote, Adeleke was only able to get his first studio experience in 2018, after saving up religiously.

“In 2012 I started writing songs inside paper without any studio experience. By 2018, I was able to save up and give myself my first studio experience on a song. It wasn’t all that, but people’s reception gave me the morale to want to do more.

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“I’m not a high earner and I’m not from a very rich family so I don’t have money available to me like that. If I want to get anything done, I have to spend time and save. For me as an upcoming artiste, music right now is like a vanity measure. I spend time saving money. I can save for as long as six months just to get money to do a couple of songs. It’s not like I’m expecting any returns from it anytime and these are some of the financial constraints I have with music. It’s just not certain yet. I won’t call it a gamble, but it’s not certain…”

"I borrowed money because I had to pay people" – Gida Hills

Just like Black Votary, who started falling in love with music at a young age, Olaide Ibrahim Owolabi, known as Gilda Hills, started his chase for stardom right after he concluded senior secondary.

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“I knew I could write songs but I didn’t give it a lot of thought,” Gida Hills said as we delved into our conversation on a hot Monday afternoon. The upcoming singer only started to consider music as a possible career path after he got into university and put his songwriting to good use. “I was quite popular within the circle of artistes in school and I was well respected. That was when I knew I could make music for a living.”

Pumped with a yearning to take the world by storm with his sound, Gida Hills would come to realize that music is not for the financially handicapped, and a chunk of back-breaking sacrifices would have to be made.

“There are lots of sacrifices that I have made financially. Even when I was in school, there were times when I had to use money gotten from my parents for upkeep to fund my studio sessions. At a point, I also had to use my school fees…Even now that I’m out of school, I can’t put a number to the sacrifices I’ve had to make.

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“Just recently, I was working on my second EP and I wanted it to go in a particular direction. I wanted to work with new people and try some different things. I eventually had to borrow money because I had to pay people. It wasn’t easy paying the money back but I’ll say there has been no regret…”

" I was broke and needed to shoot a music video" - Leemzy

In 2018, Osun State University (UNIOSUN) graduate, Alimi Uthman professionally known as Leemzy was promoting his first major single, Adura, when he got a mail from Mayorkun’s team to perform at the singer’s concert scheduled to hold in Ibadan.

“That was a monumental experience for me honestly,” Leemzy recounts during a WhatsApp call, his voice pierced by the hooting of car horns and collective murmur in a bus park.

The Ibadan gig was a turnaround moment that refreshed Leemzy’s zeal to find his spot in Nigeria’s music industry. However, it didn’t take long before the necessary evil (yes! money) sunk its claws into the plans of an Ibadan dreamer boy.

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“There was a time when I wanted to shoot a video for my song and I wasn’t boxed up at that particular moment. I needed to shoot that video by all means possible as my fans were expecting something from me. The director billed me an amount that I personally couldn’t fend for but this was something I needed to do,” Leemzy said while recounting a desperate time of need. “There are no regrets,” he added.

On a chase to find the money

Plagued with a desire to ‘blow’, handicapped by the lack of money, independent artistes are constantly making financial sacrifices that aren’t guaranteed to yield desired results.

As much as there are several success stories in the music industry, some of these opportunities aren’t available to independent artistes. For instance, funding options may not necessarily be in the books for artistes who are yet to secure deals with record labels. Ultimately, music becomes a self-funded dream for many, with others putting themselves at the mercy of loan sharks.

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“I remember very well that I’ve taken loans from some of these loan apps,” Gida Hills recounted. “I’ve taken a lot from them to fund my music. I’ve also taken from family, and friends and I’m still paying them back. There are some who overlook it and just ask me to pay whenever I want. However, the loan apps are difficult. You have to find the money before 30 days elapse in order to avoid embarrassment. I’ve taken a lot from them but I’ve also been able to pay back.”

For Adeleke, taking loans to fund music isn’t an option that has ever appealed to him, especially since guaranteed returns on investment are often times wishful thinking.

However, with his latest project gulping his hard-earned, religiously saved N1 million, and still asking for more, a loan might just be his only saving grace.

“I have an EP coming that I’ve spent close to a million on the recording of the songs, and everything is about ready at the moment. I’m thinking, still considering, the possibility of taking a loan or going into a partnership. I need to get funds to promote the project. I’m certain that when the songs get heard and get to the right audience, the returns will definitely come. So I want to take the chance now.”

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The 26-year-old singer admits that doing music has been at the cost of some other money-making ventures that he runs on the side.

“I do cinematography and video editing. I retail gadgets like phones, laptops and other accessories and doing music has been making it quite difficult to invest in these other side hustles. Apart from the financial investments, there’s also the time needed for self-development that I don’t get. I’m putting all my money into music, I can’t further my skills in cinematography and editing. I can’t really establish my business as a retail seller as I have to resort to selling online…”

Gilda Hills equally says his side hustle is seriously taking the heat of his financial commitment to music, but he plans to keep spending…

“You have to understand that there’s no specific amount you will spend that will ‘blow’ you as an artiste. You just have to keep spending. In the industry right now, there hasn’t been a platform where people can take you on and have a plan for your career. You just have to keep spending and hope for results...”

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"Seek investors, but self-fund first" - Ayokunle Okuneye

"Investors exist in the industry but no one wants to invest in an artiste without numbers, and that is where self-funding comes in," music business executive,Ayokunle Okuneye, said during an exchange.

The founder of Media Tank Entertainments holds that artistes must invest in their careers before turning the attention of potential investors in their direction.

"If an upcoming artiste cannot find a way to at least self-fund and get certain things done, it might be difficult to get investors as everyone works with data and statistics these days."

Okuneye equally shared tips for independent acts seeking to meet investors.

"Music is show biz. Show biz isn’t an introverted business, you have to be on people’s faces. Asides from numbers, investors need to be interested in your lifestyle. How well do you appeal to your audience in various ways, fashion, content, music, and anything lifestyle related? These are the things that will influence endorsements which in turn get investors some money in return depending on what deal comes across the table.

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"Artistes should own their craft and shout about it. Every number from every platform digitally counts. Stay relevant by all means, being talented alone doesn’t cut it. Hard work, and extra skills like being able to produce, play an instrument, being able to put out content for your audience goes a long way. It’s not just music, it’s showbiz and entertainment. Be an entertainer, not just a singer. Pick a niche and storm the market and stay relevant for years and years to come..."

"Olamide changed my life and career" - Zlatan Ibile

Music star Zlatan Ibile is one of the many artists that made it to the limelight through Olamide, and he remains ever grateful to Baddo.

Just recently, Legit.ng reported that Zlatan listed the likes of Adekunle Gold, Fireboy DML, Asake, among those who Olamide have helped, adding that the singer wouldn’t say a word about it in public space.

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The Zanku label boss also recounted how Olamide reached out to him and took him to another state to record his first song.

Source: Legit.ng

Adeyinka Odutuyo avatar

Adeyinka Odutuyo Adeyinka Odutuyo is a lifestyle and entertainment journalist with over four years of working experience at Legit.ng. He is currently the deputy HOD of the Gossip and Entertainment Desk. Adeyinka holds a degree in Linguistics and Communication Studies from Osun State University, Osogbo. He graduated in 2016. He emerged as Legit.ng's Best Entertainment Editor in 2020 and 2021. Contact: adeyinka.odutuyo@corp.legit.ng

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