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Understanding Music Marketing Beyond Publicity Stunts: A Guide for African Artistes

Understanding Music Marketing Beyond Publicity Stunts: A Guide for African Artistes

While publicity stunts may offer a cost-effective approach, if artistes depend solely on controversies or other gimmicks to promote their music, they risk losing relevance when such controversies are absent or exhausted.

By Hope Ibiale

Picture this: an artiste creates a good record, releases the song on music streaming platforms without any announcement, and goes on a vacation.  For many, the path to creating a hit song may only involve merging pristine production chops with exquisite songwriting and a visually pleasing music video. But is doing this alone enough to guarantee the success of the song? What is the missing formula that can take a great song to the right audience and ultimately introduce it to new listeners all over the world? This is where music marketing comes in. Without music marketing, an artiste’s best record may get lost in the stream of a thousand releases.  

Music marketing is the vehicle that transports a song to the audience. It is the use of strategic techniques to connect artistes with listeners while also bringing their latest work to a new fan base. In simpler terms, music marketing is positioning music in the places an artiste can find their listeners. 

Contrary to popular opinion, songs don’t just magically appear at the top of Billboard charts, randomly get stuck in people’s heads, or automatically get millions of streams. Although sometimes all it takes to achieve viral success is a stroke of luck. Take the example of Goya Menor’s breakout hit “Ameno Amapiano (You Wanna Bamba)”, which gained traction on TikTok, propelling it to gold-star status and becoming the most Shazamed Afrobeats song in the world in 2021. While luck can sometimes lead to unexpected viral hits, especially in the age of social media, depending solely on luck is unreliable. 

To understand what music marketing is, however, it is important to point out what it is not. Music marketing involves strategic planning and execution that ensures that an artiste’s music reaches old and new audiences, which is far off from what a publicity stunt is. Unlike publicity stunts, which are often one-off, attention-grabbing events designed to create temporary buzz, effective music marketing aims for sustained engagement and long-term connection with listeners. Unfortunately, this is a route that artistes — especially African musicians — seem to be adopting, what I like to call “one-way” marketing. 

If you are abreast with the African music industry, you should be familiar with the current music rollout process: publicity stunts on social media or interviews just before or after an album or record drops. These unconventional approaches aim to draw attention to the soon-to-be-released music. Everyone seems to be on this path, from disassociating themselves from Afrobeats, faking their deaths, threatening to quit music, releasing sex tapes, or rekindling the flames of almost-forgotten feuds.

Not only are publicity stunts quite distracting, but they are also ineffective and demeaning to the parties involved. These stunts can be compared to a magician’s daring performances. But unlike a magician, artistes do not need to thrive on these meaningless pursuits because art should be consumed in its purest form. It shouldn’t be experienced using sensationalism or with a stain on the artiste’s reputation, which may cause fans to question an artiste’s credibility. While these stunts often generate attention from a large audience and might take over the blogs for a couple of days, in the end, they quickly fade away. 

For instance, the feud between Nigerian artistes, Wizkid and Davido, started with the former posting a degrading video of the latter. The video sparked a lot of conversations on X and Davido immediately expressed his displeasure over Wizkid’s post. During the back and forth between the artistes, there were assumptions that this was another publicity stunt to rile up anticipation for Wizkid’s next release. After all, the purpose of a publicity stunt is to draw attention to a particular issue, in this case, Wizkid and his future releases. The possibility of this being a marketing move behind his outburst cannot be subtracted from part of the reasons why he decided to verbally attack other artistes because it is a pattern that has been witnessed before. If this is the case, it immediately confirms that African artistes have started to rely heavily on controversies to thrive or advertise their latest releases. This confirms the previous assertion that controversies lose their impact quickly. And while the feud between the artistes has been renewed, it has been overshadowed by other events.

“It is short-lived”, as music marketer, David Adeyemi posits. He continues, addressing the recent spat in one of Afrobeats longest standing feuds, “If you check gossip blogs you will see the number of stories that have been posted after the Davido vs Wizkid beef. Yes, it works, but it is short-lived”. To date, the MI vs Vector feud is regarded as one of the biggest rap feuds in the music industry. While one produced memorable diss tracks, the other was and still is merely an immature exchange of words. At the end of the day, listeners are distracted by the controversy and when the music is released, the pertinent question of whether they enjoyed the record or listened to the record because a controversy will diminish the quality of the record.

This begs the question, are there no other marketing strategies to employ when preparing to release a song or album? Certainly, there is a variety that artists can employ to different levels of success, and it, of course, begins with blowing your own trumpet.  


We no longer live in the days when artistes solely relied on their record labels to get their music to the audience. Now, artistes have to explore self-promotion. This entails strategies and activities that musicians undertake themselves to promote their music, one that is further aided by the power of the internet and social media.  

Recently, Nigerian artistes, Tems and Ayra Starr announced the release dates for their albums Born in the Wild and The Year I Turned 21. If you are an avid music lover, you would have noticed the media runs, and promotional videos that have been shared by both artistes on their social media platforms. They are also informing their fans of what to expect in the rollout. 

The cover art for Tems’ upcoming debut album, Born in the Wild

Music marketer, Zaddy of Lagos, speaks of aggressively putting one’s music in front of everyone’s faces.  He comments, “If shamelessly hawking your music is a marketing strategy then that will be number one. The biggest companies in the world put their names anywhere and everywhere and it shouldn’t be different for artistes”.  

Music can be viewed as a product. The artiste is the seller, while the listeners are buyers in a global market. Big brands like Coca-Cola and Nike, spend millions of dollars yearly on their marketing budget because over time it has generated revenue and helped their brands connect with consumers. Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” marketing campaign is still ingrained in people’s minds because of how memorable and compelling it was. 

By integrating some of the marketing strategies such as consistent brand messaging, building emotional connections with consumers, and curating creative campaigns African artistes can establish a more recognisable brand in the music industry and build a loyal fan base while also reaching new audiences. As Zaddy acknowledges, the biggest names in the industry have been able to transform their art into brands, beyond just the music. Whether it is placing music cover art on billboards or making the music available on the artiste’s social media pages, mailing list, and official website, the audience will have an easier time finding their music. 

However, self-promotion is just one aspect of an artiste’s marketing step. Beyond getting their work out there, it involves creating a compelling narrative that will resonate with the audience. This is where combining storytelling in their marketing strategy comes in. 


Every marketing strategy needs a story to thrive — an effective approach in the success of a marketing campaign. Storytelling helps to build a meaningful and emotional connection between the artiste and the listeners, making the music more memorable. 

An artiste’s story can be told through their album art cover, music videos, behind-the-scenes visuals, and fashion style. One reason why Joeboy’s recent two-pack project, “Adenuga/Concerning” might resonate with a lot of listeners is as a result of the video series he released before the records were released. Joeboy portrays a love-driven man who decides to rob a bank to foot his girlfriend’s, Belema’s (Jemima Osunde) never-ending bills. This is a relatable story that the audience can resonate with and become invested in, especially certain young-adult demography. 

Recently, Lojay put out a video announcing his next record, “Billions”. In the promotional video, he tells the story of a robbery gone wrong. At the end of the video, there is a cliffhanger that will surely attract listeners. What happens when a gang of armed robbers attempt to rob a house but forgets the heist plan? This question would increase the anticipation for the official music video and song. 

That is the power of a good story. It becomes ingrained in the minds of the listeners and it ultimately pushes them to the music and the artiste behind it. If executed properly, storytelling is a perfect marketing tool. Music videos are a key part of storytelling in music marketing. It’s not only a form of promotion for musicians, but it is also a visual representation of an artiste’s song and can also showcase the artiste’s style and persona. Clear music videos create an immersive experience that enhances the emotional impact of the music.

It should be noted that adopting the same marketing strategy for every song release like putting a record on the radio, playlists, photoshoots, cover art, and shooting music videos may become redundant over time when the art of storytelling and diversity is not employed. Creativity is key when selecting marketing strategies because fans and potential listeners may become disinterested if they see the same approach used repeatedly, diminishing the impact of each new release. What works for one release might not be effective for another, especially as new platforms and methods of engagement emerge.

Recently, snippets have also been adopted as a marketing tactic. A few years ago, artistes guarded their releases, but today artistes like Asake, Ayra Starr, Tems, Pheelz, Lojay, and many others use snippets to offer the tip of the iceberg to the listeners without giving much away. Think of snippets as a film trailer. They heighten the anticipation of the audience.  But this, too, should be done with great care. Before the release of Pheelz’s “Finesse”, it had already become a TikTok success because of the snippet released before an official drop. Asake’s success story would not be incomplete without the recognition of the role snippets played in his career. For each of his records released, there has been a snippet that has impacted the success of his songs. A  snippet shouldn’t exceed a certain number of minutes. If a snippet plays half of the song, then what expectation is the artiste building? Also, artistes shouldn’t offer snippets all the time as some songs need to be freshly introduced to listeners. 

Having the Right Team

Another way to diversify marketing strategies is by hiring a professional and creative marketing team that understands trends and can execute creative marketing strategies. Consider your genre, study previous marketing strategies used by other artistes, and understand what your goals are as an artiste before you hire a marketing team. Analyse the results of other music marketing campaigns to understand what works for your brand. 

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Sponsored Content

Sponsored ads are also a marketing option for artistes, however, submitting a random ad without an angle that would resonate with the audience might not generate results or reach the target audience. If an artiste chooses to place ads on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, X, or Spotify, then the ads have to resonate with the artiste’s creative vision and most importantly, they must resonate with your audience. Sponsored ads like photo ads, video ads, messenger ads, Ad studio, and many others can easily spread the gospel of an artiste’s music all over the world. 

Sponsored ads work better when it is intentional and show why a musician’s artistry is different. Each musician has a unique style, sound, and narrative that sets them apart from others in the industry, this is what the ad has to show. Intentional ads highlight these distinct qualities, emphasising what makes an artiste stand out. By showcasing their unique artistry effectively, musicians can differentiate themselves in a crowded market and attract the attention of their target audience. 


Collaboration with other artistes is a key marketing tactic because collaborations expose artistes to new fan bases. The collaboration between Rema and American singer, Selena Gomez, on “Calm Down” is an example of a well-thought marketing move. After its release, “Calm Down” has become one of the most commercially successful African records in the United States. Fireboy’s collaboration with British artiste, Ed Sheeran on “Peru” is another evidence of how collaborations can take a song to the top. A month after the release of the “Peru” remix, it had more than 24 million views on YouTube and 31 million Spotify streams, and led the Apple Music charts in the United Kingdom and the numbers are still growing. 

Collaborations serve as an effective marketing strategy because they expand an artiste’s reach and enhance their brand, and their songs also get promoted on the featured artiste’s platform and connect them with new audiences. 


The crippling cost of music marketing may explain why artistes often resort to following the same template of publicity stunts. Also, the cost of music production music videos, radio plays, inflation, and other important expenses may be prohibitive for emerging talents or those operating within limited budgets. Publicity stunts offer a cheaper shortcut to being at the forefront of trending topics, providing artistes with a platform to showcase their music to a wider audience. As Adeyemi says, “Publicity stunts are a cheaper way to release music but at the end of the day, social media gives it 24-48 hours, and all the attention an artiste has accumulated is gone. It’s not going to convert as much as when you have real storytelling or an original rollout plan”. 

Also, the desire for overnight success, the pressure to stand out in a competitive industry, and a lackadaisical attitude toward their art may fuel the inclination towards attention-grabbing tactics. Many artistes perceive publicity stunts as a means to accelerate their rise to fame. They capitalise on viral moments to bolster their presence in the music scene. But while publicity stunts may offer a cost-effective approach, if they depend solely on controversies or other gimmicks to promote their music, they risk losing relevance when such controversies are absent or exhausted.

Not every listener is captivated by surprise releases, rants on X, controversies, or any other vague marketing. As Zaddy emphasises, “With marketing, you not only get to perfect the product you are trying to put out, it is the music, brand, and personality. You are also able to ensure a lot of people see it. No talent is wasted and if you are good at it, no money will be wasted”.

Many music enthusiasts may never meet their favourite artistes in person, but they forge connections through their music. That’s why artists need to bring their music directly to their audience. The music industry often presents success as effortless, but it’s essential not to be deceived into thinking that artistes achieve it without marketing. Merging creative music marketing strategies with one’s artistry serves as the initial stride on this journey.

Hope Ibiale is a writer and journalist. She has a keen interest in music, film, and literature. You can connect with Hope on X @hopeibiale and via email: 

Cover Photo by Josh Sorenson on Unsplash.

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