Weeks ago, Burna Boy’s Twice as Tall hit No. 1 in dozens of countries on Apple Music’s worldwide charts and reached the top 60 on the Billboard 200 in the United States. A year ago, his fourth studio album African Giant garnered a Grammy nomination and sold out arenas in Europe and North America. These albums serve as the latest examples of the growing global reach of African artists.

In 2015, Sony Music Africa signed deals with Wizkid and Davido, Africa’s biggest acts. Today, Africans are enjoying a global fan base. In July 2017, Davido performed in front of thousands at the Wireless Music Festival in London. In 2016, Wizkid sold out the Royal Albert Hall, becoming the first solo African Act to do so.

This introduction is necessary, to stress the increasing relevance of African music. This series explains the value chain and economic potential of Africa’s music industry. This first part will identify the key players. The next part will explain mini-industries, copyrights, revenue channels and investment potential. 

The Players

  1. The Artiste

The artiste creates, performs and releases music either independently or via a record label. Artistes usually specialize in a genre or a creative fusion of two genres. Afrobeat, Pop, Jazz, Dancehall, Reggae, Rhythm and Blues, Rap and so on. Also, an artist may write his own music or hire songwriters. An artist can also be part of a group or solo. 

  1. The Artiste Manager 

Artists need to focus on their music, so the manager handles the business side of an artist’s career. This includes everything that comes to mind – negotiating deals and contracts, marketing, developing the artiste’s brand, collecting payments and managing the artiste’s budget, building and coordinating the artiste’s team, sourcing new opportunities for the artiste, etc. Managers may receive a cut of the artiste’s income. Sometimes, artists may pay managers a salary as well. This often works like a retainer, ensuring that the manager doesn’t work with any other brands.

  1. The Producer

A producer overseas the creation of music and coordinates all sounds on a music track. A producer could write the song and play the instruments. If not, he is in charge of organizing it and making it sound cohesive. Sometimes, producers may even create the music and look for an artist that best suits it. Music producers may stay self-employed. This way, they are paid on a per-project basis. Producers may also work for a record label. This way, they may receive a salary. 

  1. The Composer/Songwriter

This person writes the lyrics (lyricist) and/or composes the musical compositions (composer). Sometimes, one songwriter writes the song. Other times, songwriting is done by a number of people. Songwriters often work closely with a publisher. Most of the time, the artist writes the song. This makes the splitting of rights a lot easier. The songwriter (supposedly) owns the composition rights. In Africa however, songwriters are usually anonymous and paid off. This article obviously leans towards the “supposed to be”.

  1. The Publisher 

The idea of a publisher is not very common in our industry. Alongside the songwriter, the publisher owns the composition. A music publisher simply promotes the song to anyone who may need it for whatever reason. They grant licenses to these people to use the song. These users include radio stations, filmmakers, advertisers, video games, ringtones, etc. Every time a song features in a movie or an advert, a publisher must have granted the license.

  1. The Record Label

Primarily, they market music recordings and music videos. They do something called “A&R” (Artist and Repertoire) which involves the signing of artists to the label. Record labels usually have the artist’s rights transferred to them. They determine how much the artist is paid, they own the sound recordings, they invest in the artist branding, music/video production.

Usually, a sum is invested in a new artist to cover their projects. The label recuperates this investment plus profits directly from the revenue the artiste generates. 

  1. The Promoters

Promoters promote. Artists often need to host concerts. Promoters work with the artiste and the venue, they negotiate a fee with the artiste and set up the venue. Then they promote the show to sell as many tickets as possible. Then they organize the show’s program. Promoters make money off a percentage of sale profits.

In conclusion, believe the hype! This music industry is booming. African sound is going global so more artists are being heard. More rights are being recognized so more money is being made. According to Ezegozie Eze Jr, the General Manager at Universal Music Nigeria,

There is no better time to invest. The talent on ground is burgeoning and blooming and the international market is yearning for more. The strategy is to take West Africa, and African music in general, to the world.

We’ll return next week with more!