One of the most useless ventures any creative can embark on is to get him or herself worried about Copycats. They are short and largely inconsequential hurdles on your way to greatness, focusing on them will only magnify them and make them seem larger than life. From time immemorial, they only last for a while, especially in the media industry and it’s affiliates. The simple reason for this is that media and other creative industries require lots of consistency, passion, perseverance and a good measure of originality.
I remember some few years ago, when Tunde Ednut started growing to become one of the most influential Nigerians through his Instagram blogging, and he was enjoying himself like no man’s business. I could remember that not long after that, some of his colleagues, particularly Samklef and Ubi Franklin, wanted to have a piece of the pie, so they started blogging too. Tunde was sad and I could tell from his reaction that he was worried, so much that he unfollowed them both. Fast forward to 2022, the pretenders became tired, distracted and too busy to keep up. This is what happen to copycats, and this is what I mean when I say the copied has nothing to lose while the copier stands to benefit nothing.
However, copying is not entirely a tale of woes. As a matter of fact it is a beautiful place to start something great if well done. I will be tempted here to cite some entertainment examples. I believe you know media and entertainment are like Siamese twins, they go hand in hand. The great PSquare started their career imitating Michael Jackson, I was shocked the day I realized Wizkid’s debut hit, holla at your boy is an imitation of a song by a certain South Korean singer named Se7en, on a track titled Girls, where he featured Lil Kim. Adekunle Gold’s debut Sade was an imitation of One Direction’s Story of my life. Banky W’s debut Ebute Meta was an imitation of Rihanna’s Umbrella. The list goes on and on!
Now that you know that copying is not entirely bad, it will also be good for you to know that there are keys to copying right. Forget about the legal definition of copyright now and focus on its literal meaning. To enjoy the benefits of copying and avoid its possible liabilities, pay attention to the following things I will be mentioning below;
Firstly, you have to be creative. I read somewhere that creativity is 5 percent research and 95 percent ability to hide your source. Even the great Albert Einstein was quoted to have said “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” Therefore if you ever feel the need to copy, make sure your sources are hidden, but in a case where your source is prominent and quite popular, what you need to do is to publicly acknowledge it. Personally, I believe acknowledgement is the wisest and most honorable thing to do, because in this age of technology, hiding your source is no longer that easy, almost an impossibility. It costs you nothing to acknowledge and give some accolades to your source. I have never for once failed to acknowledge that my ground breaking radio show, back then at Space FM, Toritori, was an adaptation of the popular Tifun-Tedo programme on Splash FM.
I adapted a Yoruba radio programme and processed it to create a new Pidgin language show. After the alterations, which includes translation from Yoruba to pidgin, I also infused my own ingenuity, which includes relevant music, humorous translations and transitions, funny laughter and so on to create something radically different from what I originally copied. So after hiding or acknowledging your source, as the case may be, you need to be creative with it. Spice up the content, stamp it with a personal signature and make it yours. Then, your acknowledgement will look like a reference for your original work, which gives your work credibility and makes it more professional.
Also, if you must copy, copy from a far distance, a very far one. Too much proximity breeds contempt. Many entertainers that copied from under their nose never grew to become great, because the copied person felt threatened at some point. Therefore, to increase your chances of succeeding at copying, copy from a distant place, the farther the better. You will be shocked the day you travel far and stumble on an exact replica of your favorite radio or Television show. Some tactical people copy like 2-3 different shows from different places and create something unique from their cocktail of ideas. With the help of technological tools like Radio Garden, you can sit in the corner of your house in Kutuwenji and monitor radio stations in India, China, Malawi, Rhode Island, Somalia, any where in the world. This ranges from online radio to Terrestrial radios, so it is sheer laziness and indolence for you to restrict and limit yourself to copying from within your city, especially when you cannot thoroughly transform the original content to something new and refreshingly different.
Likewise, strive to understand what you are copying, know the essence and the rationale behind every single thing you wish to copy. This understanding will greatly help you in analyzing and dissecting the idea, to know what is permissible and which part of it will be irrelevant or even offensive to your own audience. There are behavioural patterns informed by cultural differences, so don’t go and copy a successful radio show from China and expect it to be 100 percent relevant to an Agatu man in Benue, or a Nupe woman in Niger. You have to make informed adjustments and alterations to make it relevant and acceptable in your own clime. In summary of this point, copy the soul of an idea, alter its spirit to suit your audience and completely change the body to give it a new look. By so doing, you would have successfully created something original!
Lastly, don’t rely on this style for too long, just use it to jump start and gain necessary attention to kick off something inspired within you. Follow the step of the examples I cited earlier, PSquare, Wizkid, Adekunle Gold, Banky W, as they have all moved far, above and beyond the initial copied work they started with. Don’t be stuck in the shadow of another man, be a man or a woman of your own! Don’t die a copy cat, when you can be a Legend.
What do you think? I want to hear from you, before next week!
Kayode Adeniyi Esq. (Afouda Samuel)
Head of School