Tuesday, 23 April 2024

The Insurgence Of 2-track Packs in the Nigerian Music scene

With the dawn of the streaming era and the continuous growth of information and technology in this part of the world, so also does ensuing changes and innovations accompany them in all industries and in a music industry especially, that has become one of the most profitable ones on the global stage—it’s only normal that the changes are not only structural and facility affiliated, but even rooted in the music itself, sonically.

Gone are the days of music blogs being at the forefront of the industry’s consuming optics and even though till now, a whole lot of people still download music for free, as data estimates that only about 20-30% of Nigerian music consumers, use DSP’s faithfully and that demographic mostly consists of music heads and hardcore enthusiasts, with the casual listeners still leaning towards free downloads—it’s still a notable improvement to the point where our artistes are now generating substantial streaming income.

The industry—although still needs a lot of investment and infrastructure overhaul, to survive by itself and not become some commodity exploited by the West and tossed aside after being milked of its utility—has come a long way and also grown to the point that it’s not only the country’s biggest exports, homegrown stars and niche artistes that are making good money off it, but even the music heads and professionals working within. Hundreds of job opportunities ranging from roles of journalists, content creators, creative directors, managers, A&R’s, stylists, graphic designers and so on have been created and filled in.

The aforementioned feats are all from the perspective of structure though, but what happens when we shift the focal point to the music itself? Well, there has been numerous changes. The market for example, has shifted from primarily being a singles market to being an album one, championed by the longevity of hit songs that body of works can produce. It’s still an hybrid market somewhat, but an artiste cannot truly have a dominant year in this climate without dropping a body of work.

Another change that is this article’s focus is the insurgence of 2-track packs. These releases are too sparse in content to be rightfully called body of works, but sometimes marketed as one wholesome drop that the impression of it being a ‘mini-project’ could catch on. But what exactly is the logic behind that? Well, the answer is probably more complicated than you think.

As the industry shifted from being a single-intensive one to an album-oriented one, the climate itself became more experimental and unpredictable. The sure fire hit songs formular that was founded on the tenets of up-tempo rhythms and groovy beats wasn’t as foolproof as before. We started to see midtempo pop hit songs and R&B hit songs. We went from the era of straight bangers and instant bops, to seductive songs that would be serviced and marketed to the point that when it does grow on you, it’ll become unavoidably viral. Basically, it became less about the quality of the song itself and more about marketing and the potential virality of a slow burn.

Mavins is one label behemoth that’s championed a number of these innovations. Introducing artistes into the mainstream with a debut EP, that captures the essence of said artiste’s sonic identity through a precise selection of songs is also another innovation they’re responsible for. As far back as 2020, Rema was also dropping 2-track packs with Beamer (Bad Boys) and Rainbow. Majorly, these 2-track packs could serve several purposes although used the same way.

In the aforementioned example for instance, Beamer is the more mainstream song with it’s Afro-Swing structure and was the irrefutable ‘single’ primed to shake up the mainstream and make a play to become a hit song. Rainbow on the other hand is a cloud trap emo song, that was never going to take off in the mainstream but by being included alongside a potential hit song in Beamer, the feasibility and even potential of the song has been increased. Rema did the same earlier this year with Holiday, the mainstream leaning, Afropop song of the duo and Reason You, the melodic Hip-Hop song that’s alte inspired.

Other times, it’s not as strategic as this and is indeed more of a gamble. A 2-track pack can also include 2 songs with the potential to take off in the mainstream, but as a result of the unpredictable climate and the fact that no one knows for sure what can become a hit record these days, the decision is left to the audience to pick their hit song. Victony and Fireboy DML have both released 2-track packs this year, with both songs leaning on the mainstream spectrum.

Some other artistes though would opt to release both singles, independent of each other at the same time, as opposed to being a single upload. Kizz Daniel’s Twe Twe and Too Busy To Be Bae is a perfect example, with the former on course to notch hit record status very soon, despite the fact that the latter is also a pop song. Ruger is another artiste that uses this same format quite well. Asiwaju and Red Flags were both released on the same day. Asiwaju went on to become the smash hit, as it rightly should have as it’s an elite pop song with great delivery and writing. Red Flags was the less likely one, but it’s not farfetched to imply an Afroswing song could also go on and do a madness.

Last year alone, there was a serious uptick of 2-track packs from notable artists and even upcoming ones alike. Rema, Fireboy DML, Victony, Oxlade, Blaqbonez, Young Jonn, Pheelz are all notable popstars that released 2-track packs, alongside other up and coming acts like Guchi, Vasa, Hsure, Siri Kruz etc joining the mix. 2024 is most likely going to see even more artistes join the train and attempt to experiment in the soundscape.

Written by T.J. Martins, an album talks writer.

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