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Is Twitter The Nigerian Music Industry’s Most Powerful Platform?

A deep dive into the social app's influence on the music industry.

Towards the end of 2019, two unfamiliar light-skinned boys attracted users’ attention on Nigerian Twitter. They showcased their rap prowess by exuding an unusual flow over the instrumentals of Chinko Ekun’s “Able God”, leaving music industry professionals pleasantly intrigued. Within an hour, Twitter did its thing and somehow discovered all their information. Some days later, exciting news surfaced online about them: Olamide had signed the duo of Yomiblaze and Picazo to his imprint, YBNL.

For some years now, Twitter has transitioned to a valuable tool in the music industry. It’s grown into a platform that artists have leveraged as a connection point to their fans and lure listeners who might not be fans. Through Twitter, artists quickly improve their visibility by promoting a new drop, bantering with fans, or contributing to trendy topics and arguments. The bird app makes it easier for them to have a quasi-human relationship, opening up the artist’s world to the listeners. Listeners then become hooked to the artist’s socials — judging by how frequently an artist regularly comes online to tweet and interact with followers. That activeness helps the artist in increasing their numbers on the app. “You’re likely to follow and be intrigued by an artist who’s often coming online to bant with you,” Harbim Pryme, a media strategist, explains. “2014/2015 were good times when you could become hooked if an artist follows you or retweets your post. You become a super fan.”

In recent years, Twitter has transcended from a social media app to a musical universe of sorts. To put it into perspective, of the ten most followed Nigerian Twitter accounts, seven belong to artists. From 2014, Twitter began to heat up as artists used the app more often than other social media platforms. “The reason why artists and other music-inclined people use Twitter a lot is due to the ease at which you can just talk about anything. It’s not as complicated as Instagram where you have to be strategic in terms of looking for the right photo or a lit caption,” infers Tochi Louis, an artist helper. That ease of access would soon take another form, degenerating into hostility between Nigerian artists.

One memorable conflict that gripped Nigerian music Twitter occurred between rivals Wizkid and Davido. Two teenage pop stars at the time, the ill-conceived animosity people had always envisaged about them first surfaced on Twitter. They both sparred each other in back and forth subtle tweets. This led to an increase in artist-led online feuds; you can recall how Olamide went on a spree on Twitter lashing out at Don Jazzy after Lil Kesh’s Next Rated Award loss to Korede Bello in 2016.

But asides from the surrounding areas of intersection that Twitter brings to music, one main area of concentration boils down to promotion. Put away the human-to-human interaction that breeds fun on the app; artists are on Twitter for the profits: visibility and promotion. Artists know there are so many benefits that can be derived from maintaining a presence on the platform. “Twitter is like the center of conversation and that means whichever artist or brand can successfully hack Twitter, whoever can successfully promote on Twitter will be able to become a conversation driver,” Dolapo Amusat, Creative Lead of WeTalkSound says.

Being at the center of conversation scoops up a variety of benefits for an artist. For the artist, it indirectly makes sure that their name pops up at most discussions, sometimes unrelated to them. “There might be an artist comparison, let’s say artist A vs Artist B, fans of artist C will see that their artist isn’t included and go on to insert or comment his name,” Harbim says. That springs up the importance of fan groups.

Before the advent of stans, music enthusiasts were known to support a slew of artists. One could enjoy the music of Davido and Wizkid altogether with no qualms. All that changed when the artists began to feud. As one side supported Wizkid, a clump of others argued for Davido. As time passed by, both artists would unknowingly draft names for their fans. Wizkid FC and 30BG. And the effect these two fan clubs have had on their artist’s careers has been enormous, resulting in a meteoric increase in popularity.

Twitter, a plug for music discovery

In 2020 as the pandemic raged on and the spate of music releases declined, Blaqbonez crafted a witty strategy in diverting attention towards his new release, “Haba”. With the hashtag #StreamHaba, he released a trove of funny videos and tweets, urging viewers to lend some minutes in listening. Several times, passionate followers joined in on the campaign, sometimes using the famous hashtag on even unrelated tweets to prolong awareness about the song.

It worked for him as the song itself spiraled into the upper echelon of Apple Music Top 100. That’s just one out of many successful campaigns that have kickstarted a song’s success on Twitter. “Twitter plays this role in generating conversations around a song,” Ayomide Oriowo, Co-founder, Turntable Charts, says. A great example of this is Wizkid and Tems’ global smash hit, “Essence”. Many international celebrities talked about it on Twitter, influencing the people that follow them. According to Dolapo, it creates this domino effect: “When you see a lot of people, respected people tweet about a song, you’ll be compelled to check it out and listen. Furthermore, since it’s a good song, you also might go on to tweet about the song, and your followers will see it too.”

This brings to mind the big question: what if Twitter was non-existent? Would music discovery be this easy? There are instances when a verified account you follow and check out tweets about a song alongside positive words, and out of curiosity, you’re prodded to listen out of curiosity.

But this can be negative, sometimes. Last year, a new term called “mid” was formed by stans to brand songs or albums that sounded subpar or failed to resonate at first listen. It’s possible that how you perceive a song even before you listen has been influenced by the person, according to Dolapo. “And while listening, one could be forced to be biased by adopting their opinion. You’re listening to confirm their opinion or argue with their take.”

Still, even those negative reviews can help shine attention to a new release. With the way Twitter works, if an artist’s name or title of a record is mentioned so many times by different people, it will end up being a trending topic within some hours.

The power of Twitter in magnifying the rise of a new artist

2021 has been an exceptional year for the music industry. New acts like Ayra Starr, Ruger, Ria Sean and Lojay were ushered into the limelight, usually unveilling themselves through Twitter.

But whatever success a music act garners is all dependent on the quality of the music. When the music resonates, Twitter can become a tool to further elevate that success by creating a persona people want to discover. And this is a sentiment Tochi Louis agrees with: “From a good use of Twitter, you can ensure your audience stays glued to you by demystifying your brand. Making your audience know about you can help a lot. Oxlade as an example, you know he’s a grandma’s boy, he’s from Surulere, it’s from Twitter you can have a deep dive into an artist’s world, that’s if an artist makes good use of it.”

Sometimes, an artist’s campaign can help the audience form a conversation about them or the song, if well worked. One could come across opinions like “‘Bloody Samaritan’ for song of the year.” Right or wrong as they may be, these opinions reflect the diverse online strategies put in place by artists and their teams.

“Bloody Samaritan”, for example, has been aided by a viral dance challenge serenading mainly on Instagram and Twitter. This heavy online fixation can thus strengthen controversial thoughts.

So, is Twitter the music industry’s most powerful platform?

This writer thinks it is, given the influence it wields in terms of conversations booming on the app and the awareness it gives to artists and their content. Dolapo also agrees: “When you look at how it helps to drive streams, drive engagement, its use wields enormous power. Asides from that, it has a deciding role in proving who’s popping and who’s not.”

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