“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” The above, time-honoured, statement by the celebrated American writer Mark Twain, continues to ring true a century after he first expressed it. In fact, it is a Truth that pre-dates the man himself. However, the immutable wisdom in that quote seems to be lost on the current generation of artiste managers in Nigeria. In recent times, the artiste management fold has shown unmistakable signs of acute incompetence, indolence, and a dearth in creative ideas, which has stunted, and in some cases aborted, the progress of many talented artistes. This sorry state of affairs has further perpetuated the stereotype that certain kinds of Talent or Music cannot ‘blow’ in Nigeria. These days when someone declares that they are a rapper or a soul singer, inadvertently, people start to feel some kind of condescending pity for them that is conveyed via that cold, How-could-you-do-this-to-yourself-look that seems to trail them everywhere. And soon enough, the artiste gets tired of this pariah status, and decides to “diversify,” to switch sides, to dumb the music down.
It’s the job of the manager to say, “hey, I fell in love with you because of this art form and I am convinced that Greatness resides in you and I can’t wait for the world to hear your thoughts and words because they will eventually love it. Now you are going to go back into that studio and make me the most fantastic rap music your heart can muster or go and sing me some great soul music, the type that is alien to the world and leave it to me to deliver your message!” This is what it should be! The Manager should be the artiste’s most loyal believer and an unshakable pillar of support in times of self-doubt.
This is the reason I am just sick of hearing people, sometimes artiste Managers, talk like it’s impossible for one to make inroads into the Nigerian Music scene with Soul music, Rap music, even R&B is becoming an “alternative” genre too, R&B!!??. Let me tell you, guys, contrary to popular opinion, NOBODY really knows what the people want to hear; not even the ‘people.’ So, it’s not the industry; It’s your team and how much belief you have in the artiste that counts.
Managers need to wake up to their responsibility. Management is hard work and heart-work. Social media appears to have sold the present day managers a rather convenient idea of what Management should be. Otherwise, how does affixing your artiste’s photo to your twitter profile and using same as BBM display picture help to further the artiste’s career? I still maintain that as far as management goes, nothing will ever beat that good old hustle. Pick up a phone and call everyone your product would need to get ahead and put in the required leg work, just make, at least, one tangible move every day. Management is a fierce, dirty job that can’t be fully discharged hiding behind a twitter handle.
For the Act that would like to know how to hire the Right Manager, here’s my submission: Hire, first, a music lover, who is particularly head over heels in love with your music. The guy that wakes up thinking about you and your journey is The Man. The one that has the burning desire (passion) to share your gospel with everyone they come across (word of mouth never fails!). Passion is a powerful resource, and this guy will most likely get you farther than the industry top shot with all the contacts would care to. Passion is also a time-tested stimulant for imagination and creativity, and those two are essentials for breaking any act into the mainstream. Hire the guy that doesn’t need money before he thinks with and for you. This is so important, as some Managers/Management ‘companies’ now manage artistes on a retainership basis. This is an anomaly that goes against everything that artiste Management stands for. Managers are partners not employees; they invest belief, time, thought, even financial resources; they should share in your hunger and your sorrow to qualify to share in your joy and your reward. That’s just the way it is, and blessed are those Managers who haven’t been paid retainer yet they believe. Moreover, if you are one of the unfortunate bunch being manhandled by these Management contractors, well… Sorry.
The established acts are also not exempt from the debilitating effects of this, industry wide, management rot, indeed they are more vulnerable. Because certain things now happen for them(the Big Acts) naturally, the incompetence of management at this level is usually less obvious, hence, more insidious. So, Mr/Mrs A-list Act, how has your Manager improved your performance/showmanship? How has your Manager helped to improve your Fan engagement/Fan Base? What plans does your Manager have to boost the sales of your coming album? What is your Manager’s concept of your Brand? Is it in tandem with yours? How often does your manager say to you, with great excitement, “oh, I have an idea…?” How involved is your Manager in your creative process? Does your manager think you are already at the Zenith of your craft hence, not much room for improvement? You know, it wouldn’t hurt if established Acts interviewed a few prospective Managers before handing the keys to their career over to one.
Finally, there has to be ‘agreement’ between artiste and Manager; this is crucial, and I do not mean just verbal assent but oneness in vision, direction, and purpose. It is my experience that EVERYTIME an artiste has come in contact with a Manager that has implicit Faith in them, they always move mountains. As it is written, “… ALL things are possible to him that BELIEVES.”
By Obinna Agwu