Why global music labels are expanding in Africa

Fueled by a growing young-people population, great musical talent, great culture, and more streaming opportunities, Africa’s music industry is booming, and the world’s major music labels are taking notice.

The big three global music labels including Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group have consistently set their sights on the continent.

“International labels have always had their eyes on African music, especially Nigerian music because the music is great, the culture is great and also there is a thing about our population as a country, Nigeria is large in terms of number. So if you have a Nigerian artist doing well in the industry, you have achieved a continental feat as a label because the influence of Nigeria on the rest of other African countries is huge,” Music executive and A&R (artist and repertoire) consultant, Excel Joab said.

In recent years, they have been signing top African artists which include Nigeria’s Tekno and Tiwa Savage, Wizkid and Davido, and Ckay respectively, as well as hiring personnel for their operations in the continent, and entering deals with local labels and music streaming companies, to position themselves for a share of Africa’s growing music earnings.

Music labels popularly known as Record labels are companies that market recorded music and corresponding videos. They engage in a wide range of functions in the music industry, including new artist recruitment and development known as A&R, music publishing, and copyright enforcement.

In March, Universal’s African division, Universal Music Africa, announced the signing of the South African Gospel choir MTN Joyous Celebration. That same month, Warner Music Group appointed music executive Temi Adeniji to the combined role of managing director of its African affiliate, Warner Music South Africa, and senior vice president for strategy for sub-Saharan Africa.

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Africa’s music industry has continued to shape up against a healthy outlook for music sales and labels globally. Recorded music revenues grew in every world region last year, including Africa and the Middle East, according to the global music report by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, which featured Africa and the Middle East as regions for the first time.
“K-Pop continues to make great strides, of course, but I would argue the most exciting development this year has been how African music and African artists have been embraced by fans worldwide,” Simon Robson of Warner Music Group said in the report.

As other international music icons which include American rapper, Puff Diddy, Pharell Williams, John Legend, Anderson Park among others are making waves globally, African music stars are not left behind.
“Wizkid’s ‘Essence’ is one of the biggest songs in America this year, not just Nigeria. It was on the billboard for 100 top ten and that’s a huge deal, earning the attention and interest of international labels to invest more in the African music industry,” Joab said.

Other African music stars on the roster of Universal Music Group include South African rapper Nasty C, Tanzanian Bongo flava singer Diamond Platnumz, and Kenyan Afro-pop band Sauti Sol.
“The company sees opportunities in African artists, live music, and streaming services. But the country’s youthful population is a major draw,” Franck Kacou, managing director at Universal Music Africa and the head of its operations in French-speaking Africa said. “Demography is our inner power,” he said.

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