“I won’t listen to your music cause it’s not exciting,” “I think you should sound a little more like the other guy, may be then you would sell.” “Yo, what’s with the dress code? Get yourself some swag then we’ll come to your concert.” “Try your music elsewhere, not here.”

Imagine you’re a music artist and people say all that in your face. What would you do? Many of us would most likely make immediate changes to who we are and our music so that society can embrace us. Then can we say we are relevant – people can now relate with and listen to us.

Here is a random thought, how effective is good instruction delivered in English to a Swahili speaking people? It’s ineffective of course. The bearer of a message must relate with his audience and in doing so, his message stands a better chance of being heard and accepted. A communicator that relates is a relevant communicator.

Looking at the music scene in Zambia and several other countries in Africa I know of, I have come to note that many struggle with the concept of a being a “relevant music artist.”  One artist shifts from his original style of music to hip hop, another drops the English and picks up his mother tongue in his lyrics while another features artists that will give him a bigger and diverse fan base. What every artist is trying to be is relevant. When you are relevant people play your music, they talk about you and listen to you. You become the effective communicator of a message that will positively or negatively influence the culture that surrounds you.

I have no problem with artists making efforts in making their music more appealing; to have it accepted. My issue is with the fact that I see one artist trying too hard to be relevant to too many different groups of people in the same society and even worse; aimlessly adopting every pop element in to his music hoping to be the next big hit. We must consider this; what is relevant to the older generation is more likely irrelevant to the younger generation in the same community, or what is relevant to one young group may be irrelevant to another young group of people still in the same community. For instance, lovers of hymns will pay no attention to hip hop music so why try hard to win them over to your style. That is where many artists lose it, when they want to be loved by all. True, you can increase your fan base and capture a new audience but not all can join your team. When reality hits the artist that he is not as popular as desired the result is often frustration and more desperate efforts to be like the other pop artists in the game who everyone seems to be “feeling.”

But what is the solution to the resulting frustration and desperation, to the fear of fading out and being an out dated side plate artist. What I recommend is quite simple but results in a more focused approach to a music career. It’s simply this:

  1. Know your target group – Is it the locals in your community, country or your neighbouring country included? Aimlessly putting out music can be frustrating because you will obviously get the wrong response if you present it to the wrong audience. Now that you know your target group you can streamline your efforts and be more focused in your music
  2. Understand your target group – The next step is to know what is trending in your targets group’s lives, that is, what are they drinking, eating, watching, where are they chilling, what are their general ambitions, attitudes, values and more. Understanding your target group’s way of life guides you in knowing what issues you will address. People celebrate and listen to artists that speak to their issues or speak on their behalf to the outside world.
  3. Custom craft your music – Knowing and understanding your target group provides a foundation to content of music. Now you can speak the right message to the right people who will listen to you. You can now custom craft your style to suite what your target relate to. Consider all elements of creativity that will best communicate your message from language, to genre of music and more.

These simple steps save you the trouble of continuous and random trial and error. You will be comfortable in your skin and skill knowing that there is actually an audience out there waiting for your next tune. I find it sad that most non-pop artists tend to quit their style because they feel irrelevant simply because they are not the most celebrated. But have they done a research to find out if really no one is listening to them? Most likely not.

I know for sure that as one unit in the body of Christ we are all called to perform different roles. This means that we also reaching out to different groups of people in the same society. Question is do you know your share of audience in your society…your country, do you understand them, have you crafted your music in a way that they relate to it? Note: a relevant artist and a pop artist are not necessarily synonymous so you don’t need to be a big hit to be relevant.

Find your role, play your role. Find your flock, feed your flock.



~ by thenativez on September 19, 2013.

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