Ifeanyi Okafor is playing his part in the development of the Nigerian music industry. An executive with 360 Management Company, his portfolio cuts across Music Business Consultancy, A/R, business and brand strategy, Talent Management and Marketing. He also work as the Label Manager at Kerae records. Ugo Ikeakor spoke to him to get insights into the music business.
Can you tell us more about about Kerae Records and the artists signed under them?
It is a record label that was founded last year, two amazing artists Mmzy and Emeka are currently signed under the label platform. In March, Emeka the rapper behind (Industry Diary) released his first official single under Kerae Records. Mmzy just put out his debut single titled Miracle Lover. It’s an amazing song and is available on all platforms, the video is out too. The plan is that in the next 5 years Kerae records will be among the top 3 labels in Nigeria and Africa. We have the vision so we will gradually execute it.
How did you get into the music business?
Towards the end of 2015 I got a twitter message from Oyinkansola Fawehinmi (Foza), partner at Technolawgical Partners and General Manager at 360 Management company (Incubation Factory) to be a part of the team. I moved to Lagos in 2016 and for a year I worked under Iredumare Opeyemi, Partner at 360 Incubation. Working under Iredumare and Foza, I learnt publishing, licensing, difference between marketing, distribution and most importantly the business of music.
Would you say that making and promoting music is cheap?
From my experience of leading many promotion, distribution and marketing projects, the music business ecosystem is not cheap and I am yet to encounter anyone who thinks that creating and exploiting music is cheap in this industry. There is no fixed amount to creating music.
Few weeks back Mr. Eazi tweeted he invested $100,000 in JoeBoy’s first single. For a young independent artiste who is keen on getting into the music industry what will it cost to have a song out?
My first advice to an upcoming artiste will be to learn to cultivate a fan base. It’s not all about the money when you’re starting out even if you were given 100million naira to work with. First, you need a direction. You need a producer that understands your sound, you need a manager that is on the same grind and wave length with you. I don’t subscribe to having a yes man, but you need someone that has a vision for your music to be your manager. It’s important for artists coming into the industry to know it’s about building yourself and your music. A producer that understands your sound and a manager that is willing to grind as much as the artist is the most important thing. The artist can get demoralized and tired, the manager is key in keeping the artist in check and making sure the artist keeps pushing.
How do you enhance the creative process involved in making music as a talent manager?
Young artists need to get this clearly, an A/R is not your enemy. An A/R is someone who understands the process of making music and marketing it. From matching the sound of an artist to the producer that fits that artists to mapping out the consuming demograph. This person understands what the marketing/promotion strategy should be. Not all artists have the same promotion or marketing strategy. For example, the way Rema is being promoted is different from the way Zlatan is being promoted. A good A/R understands the uniqueness when working with an artist and anyone that tells you different is a liar. A/R should be able to come out with different strategies, take the song from the studio, set up a plan and work with the team on pushing the sound further. Seeing the A/R as the enemy is very wrong.
Over the last few years we have read of conflict between different artists and their management team. What do you think young artists should do in order not to experience this?
Every human is a driver of his own vision. An artiste drives his vision and ensures he translates that vision to his team. Many young artistes have refused to define their visions before bringing on a team. The team goes to work defining a vision for the artiste and the artiste isn’t comfortable with it hence the friction that occurs. When an artiste defines his vision, most times, it leads to a long lasting relationship.
So investment in music is not charity?
Music business is not charity. If someone invests 50 million he/she intends to recoup the investment. That you have one or two hits is not enough to walk out of your contract. Once you’ve a binding contract you should and must honour it. This is particularly important to attract corporate and foreign investors that will ensure we have a profitable industry in the next decade. Every artist/label should have an entertainment lawyer, that goes through contracts and ensure compliance. Many artists see investment in music as charity, they owe it to themselves to learn about these things and be knowledgeable. Artists need to know it is not just music alone, you need to educate yourself about the business of music.
What do you look for in an artist when you’re about to sign a new talent?
I look for artist/producer who understands the business of what they want to do. Use your phone to get information on publishing, royalty etc. I strongly believe that anybody that can walk into a studio to record should know about the business of music. That is the extra edge that will differentiate any artist in this age, your sound can be good but knowing about the business of music or having the hunger to learn sets you apart in the industry. It has gone beyond the sound now. Have your sound, but understand the industry you’re getting into. Whenever I get the chance to meet emerging talents, who understand the business of music, I am keen to listen to the artist and explore opportunities to work with the person.
There’s always a conversation about the lack of structure in our music industry. What exactly is missing and what needs to be put in place?
As the world’s attention is on Afrobeat, I think this is the best time for us to work and put in place structures that are missing at the moment. But it starts with all the players in the industry understanding their rights and what they deserve. For the industry to be a better place for all, the artists, the management, labels, producers, writers must understand that everyone that contributes to creating a song, must be given due percentage. The ecosystem will be a lot better if everyone benefits. Our major problem in this industry is that the artists want to take everything and some feel they are doing the producer a favour. The producers are the most important piece in the industry but they are underrated. Some of these producers break their neck for these artists to break through, but because they don’t know about their publishing rights and the business of producing music some artists take advantage of them.
What do you think emerging producers should do about this?
The producers have a responsibility to educate themselves. I have seen producers who sold their beat for as low as 80,000 naira and they gave up all their creative and publishing rights because of ignorance and when the song becomes the number one song in the country, they become angry and bitter. A producer should know he/she has publishing rights, I shouldn’t be the one to tell them. These are the little things that matter in the industry. There are talents everywhere, but few understand the business part of what they are doing.
Your firm (360 Incubation) manages P Priime the 17year old producer who produced DJ Cuppy’s Gelato. So what goes into making a hit song?
For me, P Priime is the youngest producer now in Nigeria. He produced four songs including the lead single Pina off the GoodGirl LA LA Confidential EP. The boy is an incredible talent who we discovered during the second season of The Sarz Academy which we also manage. He is currently working with many big names and we are so excited about the magic we will do with him in the next decade. People need to understand there is no formula for making a hit song, a hit song could be about the promo or what’s trending at the moment. But I will advise young artists not to run with the idea of hit song when making a song. Have a good song, a good song backed up with the right marketing and promotion strategy can lead to a hit song.
Ideally, a good marketing and promotion strategy means identifying your target audience then exploring ways you can reach people. So it could be Radio & TV promotion, social media adverts, Playlisting, Alaba Promotion, Media Tours, DJs Etc.
Identify the ones that suit your target audience and work with your set budget.
Our sound has been able to cross over to the US market. Do you foresee a possibility where our sound will be stripped from us?
We witnessed Drake jumping on Wizkid’s Ojuelegba and now Beyonce has given us the afrobeats curated Lion King album. It’s an amazing thing to have global superstars paying attention to our sound and our market. I don’t think that our sound will be taken from us, but it can be redefined in a way that it appeals to their market. Burna Boy’s African Giant has shown that we can feature artists from different parts of the world and still retain our sound.
What do you look forward to seeing happen in the industry?
I do hope and I am working to see it happen in my time, that we get to a point you don’t need to be an A list musician to make a decent living in the industry. You don’t need to be a Wiz or David to be financially stable whether as a talent or business person in the industry. But for that to happen the industry must prioritize the business of music above every other thing.
Are you invested in the business side of music because you’re an accountant?
*Laughs* That’s not true. It has everything to do with my training and understanding that the best thing that will happen to the industry is when we prioritize the business of music. Working with Iredumare Opeyemi and Fawehinmi Oyinkansola (Foza) made it possible for me to know this and it’s my aim to teach others. That you can be a song writer in this industry and be earning well. It can only happen when we put the business of music ahead of everything. Also, my B.sc has to count for something too na, abi wetin you feel?