The Place Of Luck In Starting A Music Career

Is there anything like luck in a music career?

2Face and Face were together in Plantashun Boiz, the group. None of them could be said to be more talented than the other. Both were strong and powerful vocalists in their own right. But somehow, 2Face rose after Plantashun Boiz broke up to shine on the global music entertainment industry. On that and at that level Face is nowhere to be seen.

There is a Nigerian ragga artist named Johnny Major. He was featured on OJB Jezreel’s seminal album collection for his artistes in the late 90s with a song titled Dem Don Kolo. D Banj was on that same collection with Kiss. You are probably asking now who the heck is Johnny Major. D Banj is a global star. Remember. For both of them to be on that collection they were viewed at the same level of prospects at that point.

Beyonce Knowles and Kelly Rowland more or less started out together with Destiny’s Child in 1990. Both were strong vocalists and wonderful performers. Both got liquid curves on their bodies and used them well too. Today Queen Bey is the crowned monarch of the game. Kelly Rowland is not even in contention any longer.

Luck is the idea that ‘success or failure’ may ‘apparently’ be ‘brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions…’ according to an online dictionary. In the three examples we have above we can identify an element in the stories that may be termed ‘luck’. It is not easily explained. At the same time it is so easily perceived.

Chance, rather than personal action. To me it sounds more like chance factors completely outside your control that nevertheless determines your happiness or your misery. And if there is anything any rational human being will want to control it is happiness or misery, the way both affects the individual. We all love happiness. If I am a musician I will like my next song to be the greatest the world has ever heard. That will make me happy. Nobody loves misery. If I am a musician I will most certainly not want my next album to flop. That will cause me to be wholly miserable. If I am to decide what will happen there is absolutely no doubt which option I will go for. But nobody controls any of that. Songs soar and albums flop, often even for the same person. But who (or what) determines what happens to who at any point in their career?

It is not only in music or in a career that we feel what may rationally be termed ‘luck’ in human existence. Luck is everywhere, if you believe in it. I do. Sort of.

I have heard a good musician once state that songs he really prepared for success flopped and collapsed like a pack of cards as singles. Instead, it is a song the producers just threw into the album to make up the numbers that later caught fire and raged. That is luck, the practitioner told me. To quote him: ‘That is pure luck.’ What the guy meant was that he actually believed that the success of the odd song, despite him being the owner and performer, was out of his control. Predictably, like the average Nigerian, he went on to ascribe the situation to God. But don’t let me digress.

On second thought, let me actually digress. If it is God that forms ‘luck’ why the heck will he make 2Face lucky and Face unlucky, when it comes to crowning their efforts with global recognition at the same level. Why would D Banj move on from OJB’s house to become one of the most celebrated musical artistes from Africa, while Johnny Major’s efforts triple flopped to nothingness, literally.

‘Like what the heck am I doing right?’ asks Lil Wayne in The Game’s My Life. You have to have the mind of Tunechi to take a look at all your glittering successes and ask God that question.

Our problem remains. Is there anything like luck in a musical career?

Yes, there is. You can call it right time at the right place. You can call it right person with the right ear. Call it whatever you like. I, personally, call it asshole. You find the asshole named luck in every career, not just in music. Even science agrees with me. Researcher David Winters cited German and Bonn based ‘Institute for the Study of Labour’ who once ‘looked at the impact of entering the job market during a recession. In this case, rather than looking at salaries, it looked at beliefs. The researchers found that people who experienced a recession when they were starting to gain experience of the job market (18 to 25 years of age) were more likely to believe that success in life depends more on luck than on effort. This belief persisted throughout their lives.’

This is not such bad news. As a budding musician, to escape ‘learned helplessness’: the idea that Asshole Luck will strike you negatively whatever you do, look at these 5 tips:

  1. Stop waiting to win the next Project Fame. Basically, start doing something at the small side. Like the proverb ascribed to the ancient Chinese: ‘Smallee smallee catchee monkey’. Lots of activities on its own generate a lot of drive from which you can launch off.
  2. Stop thinking of Davido. Or P Square. Or Wizkid. You are nothing like them. Not at all. You are going to be bigger.
  • It’s ok to get that silly day job. Yeah, you can laugh about it all later on when the world is hanging on to your ears for whatever you say, or sing.
  1. Never stop dreaming – or practising. That is such a no no. In fact, that is such a magnet of bad luck. Listen to what the market is listening to and make a conscious decision where you want to take your game.
  2. I don’t care what you call what you worship. Just stay connected with it positively. There is a fair amount of rational evidence that there is a force out there that eventually lifts dreams and gives them wings.

At the end of the day it does matter what you do about your music. We cannot stop bad luck. We can only reject it. And the best way to reject it is to pay it no attention. Move on to the next positive action. Nobody has a better deal with that next move than you.

And whatever you do, never forget to always have that middle finger cocked and ready for the sonofabitch.


odega shawa

IG: @shawa_kalakutabooks

twitter: @shawa2008