For the past few years, there’s been an interesting debate across Ghanaian radio stations about the value of a musician’s die-hard fanbase system. To some people, the die-hard fans usually branded as movements, empires, nations, and so on are the woes of Ghana’s music industry. “I don’t believe in having a fan nation; the ‘Nations’ in Ghana music industry are killing it,” highlife and afrobeats star, Kuami Eugene sometime back shared his opinion about the subject on Day Break Hitz. However, others believe these fanatics are the engine that propels the artist to success; no matter which side you stand with, one fact remains true, in today’s music world, acquiring a loyal fanbase helps the artist to attain career goals. Every musician needs a following to build a sustainable brand.
As an entertainer, you need superfans to make it to the top and stay there. Whichever name you call them, provided they accept the tag, they are people that care so much about your brand – in every debate win or lose, they stand by you, buy your merchandise, and stand in queue for many hours to get tickets for your shows. We never wish for chaos, but in certain instances, when things get out of hand, rivalry generated from fan base movements can lead to catastrophe. For example, the war of words between Jamaican dancehall singers, Mavado and Vybz Kartel turned into bloody warfare between Gully side and Gaza, where people died. It took the President’s intervention to bring calm.
On the bright side, infamous dancehall maestro, Shatta Wale’s Shatta Movement, probably Ghana’s largest fan army with popular slogan, “SM4Lyf”, is the backbone of his empire. Shatta Wale has established a strong relationship with his SM fanbase, particularly the ghetto world. He motivates them, understands their struggles, speaks for them and they adore him for that. In fact, the Shatta Movement is the heartbeat of the Shatta Wale brand, – when it stops beating, it’s the end of the road for the street king. Manifest has got his “Manifans”, there’s “SarkNation” for Sarkodie, and Stonebwoy’s “BHIM Nation”.
The story is no different in Nigeria. The “Marlians” hold down the fort for Naira Marley, Wizkid has got “Starboy FC”, which ensures he runs the streets, and perhaps, the “30 Billion gang” would go all out for Davido. There’s not been a confirmed nickname for Burna Boy’s fanbase though it’s purported to be the “Outsiders”, but whatsoever, his superfans made him the African Giant.
Truly, having die-hard fans who would ride or die with you is a blessing for your career as a musician. Nevertheless, not having such a movement does not guarantee you cannot excel. It’s your job to identify a niche that connects with your brand and continue to get them hooked to your joints. Movements like the above-mentioned groups are only problematic when they break the laws, but they are not the downfall of the Ghanaian music industry, they rather bring excitement to the game.