Modern Liberian music, led entirely by new and daring generation of artists whose songs are gaining international recognition, is entering a new frontier for the country’s music industry and development.
While a small fraction of artists are beginning to benefit from their creativity, many pundits are of the opinion that this sector can contribute significantly to the country’s economy and contribute to an increased standard of living.
While this may be true, the dream is still far from reality, as long as artists continue to play the blame-game and lose focus on the need to fully understand the business of making music.
In the African music Industry, the artists themselves create and take advantage of every opportunity for their growth, not government. The key to every successful artist is an understanding of who and where the audience is.
Importance of a fan base
The notion held by countless Liberian musicians, especially those locally based, that their fans are only the individuals who attend their shows, may be far from reality. In the music business, it is impossible to win the hearts of all four million Liberians. Rather, it is good to have access to a certain portion of that population that an artist can accept as loyal fans (i.e. fan base).
Since most Liberian artists don’t have a fan base, the chances of getting the public to purchase their music (CDS and digital sales) and attend their shows are quite slim. Winning awards and gaining international recognition is a good thing. But the bottom line is, how do music fans connect with your music?
There is a trend in the Liberian music industry where artists get lots of local and international awards and media attention, but still have not been able to successful monetize their music. On the one hand, many local artists are still aloof to the business aspect of the music industry. On the other hand, some artists who have won numerous awards for their music end up with a false sense of fame because they have not taken the time to cultivate their fan base. False fame is dangerous and can make an artist look foolish.
The music business is not only about singing and performing; it also involves targeted viewers and listeners who will purchase the artistic product, spread the word about its appeal, which in turn will translate to sales and profits. The American rapper, Warren G., put it plainly “90% business, 10% show,” he said in his song, What’s Love Got to Do With It.
Veteran Liberian music promoter and commentator, Emeka Obiamiwe believes
that the only way that the status of Liberian artists will improve is when they
connect with mentors and understand the business of music. Describing the fans as the real investors, Emeka says the artists are just service providers.
“If an artist does not have a target audience on board that are devoted to the cause of his career, how do you expect that artists to sell his or her music? Definitely it will be difficult and this is what happens with our industry’s stars,” he said.
With a firm fan base, artists are certain of generating significant income from gigs (live performances) and fees, better endorsement deals, and will not have to settle for little or nothing.
International Liberian recording artist, Peter Barchue Cole, said, “Since artists don’t have a management team to take care of their career, they should get informed about the basic concept of music marketing, promotion and creation.
“But in Liberia,” Cole noted, “artists are at the disadvantage compared to their African counterparts because there are not many entertainment journalists, editors or event critics. In Liberia the media need to play more crucial role in the interest of Liberia artists.”
Tips for building a solid fan base
In other to graduate from a low status with regard to income as celebrities, artists need to place more emphasis on lateral growth (fan building) rather than gaining fame.
The truth is that fans like to listen to good songs from their artists; they are also willing to pay for those songs. The biggest challenge is finding ways to balance the need for free goodies, and an affordable pricing policy that encourages fans to continue purchasing your music.
Music is an extension of an artist’s hard work, and should learn to get their target audiences involved and have more interaction with them both circuitously and directly. When an artist song gains airplay and become popular, it is important that they reach out to the individuals who are the real investors of the music business. While some challenges might emerge along the way while trying to identify the fan base, you must reinforce your distinctiveness to gain traction.
A friendly and open-minded attitude towards people who artists meet while walking the streets is a positive sign, and artists should size that opportunity to create a strong and charming impression that will appeal to the intellect of people they interact with.
As soon as an unforgettable experience is created during the first interaction, it will then translate to trustworthiness depending on good goodies that are out for that artist. The more people relate to your music, their thoughts and feelings about investing your career will improve, based upon that first interaction; the artists’ music will become interesting conversation, Fans enjoy getting involved in building artists’ careers; it makes them feel special and thankful for the unique opportunity that artists give for participation.
Try your best to get fan emails or any social media contact, and that can be used to send mail once a week to stimulate their minds- it can be a behind the scenes video, or their view about your music; doing this means that they are on the verge of capture them as “super fans,” Tom Hess a touring guitarist, recording artist and a former member of the band Rhapsody of Fire from said.
“The development of a strong fan base for musicians and performers also requires that the products being produced by the artists are polished and highly competitive in the global market. This requires that adequate basic training in all aspects of music creation and production is available to them. They must continue to find avenues for building their capacity to be competitive,” Ernest Bruce performer, producer, and CEO of Piso Entertainment, a Liberian entertainment entity.
But most importantly, audiences have already developed the trust that investing in your career is intrinsic to making them feel happy. Encourage them to send their responses back, and don’t fail to remember to show gratitude when you get response.
Fans will take pleasure in your music, since it offers an emotional connection for them with you, and that bond cannot be broken easily, because of that that regular interaction.
To succeed in building a fan base as Liberian artists also depends on other strategies that the musician should employ, and the type of audience that you would like to target. These tips will help you greatly from the start.