Gidi’s Chin Okeke named MD, UMG Nigeria
Chinedu Okeke, founder of promoter Eclipse Live and executive producer of ‘Coachella in Lagos’, Nigeria’s Gidi Culture Festival, has been named managing director of Universal Music Nigeria.
Reporting to Sipho Dlamini, who has been also promoted to CEO of Universal Music South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, Okeke will oversee the expansion of Universal Music Group (UMG)’s operation in both Nigeria and other English-speaking west African countries.
The hiring of Okeke is one of a trio of new appointments for UMG in Africa, with Elouise Kelly also joining as COO of Universal Music South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, similarly reporting to the newly elevated Dlamini.
The leadership appointments cement UMG parent Vivendi’s focus on growing its activities in Africa, which also include similar initiatives in French-speaking west Africa, where the company has built a string of entertainment venues and cinemas.
UMG, the world’s largest recorded music company, is itself active in Nigeria, Kenya, the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Cameroon, Morocco and South Africa.
“There has never been a more exciting time for African music around the world”
“There has never been a more exciting time for African music around the world,” says Dlamini, “as it continues to influence and inspire culture and creativity while reaching a wider audience globally each day through streaming.
“I am delighted to welcome both Elouise and Chin to the UMG family; their unique skills and experiences will only help to further establish UMG as a bedrock within the African music community that will continue to put the interests and opportunities for artists first and help elevate African talent to new levels of success at home and abroad.”
Adam Granite, UMG’s EVP of market development, adds: “I am thrilled to announce these strategic appointments, as we look to further develop our domestic infrastructure and label rosters within Africa. Most integral to achieving our long-term ambitions is to build a strong leadership team on the ground, with deep foundations in each country, to help grow a dynamic ecosystem for all to benefit in the future.
“Over the past few years, Sipho has shown great leadership, commitment and vision for music in Africa, helping UMG to introduce new talent to audiences around the world and identify opportunities to lead the industry in licensing and supporting new platforms to reach African music fans.
“Elouise and Chin both bring welcome new skills, proven entrepreneurship and important leadership experience that will only serve to bolster UMG’s position as the market leader across Africa.”
Africa: the power of music
I’ve been watching the African music scene very closely for many years – not because my family’s from Tanzania or because I think African artists need my help, I do it because the music market that’s developing over there has enormous potential for growth.
Africa’s sounds have long been audible on every continent – as sources of inspiration, in samples, and through collaborations. Now the artists themselves are making the leap so that they can take Europe and the rest of the world by storm with their songs.
The African music industry also offers incredible economic opportunities. It’s a source market for selling African music in Germany, Europe and the world, and a target market where increasing digitalisation, new business models like streaming, and an ever-expanding middle class, promise additional potential for sales. What’s more, as the home market of African artists, Africa is extremely attractive to African audiences. A healthy, vibrant domestic market is ultimately still the best environment for helping the stars of tomorrow to grow.
One of the most important factors for developing young talent in Africa (as elsewhere) is the live music scene. Especially at the start of their career, artists have to be able to try things out and play in front of audiences so that they can grow creatively. Unfortunately, the infrastructure needed for this, like venues and a solid network of promoters, can’t always keep up with the speed at which the industry is developing. That’s why Universal Music itself is increasingly getting involved in the concert and festival scene in countries like South Africa. It’s also now behind 11 live music venues in West African countries including Senegal, Cameroon, and Ivory Coast.
“The image of a place ravaged by famine and violence is being replaced by one of a continent filled with opportunities and looking to a prosperous future”
As the world leader in music-based entertainment, it’s in our own interests to actively further our artists’ home markets. Incidentally, my colleagues are doing this so successfully that many artists who aren’t part of the Universal Music world choose to collaborate with us for live shows. In South Africa alone, we booked over 600 artists for shows in 2017, and we’re on track to exceed that figure this year. It’s therefore no coincidence that U Live – a division of Universal Music South Africa – is the booking agent for The Voice of South Africa. U Live Africa also produces live concerts and festivals in Nigeria. These include Runway Jazz, Cocktails & Wine, and the first Nigerian concert by US music project Major Lazer.
Creative products like music are some of the most valuable and definitely the most sustainable resources that countries in Africa possess. We help our artists and local partners to develop and harness their own creative and economic power. We expand their reach and help them tap into their transcontinental potential. Above all, we work with our artists as equals because the success they have achieved in their home markets rightly makes them self-assured professionals who are secure in their own careers.
Concerts and festivals are the best places for us to see how much traction an artist has with the audience. In a way, it’s like we can watch new trends being born. We’re really excited to see the momentum that genres like hip-hop, gqom (a relatively new hit genre from Durban), and house have gained. Things are pretty much the same in the pop world. Africa might well be made up of many different countries that each have different traditions and music, but just like any other continent, stars come along who are universally awesome and work just as well in Cape Town as they do in Nairobi or Berlin. That’s the level we’re looking for, and we keep on finding it.
“Stars like Vanessa Mdee from Tanzania, and Mafikizolo and Nasty C from South Africa, are the new heroes of the continent”
International artists are also helping to develop Africa’s music industry. South Africa, for instance, has long been home to an excellent promoter scene, that in turn attracts other players.
Tanzania will be the fastest growing media and entertainment market in the world up to 2021. South Africa’s music market is expected to see constant growth in excess of 5% over the coming years. And Nigeria, which ranks number two in Africa, should even see ongoing double-digit growth. As well as making the eyes of dedicated A&R managers light up, that’s also music to accountants’ ears.
Yet music can do so much more than just business. African stars are creating a new face for their continent and changing the way people see it. The image of a place ravaged by famine and violence is being replaced by one of a continent filled with opportunities and looking to a prosperous future.
Stars like Vanessa Mdee from Tanzania, and Mafikizolo and Nasty C from South Africa, are the new heroes of the continent. Their power, their star appeal, and their presence, tell of a continent that wants more and is demanding a seat at the main table in the music industry. And for my colleagues in both Africa and Europe, it is a pleasure and an honour to support them on this journey.
Universal Music Group to expand live music offering in Africa
Universal Music Group (UMG) has this week announced it will be expanding current operations in French-speaking Africa. The move will see a new Universal Music Africa division in Ivory Coast, as well as a significant expansion of live music operations throughout the continent in partnership with parent company Vivendi and CanalOlympia.
The expansion aims to discover new and local music talent in French-speaking Africa and provide support for artists in worldwide endeavours. A statement from UMG says the expansion will “provide pan-African talent the best possible launch pad for wider international success.” The team will headed by Moussa Soumbounou, an experienced music industry exec and live promoter.
Olivier Nusse, CEO of Universal Music France comments that the appointment of Soumbounou, “will not only help us to discover and release new talent throughout Africa and other French-speaking markets around the world, but will also increase the creative, commercial, digital and live opportunities available for these artists locally, in France and now globally.”
The expansion will “provide pan-African talent the best possible launch pad for wider international success.”
In recent months, Universal Music Africa has been active in live music scenes across French-speaking Africa. Tours organised include French rapper Niska and Cameroon-born rapper Tenor. Their focus on African live music has also seen them work closely with parent company Vivendi and several of its divisions, including CanalOlympia, Vivendi Village, Canal+ and Havas.
Vivendi has had a sharp focus on developing the ‘live music industry ecosystem’ throughout Africa for some years now. In 2017, the French media conglomerate opened a host of venues across the continent as part of its CanalOlympia network. The media giant reported a ‘dynamic performance’ from its Vivendi Village division in 2017, thanks to a growth in ticketing revenue and more venues opening in West Africa.
Live music throughout Africa continues to grow after a particularly successful few years. As Chin Okeke, of Nigeria’s Gidi Culture Fest explained recently to IQ, a generation of young, passionate promoters are transforming the market across the continent. Universal Music Africa’s new move aims to further push this success.