MBW’s World Leaders is a regular series in which we spotlight some of the most influential industry giants outside of the US and UK markets. In this feature we are talking to Temi Adeniji. World Leaders is supported by PPL, a leading international collector of intellectual property rights.
Temi Adeniji left the land she calls home for new pastures once when she left Nigeria as a child, where she spent the first nine years of her life.
It would often be journalistically appropriate to claim that Adeniji “never looked back” – and her later successes in the US are certainly noteworthy enough to justify this. She graduated from Princeton University before completing a law degree from Columbia University (with University College London), building a successful early legal career, and joining Warner Music Group in 2016 as Director of International Strategy & Operations.
Indeed, in the past five years at WMG, Adeniji has pledged two promotions – to Vice President and then SVP of International Strategy & Operations – while developing key corporate initiatives around the world, including a transformation partnership with Nigerian indie label Chocolate City.
Now, however, Adeniji has the opportunity to look back both excitedly and purposefully.
On September 1st, Adeniji will move from New York City to Johannesburg to become Managing Director of Warner Music South Africa and SVP, Strategy, Sub-Saharan Africa.
As such, she will have a direct impact on the Warner Music Group’s operations in these areas, including her native Nigeria and other major nations in sub-Saharan Africa (including Ghana, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Tanzania and many others). ).
In her new role, Adeniji will report to Alfonso Perez-Soto von Warner (EPP, Eastern Europe, Middle East, India and Africa). She takes on further responsibility as SVP of Special Projects and gives her the freedom to look for international opportunities for Warner outside of Africa.
Here Adeniji MBW talks about her return to Africa, Warner’s strategy on the continent towards Sony and Universal and the enormous potential of many African nations in the future of the record business shaped by streaming …
Congratulations on your new job. You will make a big change in your life when you jump from NYC to Johannesburg. Why make this commitment?
It feels very natural. I’ve been working at Warner for more than four years now, often very closely with our team in South Africa and our partners across the continent – I have a great passion for the artists and the music there. But despite being a regular guest, I haven’t lived full-time in Africa since I left Nigeria when I was nine.
“Although I’m a regular visitor, I haven’t lived full-time in Africa since I left Nigeria when I was nine.”
I’ve worked at the heart of the company developing our strategy and this has been a real opportunity to bring that perspective to our day-to-day operations.
Our local team is incredibly knowledgeable so together we will develop a truly unique, dynamic approach.
Some would say Warner was slower than Universal or Sony when it came to taking advantage of the opportunities in Africa – is that fair?
I don’t see it that way – we’ve been thoughtful and inventive, and we’ve grown without worrying too much about what others are doing. Our strategy is not about how quickly we can open new offices. We never wanted to put brass badges on doors.
“It was never about putting brass badges on doors.”
We took the time to work with exceptional local partners like Africori, Chocolate City and Ziiki Media who really understand the different markets and music scenes. We are involved in the long term and want to learn as much as possible and create real added value.
In your opinion, what misunderstandings do observers from outside Africa have about the music business there?
I think the biggest misconception many people have is that Africa is a single market with a single music scene. You often hear that executives from the US or Europe refer to any type of music that comes from the continent as “Afrobeats”, which is so pared down and frankly intellectually lazy.
“You often hear that executives from the USA or Europe refer to any type of music that comes from the continent as ‘Afrobeats’, which is so pared down and frankly, intellectually lazy.”
Africa is an extremely diverse continent with different cultures, languages and contexts.
There are more than 50 countries, all with exciting local music scenes – from Alté in Nigeria to Bongo Flava in Tanzania to the resurgence of the Kwaito sound in South Africa – a “one size fits all” approach just doesn’t work, you have to be nuanced and culturally sensitive be.
Are there any priority markets in the region that you are looking at?
We take things region by region. There are some markets that have low hanging fruit and others that are more difficult to penetrate. Of course we are already established in South Africa and want to expand our presence there.
“We know this is a marathon, not a sprint, we want to do things right and not just rush into other deals.”
We have also formed some important partnerships in West and East Africa that made us known there, and we are very consciously building on these foundations. But we know this is a marathon, not a sprint, we want to do things right and not just rush into more deals.
Is there any chance of monetizing most of Africa’s music consumption in the near future? What has to be achieved in order for it to succeed?
There are two main challenges. The first is to build a music ecosystem that will serve its purpose. That means things like governments ensuring fair enforcement of intellectual property rights and setting up strong performing rights organizations.
The second is to address the issue of data costs so that people can listen to music uninhibited. That has happened in markets like India, in Africa we have to take similar steps.
Do you think that real global superstars will emerge from Africa in the next few years? Which challenges have to be mastered for this?
We’re already seeing stars come from Africa and build a global audience. Look at the success of the likes of Burna Boy or Master KG. We are also very happy about people like CKay and Zahara who are under contract with WM South Africa. [as well as] Blaqbonez from Chocolate City and Focalistic from Africori.
Stars from countries like France also draw on their African roots in their music – just look at artists like Ninho and Aya Nakamura.
“It’s only a matter of time before African artists are among the biggest names in the global music business.”
Streaming makes access to music more democratic, and pop music draws heavily on African influences in many markets. So it is only a matter of time before African artists are among the biggest names in the global music business.
The talent is undisputed, the sound is undeniable.
What impact does Spotify’s recent expansion in Africa see on the global industry after a similar move by Apple Music last year?
We’re excited to see more opportunities for licensed music consumption as competition is healthy for the market.
These DSPs have a track record in other areas and we hope they will do well in Africa too. Your presence will help monetize the domestic markets and also open up international opportunities for African artists.
“All of the global charts we’ve seen on streaming services in the past excluded sub-Saharan Africa. That is more than 1.2 billion people who are not represented. “
All of the global charts we’ve seen on streaming services in the past excluded sub-Saharan Africa. That is more than 1.2 billion people who are not represented. Now these people are starting to join these services and this is going to change their global demographics.
It should also be emphasized that there are established regional services such as Audiomack and Boomplay, which have been present for a long time and have played a key role in driving the growth of the market. As we have seen in other regions, local services can remain important players even after global players start doing business.
When you look back in five years, what would you have liked to have achieved?
Africa has been an afterthought for the global music industry for too long. I want to build a sustainable business in Africa that can be seen as a standard bearer.
Part of what I want to achieve in this role is to put Africa at the center of the conversation. And that means that more artists from Africa are taking their place on the global stage and expanding our offering on this fast growing continent.
If we could give you a magic wand to fix something in the music business today – in Africa or elsewhere – what would it be and why?
On the continent, I would wave my wand to drive the cost of data usage down to zero. And actually that’s not an impossible dream.
We have seen that investing in fiber in India has reduced the cost of data usage there to some of the lowest in the world, fueling the growth of the digital music market. It’s an approach that can work for Africa too.
“I would like the music business to shift away from just discussing the English markets towards a more global conversation.”
On a global level, I would like the music business to shift from just discussing the English markets to a more global conversation.
There is so much amazing music coming from places that are still overlooked because it’s not in English – we have to change that mindset for good.
World Leaders is backed by PPL, a leading international neighbor rights collector with world class activities that enable artists and rights holders around the world to maximize their royalties. PPL was founded in 1934 and raises money from all over Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and North and South America. Since 2006 it has raised over £ 500 million internationally for its members.Music business worldwide