How To Make A Hit Song – The Formula; Case Study – YBNL


YBNL is a well acclaimed record label which has been in existence for about 6 years now. The label has steadily risen and has gone from having one artist  to having more than 3 artists and 2 producers.  Olamide, the CEO Of YBNL , was the first artist under this label. He is currently one of the biggest artists in Nigeria as he is the most successful of the so-called local rappers. I’m not here to give you a history of YBNL or tell you about their rise to the top, I am here to talk about what i call “The Formula“.

I have studied the Nigerian Music Industry and I must tell you that there is actually an unidentified mechanism, a technique, a combination of certain elements which a song needs to be successful.  The YBNL team is one which has mastered these elements and put them to good use because  at the moment it seems like they can’t go wrong. I would  briefly talk about these elements while usingYBNL as a case study .

I have summarised all these techniques into three:

In Nigerian music,  production determines almost 60% of the songs success because the beat of the song is one of the first things that catches a listeners attention in this part of the world especially. Most producers have a unique sound attributed to them and most times any song they use the sound for works. Sarz had it in the “Kako Bi Chicken’ phase, Don Jazzy had it with his beats always having certain traditional sounds and now, I must tell you that Young John the wicked producer has it. I can’t explain the sound to you but I bet you have noticed yourself. The success of YBNL’s songs currently, can partly be attributed to Young John’s amazing beats. He just keeps getting it right and as such always making jams.

This is an area that a lot of artistes in Nigeria get it wrong. A good hook is never enough but a catchy hook, one that would register in the listeners mind once he or she hears it, now that is what is needed. Haven’t you wondered why everyone regardless of tribe knows Olamide’s choruses. They don’t even want to know the meaning, why? Because they’ve been caught.  Look at all the songs they have churned out since last year, from ‘Story For The gods’, ‘Shoki’, Gbese, Bobo, the hooks and choruses of these songs are so catchy you just have to like the songs. It’s like YBNL have a chorus machine somewhere because they don’t seem to get it wrong ever.

Now this  is one element that nobody seems to identify. For your song to be successful in Nigeria,  someway somehow the listener should be able to relate. The listener must have an emotion rising as he listens to the song, whether pain, sorrow,  happiness, nostalgia , or just plain old excitement. The song must be able to make the person feel like you had him in mind. This is quite hard but this is why the local rappers get it easily. People relate with their native language on a far higher level and YBNL has mounted on this wave and surfed their way to the top of the charts. Olamide even found another way to ensure that his songs sink in by recycling old folk sings and slangs he did this in Bobo even in Lagos Boys. This has worked perfectly and i can’t wait to see he would do next.

Im sure you can see that these are the elements which necessitate success for a song and if you are an artist reading this then hopefully its not too late.

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