Olamide and YBNL seal joint venture deal with Empire

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Olamide Baddo has been that one mainstream Nigerian artist who has kept his goals to himself and not made a concerted effort to pander to the West. His YBNL label has also generally acted as an accelerator for artists like Adekunle Gold, Lil Kesh and most recently, Fireboy DML in that it offers a platform and backing for them to pitch a larger audience while allowing them to retain a degree of independence. That, however, changes with the news that the label has closed a joint venture deal with U.S label/distributor Empire.

This is an interesting move particularly in the context of Olamide and his straddling the surface between Rap, Pop and his predisposition to Yoruba which could complicate the task of marketing him to a new audience. That said, Fireboy could be the big beneficiary as his 2019 debut, Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps helped mark him out as perhaps the most talented pop star the country has seen in a little while. While the likes of Joeboy and Rema who broke out in the same timespan had the backing of better structured and positioned labels like Mavin and emPawa, this opportunity should negate that disadvantage and prime him for the big stage. His recent interview with Dazed also hints at a star with an eye on newer markets.

As Joey Akan also points out, this is perhaps the first deal in the era of Nigerian artists signing deals with foreign labels that is clear for what it is: a joint venture. This framing will be key as it improves the layer of opacity we’ve come to see in the music industry and also as part of the continuos learning required to bring the Nigerian music industry in line with best practice.