There were five of us in the car journeying down a long road around West Oxford. I am not sure how the conversation started, but being the opinionated Yoruba woman that I am, I told my friends I could see myself following the footsteps of my parents. You see, I had a privileged upbringing with disciplined parents. At some point, I must have thought my father was too hard, especially when it came to education. I’m not sure how these things were resolved in other households, but, my father was committed to ensuring whichever path you took, made economic sense. Now, I can see why!‘Adulting’ is so hard I tell you *wails endlessly*.
The conversation with my friends went along the lines of what to do when your child wants to pursue music professionally or so? Before I go into details of what I really think about this, let me use myself as a case study. I am naturally an artsy person with a weird inclination towards sciences.
Most times, I felt like a walking contradiction, because here is someone who is passionate about literature, music, beauty, fashion, and sciences at similar degrees but the schooling system streamlines you to focus on one thing. So, I went with sciences, found my place in academia and surprisingly, I like it. The only problem is… my other passions yell out my name from time to time, which why I started writing. But, moving from passion to a money-making venture is not quite an easy transition. There are strategic moves you must make as this life is governed by capitalism.
Like I said earlier, adulting is so hard… starting a family is not cheap; so is paying rent, or trying to live a ‘decent’ adult life. Big dreams must be supported with realism when it is necessary.
With unconventional professions like the Arts – whether it’s painting, writing or music to mention a few, I am going to list a few things to consider before turning it to a full time money making venture.
Have a natural affinity for artistry
Be good at it. No, I didn’t say excellent, but be good at it. Being ‘good’ in my own terms is recognising distinct traits and patterns in yourself that flows effortlessly.
Flow is something you can’t describe, but you recognise you can do things easily where others might struggle. With music or writing, it is a skill which is mostly natural, but can be developed. Being a writer myself, I had always written from a young age effortlessly. With natural skills like this, mastery comes with consistency. Be good, and train yourself to be excellent at it.
Identify your audience
While it sounds very inspiring to say ‘follow your passion’, or drop out of school… you can make it like Wizkid! Errrhm… No!
Life is full of surprises. Favourable routes can be planned but favourable destinations are often unplanned. The ‘big break’ you desire is just a complicated mix of different things happening at the same time, more often than not… Luck, God… something not as directly proportional to hard work or even talent. Creatives especially, must be careful with their mindset towards their gift. Just because you are gifted creatively, doesn’t mean the world owes you.
It is important that you recognise that it is one thing to have a gift, it is another for it to be economically viable. The Nigerian music industry is a fantastic illustration of this. There is a reason why alternative musicians struggle with recognition and monetary returns in the music industry compared to their mainstream counterparts. Yet, there is also a reason why ‘Asa’ the Queen mother of alternative music doesn’t have this problem.
First of all, it is a demand- supply thing. The Nigerian environment barely caters to good/ timeless music produced by alternative purists. My guess is that ‘Nigerians’ love familiar sounds and once you deviate from the norm it is a lot harder to penetrate into the hearts of people. Really, people find it hard to love what they don’t understand.
Don’t take bad advice
Following from the point above, it is not worth it selling your soul for relatability. So what do you do? You can wait it out while staying true to yourself. Now, here is what you don’t do- Do not drop out of school. Get an education, be ‘well’ educated! It may become irrelevant later on, but you need it as a solid fall back option. Also, don’t quit your job/look for a job. Dreams can fund themselves, but until you find an avenue to do so, find an alternative money-making route.
Some people are fine with unorganised streams of income and some are mortified by the sound of it. It is all down to your personality and what you want out of life. Chasing a dream which gives you an unorganised source of income may have knock on effects later on in life. It is important that you build a clear vision around stability and how you can achieve stability under odd circumstances.
Think beyond yourself
If you are going to make money doing something you love, you need to understand that it is not about you. It is not about your passions, either. It is about giving people something to believe in. You have to make people believe in what you do so much that they will pay you to do it. Make it a case of ‘why me’? Ask yourself, if not me, then who? This is what gives you marketing power.
I am not an expert on these things; I am just writing out my thoughts, as there are many like me, who like so many things… but struggle with transition from one point to the other. My advice is: explore your gifts, start small, start steady, and cultivate mastery.
When the inklings of your calling becomes so loud that you can hardly hear anything else, develop a realistic business model.
So BN’ers have you ever had to choose between what you love and what pays? Have you successfully transitioned from passion to a money making venture? Are you, or do you have kids, siblings, family in unconventional or artistic professions? Please leave a comment below, I would love to read your contributions.