If there is a single proponent that can be said to have changed the consumption and assimilatory pattern of the 21st-century music listener, that proponent would likely be the Internet. Call it Obasanjo’s Internet or whatever you will, the world wide web has amplified two things that cannot be taken for granted in our modern world of instant gratification: the enabling of direct artiste-fans/stans connection and the powering of a musician’s influence into new realms that were simply inaccessible in previous decades.
For fans, access to their stars is crucial. Providing a window into how their faves think, what they do, where they are and the things that amuse them; the stans love it, the enthralling feel of living the life of the musicians through their curated content on social media is a hazy kind of high that keeps on giving. But, more crucially, that window is reflective on both sides and benefits the musician immensely.
In Nigeria’s fairly unstructured music industry, there is some data and statistics that can aid informed content creation for the artiste, but nothing works better than the parlance on social media. Combining both the artist-stan connection and the influence that their social media presence bequeaths, musicians, can gain insight into the mind of the listeners to try and understand what makes the market tick by sharing little snippets of their work to gauge reactions and impact. These snippets have now come to occupy a ubiquitous position on the Nigerian music scene.
For Teni the Entertainer, graduating from university in July 2018 was the end of a long personal journey, and to celebrate the accomplishment she shared a poignant video of her singing a thanksgiving song in her local dialect that resonated with a lot of people and caught fire on social media. If she had not known that the song was to give her a hit when she shared it, the realization must have dawned on her as requests for an official release poured in after the video was posted. A couple of months later, in December 2018, to cap off her breakout year, she released the aspirational anthem, Uyo Meyo, that was based on the raw and instinctive quality of the July snippet with stellar production to boot, earning critical acclaim. Teni has continued to put snippets and sneak previews to good use, her 2019 single Sugar Mummy is a product of one of her signature hilarious social media skits; what started as Teni gleefully asserting her position as a leading figure among friends when they sang along to her sappy lyrics ended up becoming one of her best offerings in 2019 as the audience warmed up to both the auditory and comic relatability of the song, first as a snippet and then, belatedly, as a single.
The 26-year-old is not the only musician who has caught on to the benefits of unfiltered snippets. When Rema was introduced to the Nigerian audience early in March 2019, a series of freestyles were shared across his social media accounts that helped acquaint the public with the 19-year-old who was soon to be Mavin Records’ flagship star. One of those videos was of him, in a car, trap-singing the words that would become the first verse of Boulevard, a song off his four-song Rema Freestyle EP. The utility of that snippet cannot be understated as it gave fans a quick and delicious look into what he was offering and, crucially, promising more. That video had over 600,000 views on Instagram alone and the comment section had people who kept asking a simple question: what is the title of this song? Far from then making song releases banal and tedious, these snippets build up anticipation in an unquantifiable way. Fans who have listened to these sonic gems are hooked and bay for more, for more of that song, and its instant release. For others, these snippets are stark reminders of their capabilities more than they are previews of their works. Peruzzi is another gifted singer who has mastered the snippet immersion technique. The DMW star, widely thought to be one of the most gifted songwriters in Nigeria, regularly shares snippets of his unreleased songs to his adoring followership. His October 2019 song, Only One, was teased as far back as July.
Perhaps no singer has finessed the window of access between the fan and artiste that snippets provide as efficiently as the controversial and polarizing figure that is Naira Marley. A master of self-promotion, after his incendiary comments on cybercrime in April and his encounter with Simi at the 2019 BBK Homecoming, Naira Marley shared an unfinished version of Am I a Yahoo Boy on Instagram that had fellow musicians praising him and commenters calling for the release of the track. Opotoyi, released at the zenith of his incarceration, was also teased as far back as April. By the time he was set to release his first single after the stint in prison, Naira turned to his steady marketing tool: a snippet. He shared a video of himself recording Soapy on Instagram. Under the limelight, he effectively invited fans into the creative process – his Soapy post got over 20,000 comments – and had them mouthing the song days before it dropped officially. He has continued to resort to the familiar when promoting his single, strategically dropping little pockets of Pxta and Mafo on social media before their releases.
Zlatan is another musician that has utilized snippets – and their proclivity to go viral – in engaging with his audience and testing out the waters. Typically, before each of his releases, he delivers a snippet that informs whether or not we end up getting that song. In September 2019 for instance, he shared a later-deleted snippet for a song titled Tacha where he made allusions to the unconfirmed Big Brother Naija house rumor that Tacha had body odor; he was met by resistance from many followers who thought it insensitive and out of place. True to snippet’s use as mood gaugers, it was no surprise that the song never hit the airwaves.
An advantage of this trend is the fact that it travels far and actually receives attention because it combines audio and visual components ensuring that anyone who clicks on these posts, out of curiosity or consciously, has experienced the music and is more likely to come back for more based on the merits of the song. The artists are using the snippets to work the songs and also build a connection with their fans. And they most likely always come back because Rema, Teni, Peruzzi, and Naira Marley continue to do great numbers. In an industry marked by conformity, it surely won’t be long before others jump on the bandwagon and try to recreate the simple yet brilliant technique of relatable and unpretentious snippets as promotional tools. When that happens, it will be a testament to the amazing effectiveness of snippets and the personalities of their adapters.