Words by Sanele Mawisa
In today’s ever evolving world, everyone has to keep up to speed, and adapt to a society where the only constant is change. Everything that once was, is now different and how we navigate that space is crucial to becoming successful, in life and in our careers. The impact that the digital age has had on almost every sphere of life has been vast and powerful.
As the self-proclaimed Internet Boyand leader of the new wave, J Molley is a prime example of the influence of digital in an artist’s career, so I sat down with Naverone Albers, manager of J Molley, on how the role of manager has evolved, the challenges he has faced and how they have adapted to the role of a new age music manager.
How do you think managing an artist in 2018 is different to 2008?
I think the main difference is the growth in the digital space as well as the role that social media plays in an artist’s career. A 2018 industry is more conducive towards independence as well because of these online spaces where artists can build a reputation.
Do you think managers have a defined role in the artist’s life/career or not?
No, definitely not, I personally go by the title manager on paper however I do much more. I work on things from start to finish with an artist, from creating the song, to mixing and mastering, directing and editing the video, to the whole release and roll out plan. I’m part of every process the product goes through. Also on a personal basis, I probably know J & Ricco more than anyone. We talk about everything. I feel like music is very personal, so for me to be part of executing everything right I always need to be on the same page as the artist. There are things that J or Ricco would say on a song and no one even knows what they talking about but I know, before we even have conversation about it, because I strive to know their minds like that, fortunately it’s very organic between us.
How do you navigate the digital age and the need for artists to engage their online fans?
For the most part I like to keep it very organic, different personalities allow for different things, neither J or Ricco engage a lot with their fans on social media but that’s just their personalities. They are both very reserved and in their heads, I obviously do give advice as to what would be best for the careers however it needs to come from a genuine place otherwise it would never make sense. Whatever negative or positive effect it has on them career wise will be part of who they are and their narrative, we would never want to give off a perception that isn’t real or genuine. What I do focus on a lot though is content, whether it be performance videos, studio videos, trailers, I definitely put emphasis on content and social media engagement that is music based and shows off the talent or everything we about. If it’s not about music I’m not really interested nor do, I feel like it has to be put on social media.
How important is content creation for artists in today’s world?
Super important, we all about content. It’s in my top 5 priorities right now for sure.
Explain the process of developing a brand identity for an artist?
I am not sure how in depth into the process I can go really, however creating a brand identity is of utmost importance, people need to remember you for something and that something needs to be unique and distinct and you need to focus on selling that and the narrative you going for along with it. Amazing example is Sho Majozi, she has chosen what her narrative and selling point is and focuses on that, with the way she dresses, the music she makes, the way she curates everything she does. Everything needs to add up and makes sense with an artist, the lyrics you write to the sonics you choose/create to the way you carry yourself, to the pictures you take, to your captions, to your performances and your personality, it must make sense and add up and be believable, that’s why it’s always best to be yourself as an artist cause then you don’t have to work too hard on selling a certain identity or brand.
Do you believe there should be a spotlight on managers? Explain.
No not really, I really believe that you don’t really need to put a spotlight anything or anyone great, if you a great manager people will notice and the spotlight will gravitate towards you, do I feel like we should consciously go out and try put a spotlight on managers? Not really. Managers don’t need Spotlight problems trust me haha.
How do you measure the success of an artist?
I would say I measure success of an artist by how many lives he changes, how many records he’s selling and basically going international and touching people worldwide and spreading the message, lessons and stories across the earth so that others can gain something from it. However, I definitely don’t think that measures the quality of someone’s music.
How has the rise of the culture in South Africa impacted on the career of an artist?
I think it’s crazy man just to see how many kids are being found on the internet ever since J. I think the rise of the culture has just created more awareness and furthermore accessibility so it’s pretty dope. Shoutout to everyone contributing and letting the kids in, the kids are really the ones curating the streets right now.
How do you approach sponsorships and brand collaborations?
To be honest I have never really approached for a sponsorship or brand collaboration just because of what we trying to do with the brand right now, also really trying to save J’s face and aesthetic for something big. However, we do have something cool coming soon with SlikourOnLife but both me and Slikour had a mutual feeling about the whole thing less me approaching him with an idea. To be honest we don’t like to associate ourselves with too many brands, would prefer to choose one brand and build with it for a long time.
What are the challenges that independent artists face in South Africa?
Radio and TV play are the biggest problems I would say because most other problems are a result of the Radio and TV play problem. Mainly radio because TV channels also work with the radio, basically radio is the key. If you can have radio on lock everything will fall into place over time for sure. However, to get your music played on radio frequently as an Independent artist especially without any huge co-signs or features is extremely hard no matter how good your music is or how big your buzz is on the streets. Sadly. Especially if you have created your own sound. Most of the people played on radio have gone the Kwaito route or have released songs with Kwaito samples or house undertones to it, even if they not doing it now, they definitely dipped in it to gain some popularity. These requirements or patterns make it a bit tricky especially for someone who hasn’t been inspired by those sounds.
Being an artist manager is a far more nuanced role than it ever was before, mainly due to the rise of the digital age and the focus on content creation as much as the actual music. Though some challenges remain the same, there are new obstacles faced by those managing the careers of artists.
The melting pot of the rising stars in Mzansi is definitely boosting the image and attention on the hip hop industry and we’re fortunate to be the recipients of the talent on show.