3 Insights for Artists in 2021 from Victor Okpala

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In the Nigerian music ecosystem, Victor Okpala is a well-known name. Victor is a marketing & communications executive and part-time culture journalist, serving as founder/CEO of NABSolute Media; a modern communications agency that has managed campaigns & projects for Red Bull, Runtown, Darey Art Alade, K1 De Ultimate, Reekado Banks, Skales, Yung L, Ycee, Seyi Shay and more.

Recently, we spoke to him to glean some insights which upcoming artists could benefit from.

What common mistakes do you think Nigerian artists make?

That’s a loaded question that will require a series of answers because really, there are different pillars that sustain the overall form of every artist. But for the sake of this conversation, what I’ll say is; one mistake no artiste should make in these times is to assume that talent is enough. Every artiste that must succeed in this era must have a solid brand (image and story). Today, because of social media, people will make up their minds about what position a person will hold in their lives just off a photo or video that they see, even before hearing you speak. This manifests in the relationship between artists and the consumers of today. The average consumer of music is spoilt with choice. There are thousands of artists out there that can make music just like you or even better and streaming platforms are taking it upon themselves to help listeners discover more songs that sound like yours through AI-powered or automated playlists.  It can be tedious for some, but the reality is, you have to offer more than just the music. You need a story and image that shines through everything you do. Interestingly, if your authentic conviction is to stay away from offering more than just your music, you can hold and guard that position in a way that being a recluse or rebel becomes your story. There’s no one way to go about it, the most important thing is that you’re consistent with your story. Even if you evolve, decide to switch up your identity or what you stand for, carry your audience along. 

It is not enough to be able to put words or melodies together. You must also wrap your story and offer a unique experience of yourself through visuals, social interactions, and your music. The reason is simple – hit songs will come and go, but a memorable experience stays forever. So every artist that is seeking to play the forever game, must not rely solely on talent. 

What new trends can they leverage on in order to thrive in 2021?

In one word, CONSISTENCY. This is what 2020 taught us. The success rate for artists is high, so is the failure rate. And in many ways, the consumers determine both. I’ll explain.

The attention and sense of judgment of music consumers today are intensely fleeting. It is scary, but it is the fact. You can literally have a good run in 2020, but if you are MIA by the second quarter of 2021, conversations about your failure will begin to erupt amongst listeners. Again, music listeners, today are spoilt with choice and will swiftly move on to the next good thing. To compete, you have to be consistent. Think about all the artists that had a great run last year, much of their success is tied to the volume of their output. From Wizkid to Adekunle Gold, to Burna Boy, Tems, Omah Lay, Fireboy, etc. The competition is only going to get stiffer.

It is okay to not want to over saturate with new releases, but you must maintain a presence and consistently project your brand to sustain top-of-mind awareness. Some artists can afford to go MIA without losing their position but this is determined by the strength of your brand and story. If you’ve carved a solid identity over the years, your army of fans will ride with you whenever you decide to show up. That’s one of the luxuries that a solid brand or identity can afford you and sadly, it’s scarce. So it’s safer to play the consistency game while strengthening your brand and channeling your story.

Which emerging acts do you think will soar in 2021 and why?

Oxlade. I knew Oxlade’s story before I got into his music. He would intermittently share stories of his late mom and how she influenced how he wears his hat/dresses today. I felt connected to him and I think the majority of his fans subscribe to his story because it’s authentic and consistent. The goal is not to seek sympathy. The goal is simply to share because there’s a tribe of people out there that your story will resonate with. Off the back of this, Oxlade is playing the forever game and I am rooting for him. There are other artists that I deeply appreciate. Idahams is one of them. He’s not distracted or attempting to be anyone else even though it is tempting to conform. Some stories take longer to build, but consistency is the brick. I am also looking forward to what the future holds for Arya Starr. She still needs to distinguish herself and I think she’ll pull it off. She’s in good hands. Lastly, Kaptain and Amakarh. Kaptain is solid and deciding for himself, what success should look like. Amakarh has a new solid project out titled Nostalgic. I think that there’s a significant story that is about to find expression through her. She’s ready.

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