It’s Beyond the Music: Why Artistes Need to Embrace Creative Direction
In recent times, the need for an image easily associated with an artiste has increased. Musicians have come to understand that aside from sound, fans want to connect with…
●1st March 2021
In recent times, the need for an image easily associated with an artiste has increased. Musicians have come to understand that aside from sound, fans want to connect with them on a deeper, more intimate level. To satisfy this demand, visual imagery and storytelling have become additional means to relate with their fans. In a weird twist, artistes have become content creators with a unique spin, providing their fan bases with streamlined entertainment and telling their stories, and painting pictures of how they would like to be seen. Jaden Smith is pink and soft, constantly lovestruck and passionate about the environment, while Rema is smooth and suave but still maintains his innocence through his relationship with a teddy bear.
A great example of this is Nigerian band, The Cavemen. The band’s mission is simple: revive the highlife genre, and make it cool again. And to be fair to them, they have done just that. Their image has been a huge help in this; loose, earthy-toned clothes, green and brown album covers, intimate concerts, and adorable quirks like the lead singer being the band drummer as well. All these combine to project a mood and a spirit of nostalgia on the fans. Even though The Cavemen’s core fan base consists of young Nigerians, the music evokes a longing for a time before theirs: when Osita Osadebe, Nico Mbarga, and Rex Cardinal Lawson were the major voices, a time when the country was young and full of potential before things went sour.
Social media has played a massive role in this projection and expansion of identity, with artistes having a constant avenue to communicate with fans and give them content. And while the quality of the music is important, the videos and images that accompany them possibly hold higher value because of their ability to transmit the artiste’s message to fans, as well as attract new believers to their gospel. TikTok, Instagram, and Youtube are the most common apps to discover new music, despite being visual-based applications. This is because of the extra content that can be created around the music: reaction videos, challenges (read: Bussit Challenge, Don’t Rush Challenge, etc.), interviews, and pictures that create moods. This has led major music streaming companies like Spotify and Apple Music to integrate video content alongside music.
In this new landscape, creative directors have become an essential part of a musician’s team, with their input needed every step of the way during a single or album rollout. The ways we experience music have kept evolving over the years; from vinyl to cassette to streaming online, technology will always play its part in helping us enjoy our favourite albums and songs. With every project intended to be an experience, creative directors fit all the pieces in the puzzle; graphic design, promotional images, music videos, etc., to create a cohesive and seamless experience. Hence, accepting creative direction and taking it seriously is important for artistes and their fan bases in today’s visual world.
To understand this developing branch of music, B.Side spoke to some players in the game, who shared some insight into creative direction in Nigerian music.
Yinka Inker, Creative Director
Adeyinka Sadeeq Adeleke, also known as Yinka Inker, or SDQ, is a creative director based in Lagos, Nigeria. Highly accomplished in his field, he has worked with Mr Eazi, Joeboy, YCEE, Odunsi (The Engine), LAX, and Psycho YP to mention a few. He spoke to us about working with musicians and balancing their visions with his artistic ideas.
B.Side Mag: What is creative direction to you?
Yinka Inker: It’s multifaceted. It’s basically the artist’s ability to represent the musician’s ideas through visual work; pass on a message for them. To me, it’s how effectively I can let your visual branding speak for your work.
What do you consider first when an artiste reaches out to you for creative direction?
Personally, it’s how vested the person is in the art. Some people just want to push things out without a message, and then you’re left with the burden of having to create the message for them. But, some people know what they want to represent, or at least have an idea; they are intentional with their art. So for me, it’s the message. What message are you trying to put out? What do you want your brand to stand for? What do you want your music or videos to stand for?
I see. So how do you select the creative partners you work with? Videographers, photographers, make-up artists, etc.
Research, like with my art. I like to research, so I can learn, as well as find people, interact with them and their art, and pick who is perfect for projects.
So you don’t have an in-house team?
No. I like to experiment; I like to recommend. I like to give people opportunities and recommendations.
That’s actually quite helpful; creatives get exposed that way. How important do you think creative direction is? And do you think more musicians should embrace it?
Creative direction and all-round intentional branding are what separates the greats from regulars. I understand not everyone has a big budget or the money to spend, but a mini team is essential; maybe a photographer who’s also skilled with designs, so you can pay him efficiently. The same way you’re looking at spending big bags on social media PR is the same way you should look for the budget to create a visual image for yourself.
What do you think about artiste branding? Do you believe it is essential for musicians to create a brand for themselves intentionally? Or should fans just perceive/interpret it however?
Perception is very scary. It’s good and bad, you know? Like, if your brand is secrecy or mystery, That’s the direction you should go for. But if it’s a case where you allow people to guess, then that’s very dangerous because they can start guessing things that aren’t meant to be.
Yeah, that is true. Finally, how do you handle the social media part of the job? How do you relate with the PR team, influencers, and all of that?
I try to create assets, so it’s very easy for them to post. It’s also important to let them know what we are trying to achieve.
Visual assets that help organise a border on social media apps. Have you seen Burna Boy’s Instagram? Stuff like that.
Daniel Avery, Videographer
Daniel Okah, or Daniel Avery as he is more popularly known, is a Lagos-based videographer. He spoke to B.Side about working with artistes and creating videos that help communicate their moods or feelings.
B.Side Mag: How did you get into videography?
Daniel Avery: It was a “mistake”, to be completely honest. I was bored, there was no light, so I started googling random things, and here we are.
So it wasn’t something you had considered before?
Nope. I don’t still believe I make videos, even though it’s been over a year now. I have always been interested in visual media, though; I used to model a bit in university, so I guess it was easier for me to get into this field.
What do you consider first when an artiste comes to you with a project?
I listen to the song several times before asking them if they have any idea in mind. You always have to ask because it’s their song and their project. They made the song so they probably have an idea of what they want to do anyway.
I feel you. How much of an impact do you think videos have on a fan’s perception of music?
Music videos allow the audience to see what the artist feels through the visuals; if the artiste has a mood or message they are trying to create with the song, videos are an easy way for fans to connect with that. The imagery, the emotion, the models, the settings; everything is coming at you at once, without you having to conjure up something from your imagination. There’s no “I wonder what she meant by that” or “ What does this lyric mean?” Also, on the artiste’s side, having a music video boosts visibility and exposure.
What do you think about artistes having an image? Do you think they need to create some sort of persona for fans to connect with them?
I think you should just be real with yourself and your music. If the music is good, if the energy is real, the fans will connect. I don’t think you have to go out of your way to create an image, you get? At the end of the day, na God dey make person blow.
What challenges do you face?
As a videographer, finding locations for your idea can be difficult. The part where you have to negotiate your rates with artists could be frustrating because there’s almost always a gulf between how much you value your work and how much they value theirs. Depending on the context, interpreting the artiste’s idea is probably the most exhausting part, but that’s your job.
Finally, are there any artistes you really want to work with?
Burna boy and Jack Harlow, so help me, God.
Eri Ife, Musician
Adedamola Akin-Onigbinde is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist. A lawyer during the day, he is known by fans as Eri Ife. He talked to B.Side about brand image, music videos, and how he handles creative direction.
B.Side Mag: How important is creative direction to you when releasing a song or a project?
Eri Ife: It’s the lifeblood. I need it even in writing songs, you know – the product itself. Because if I don’t have a direction – a theme or a topic to write about, for example – the song will just end up anyhow. For the creation process, and then in strategy for rollout, and creating all the content that ties into production, shoots, release, promotion – it’s super important.
I see. Attention to detail is essential. How do you select creative directors to work with? Do you have a go-to guy, or is it on a case-by-case basis?
I have a go-to guy: my manager, Lolu, but I usually take input from contributors as well.
Is it vital for you to have an image? Do you want your fans to view you in a certain way?
I think it is. Unfortunately, I haven’t quite hacked mine. The image I currently have, and project, as an artiste, is more circumstantial than selected.
How is that?
I did super well in law school and when I was in Uni. I was really popping on campus, I even got the attention of Don Jazzy back in ‘17. I was proper popping, so it made sense — the A1 law student.
God when? So, your image is “law-student-turned-music star”?
I wouldn’t say star. At least not yet.
So what is the most crucial part of the rollout for you?
To be honest, I don’t think that any one part is less important than the other. I think cover art is important, I also think consistent social media engagements from the artiste’s side is incredibly necessary (although I’m currently on hiatus). I also think release tactics – whatever the plan is: publicity stunt? Nice video? IG skit? phone screenshots? – are incredibly important. Basically, something that cuts across all stages like creative direction is foundational.
I feel you. Are music videos important to you as well?
Music videos are super important for certain releases. It’ll drive more attention to the audio and create discussions beyond just the audio that happened with Tems’ “Try Me”, and Burna and Wizkid’s more recent release [“Ginger Me”].
Do you have plans for your brand and image?
Of course. In the short term, as Eri Ife, and in the long term, in relation to the legacy [that] I intend to build.
Does this mean you intend to expand past music?
Past being a recording and performing artist? Yes.
Can you expound on that?
Well, my long-term goals in relation to music stretch beyond just shutting down shows and being on stage. In the long run, I want to create opportunities for the talents to come, those who are willing to grind. I want to support community and collaboration among artists. It’s still just taking form, but I’ll sort it out.
Wow, that sounds great. I can’t wait to see what you come up with. Final question, are there any creatives you will like to work with?
I’d love to work with the lads from Mavin and the lads from Aristokrat.