Words by Ehis “Combs” Ohunyon

The urban philosopher Fabolous once said “money is not the root of all evil, attention is”. When it comes to attention, Harrysong, recently got a lot of it. The singer got in hot water for announcing the arrival of his new babies with a stock picture. The Alterplate CEO and his Abuja-based lover welcomed a set of twins – a boy and a girl – but the photo of the babies which he shared on his Instagram page was traced to its original source, a nursing website in the United States.

Right after the commotion the picture caused, Harrysongs announced the impending release of a new song titled “Arabanko” The singer explained: ‘my original plan was to release my new single titled “Wyne”, I have decided to channel my effort into another song.’ We are still waiting for the song to come but it’s obvious Harrysongs saw an opportunity and decided to milk it.

ARABANKO

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Also, news recently broke out that former Hypertek artist and “Amin” crooner Dammy Krane had been arrested in the United States after he was alleged to have been involved in a credit card scam. This was immediately followed with claims in certain quarters that the incident was just a publicity stunt in anticipation of an upcoming project, especially as his single ‘Aye Dun’ leaked days after. Further events have, however, proven otherwise.

Sometime in 2015, talented act, Burna Boy just could not stay away from controversies, from allegedly getting involved in a fight with Buffalo Souljah to being unhappy about not getting any nominations at the MAMAs and then sharing an image of himself wielding a gun on Instagram – Burna’s name was everywhere whilst his music was not.

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There have been other cases when prior to the release of their songs, some artists have taken to creating imagined situations just to get some buzz for their music. Often regarded as one of the biggest PR myths, it is said by PR advisers and talent managers that ‘any publicity is good publicity’ or ‘there is no such thing as bad publicity”, which simply implies that you are still in the game as long as people are talking about you.

It’s certainly interesting, whereas a judge would shy away from the attention that a stain might have on his reputation or a Sam Allardyce may never get to coach the Three Lions or any national team again following the undercover video sting controversy, controversy seems to work in the entertainment industry. Here it is accepted that your relevancy is sustained the longer your name remains on the lips of fans and music lovers or like M.I said: ‘if nobody talks about you, then you are nobody…’ but whilst this may be true in most places, can the same be said of the Nigerian music industry?

There are certain artists who have thrived on this theory like Femi Kuti with his hit single “Bang Bang Bang”. The infamous song was banned in Nigeria but subsequently grew across Africa, winning him numerous awards and also earned him an invite to perform at the opening ceremony of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Another is Eedris Abdulkareem who was once heralded as the industry’s ‘King of controversy’. His single “Jaga Jaga” even got a response from the then President, Olusegun Obasanjo, and this further fueled the interest in his music. There have been hits and then there have been misses but one is however inclined to believe that any publicity is not exactly good publicity, especially when the plot is not charted along intelligent lines. Like someone said and I quote, ‘there is good-bad publicity, there is bad-bad publicity and then the mother of all – corporate stupidity’.

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A classic case is 5ive star music act Skiibbii faking his own death in 2015, a prank that, ironically, led to the demise of his own career. You see, Nigerian music is a reflection of the Nigerian society – it is a projection of our values, our ideals and our culture. So in a largely conservative society like ours, where even comedians don’t touch the subject matter of death even with a long pole, the stunt backfired spectacularly. While Skiibbii trended on social media for a day, his career practically died and got buried the day after, and that was despite several damage control measures taken by the label including the ‘supposed’ sacking of his manager and constantly releasing new music to benefit from the attention. But you never know, Skiibii’s once-promising career could yet be resurrected but only time will tell.

There is also the case of foremost producer K-Solo who allegedly battered his wife Kikelomo – pictures of her swollen face were circulated across the social media sphere. In the heat of domestic violence accusations, the producer/artist granted an interview alongside his wife claiming that it was all a publicity stunt, K-Solo is yet to record or produce a hit song ever since.

One angle that many fail to understand is that ‘bad publicity’ may work for an upcoming or unknown act because the audience may overtime find it easy to move beyond that perception and grow into loving your music in the future but when you become a big name, bad publicity is more likely to hurt your brand. The effect will linger and may harm your fan base whether short term or even on a permanent basis.

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As a big brand, consciously or unconsciously, there is an expectation by your target audience towards you and how you should behave, hence the unending debate over an artist being a role model. So whilst publicity stunts may indeed get you attention, the narrative could easily get out of hand and become uncontrollable. There is also the place of poor artist managers/ handlers or publicists who are unable to take control of the situation and you find their artist worsening an already damaging situation by taking to social media to vent.

It is the joy of every artist to stay relevant, some even prefer to be reviled than to be ignored, but like to everything in life, there are limits and instead of going for cheap publicity which may or may not have the desired effect, hard work and good music remains the surest path to success in the Nigerian music scene.

Ehis “Combs” Ohunyon is a Lagos-based realtor, asset valuer and writer