Passion and talent have given us a lot to believe that impossibility is a myth. Over the decades, we have witnessed many talents who have evolved different innovations that inspired generations even till the 21st century. However, many talents have also been destroyed for different reasons caused by themselves or some external factors.
Meet VitusSpeakz, a fast-rising Ghanaian spoken word sensation, a global speaker as well as a creative writer. He has a distinguished personality and he is set out on a mission to impact the world.
The unmatched spoken word artist whose birth name is Vitus (meaning “life”) decided to include what he does (speaking) in his brand name, as a way to herald his art.
His stage name, VitusSpeakz, literally translates “life speaks” and is a perfect reflection of his craft as he tends to speak on different facets of life in his poems and rhetoric.
In his interview with Gabi, he shared with us some of the tips a talented person must have to stay relevant in the field.
Walk us through the early life of your career transition?
Growing up I have always loved writing and oration. As far back as I can remember I have always had the gift of the gab and love for creative writing. However, I never saw myself taking up a profession in either of these two areas. In fact, I actually wanted to be a pilot. But much later in life, I had what I will call an epiphany of clarity with respect to what my purpose is. It was then that I realized that those two talents I possessed were not merely to be used as hobbies but as instruments for achieving my purpose and impacting the world. And so, I decided to be deliberate about my approach to the art, and several years down the line, here we are.
What exactly inspired the realization of your purpose?
Borrowing the words of AVMB, “The issues that infuriate you are the ones you have been destined to solve”. I discovered quite early that I was supposed to lend my voice and use my craft to impact my world. And so, I am heavily motivated by the things around me. I am of the view that the state of the world is merely a reflection of people’s views. And so, if I can positively influence the views of the vast majority of people, then I influence the world positively. This understanding has been my cynosure and my art is that instrument with which I touch the world.
How does your craft fit into the entrepreneurial space or market?
First of all, I knew certainly that if I really wanted to pursue a career in this art, I would also have to focus on the business aspect of the craft. I am of the view that talent and passion alone aren’t enough. There is a need for artists to focus on the entrepreneurial or business side of their craft. Typically, artists need management personnel that will handle the managerial aspect of their brands. However, I decided not to outsource the management of my brand, but rather invest time and effort into learning in order to build and manage my brand and also position myself well in such a large market. I learnt from those already in the business who have gone ahead of me and paved a way.
Spoken Word is a relatively new art form. It is still growing in its acceptance especially in our part of the world. But the truth is that several other art forms that are popular today such as some genres of music, comedy and others, at one point in time were not so popular. It took commitment to getting these crafts to the point they are now. So, I chose to be deliberate about popularizing my art form and also focus on the business side of it, thus learning how to translate the talents and passion into monetary returns.
So, there has been a deliberate effort of strategy, time, learning, funds, investments to bring the brand to where it is now.
How did you position yourself in the crowded market?
Like I said, I needed to be strategic about my passion because I realized passion alone isn’t enough to get me there. I needed people to see how tangible this art can be. I learnt a lot from other art forms like comedy and music and the entire creative process they go through to stay relevant. I learnt their techniques of marketing. I saw how they leverage the power of social media to make their art thrive. I started doing the same. I began to invest in video content creation, marketing and promotion.
Thereafter, I started getting invitations to perform at events. I learnt from how comedians and musicians were able to create events around their craft. I translated that into my own art. I was learning from various established artists and in cases where I didn’t find enough people in Spoken word art to look up to, I didn’t mind looking to other art forms. I was poised to learn.
What are the challenges faced so far and the milestones you have achieved aftermath?
I have faced a lot of challenges in this journey. The first one was breaking the stereotypes that exist around poetry. A lot of people hold stereotypes around the art of poetry. They think it is either too boring, too long or too difficult to understand. Initially, I had such stereotypes about the art too so I could understand where they were coming from. I figured the way to break these stereotypes was to be more creative, do shorter pieces and talk about more relevant things or of more interest to my audience to get their attention. And surely, it worked!
Also, I discovered that a lot of people think the art is boring probably because they have been exposed to a particular style or genre of poetry that doesn’t appeal to them. So, I began exploring different styles and genres and people appreciated it.
Another challenge I faced was people’s unwillingness to pay good money for the art. Owing to the fact that the art form is not very well established here, it was quite hard initially to get event organizers to pay you your worth. They don’t see why they should pay so much for a five minutes performance or probably less. However, what they fail to realize is that a five-minute performance is the result of several hours of creative thinking, writing and rehearsal. I came to realize that if I invested in building the brand, there would be so much respect for the brand, and it will attract people of value who will be willing to pay value. Exacting standards only scare off people with lower standards.
Regarding milestones, one of the biggest milestones for me was being able to host my spoken word event; Creative Convos. It was a vision I had been harboured for a long and seeing it come to fruition was fulfilling. That would have to be one of my greatest milestones.
So many talents started well but were later consumed by some of these challenges you mentioned. What exactly are they lacking and what do they need to do?
I will mention two things; what they have and what they lack.
What they have is passion and talent which I have already stated are just not enough to get you there.
What they lack is strategy and patience and this has distinguished me from a lot of my peers in the industry. The fact that I added strategy to my art and passion. In a world where several people are talented, what sets you apart from other equally talented people is strategy.
Being able to strategize by knowing how to position yourself among many talented people is the key for me. You have to look at what you can do to move your art from where it is now to another level and build a marketable or commercial brand.
Every form of art has faced these challenges one way or the other in the past. There was a time when hip-hop wasn’t that popular when it started in the US as street art in the hood. It took people’s consistent efforts and strategy to move it from the street to mainstream media. So, if you want to go far, find strategic ways to move your art to a point where you are not merely relying on passion and hope.
What does the future hold for VitusSpeakz?
Honestly, I have barely scratched the surface. There are so many spaces we can push spoken word art into where it is least expected.
So much I see looking into the future of my brand.
First of all, I want to grow my fan base. With a strong fanbase, the other plans and visions I have can easily thrive.
Next, I want to become a more recognized voice on the international front. I am of the view that if we don’t represent ourselves well internationally, we can’t blame anyone for misrepresenting us.
If we don’t begin to tell our own story, whichever story is written about us would remain. Art is one powerful tool we can use to tell our story.
I definitely want to keep learning more from other art forms and artists and push the art of spoken word poetry to become a more widely accepted one especially in our part of the world. I believe in the art and I know there is more we can do with it. I look forward to the days where I would be able to fill large auditoriums, conference centers and arenas with people eager to listen to the beauty of spoken word poetry.
What word do you have for those who aspire to walk on this path of career?
First, I would say again that talent and passion aren’t enough, you need a strategy.
Next thing is that you shouldn’t expect it all to happen overnight. Sometimes, we have too many expectations. However, the problem isn’t the expectation we have but the timeline within which we expect those things to manifest. Great things take time, so if it must be great, then it’s worth the wait.
There are no overnight successes. Jeff Bezos says it took him ten years to become an overnight success. If you are starting up, be willing to go through the process. If you are impatient and want it to happen for you almost immediately, you will get disillusioned very quickly and end up giving up. Don’t overestimate what you can do in one year and underestimate what you can do in a lifetime.
So hold on to your passion, but have a strategy. Work hard, and with dedication and the God-factor, you will achieve success in good time. I’m sure of that.