Frank Nwafor is the founder of a music distribution and marketing firm, Sound Genie Nigeria. He tells TOFARATI IGE about business in the music industry
What is your educational qualification?
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Estate Management from Bells University, Ota, Ogun State.
Why did you set up the company?
It was established to aid the growth of independent artistes, focusing primarily on up- and-coming ones. Our goal is to create a seamless relationship between digital service providers, artistes and their fans.
As an A&R personnel, what exactly do you do?
A&R, the short form of ‘Artiste and Repertoire’, is an individual responsible for talent scouting and overseeing the artistic development of recording artistes and songwriters in a record label or music publishing company. My main objectives as an A&R is to scout for talented artistes, groom them and create opportunities for them to get their music heard.
What do you consider as your achievements so far?
I started my career as an A&R in July, 2019. I was blessed to have a good friend popularly known as Camille Storm. She was the one who guided me on this path.
My first ever project was the ‘Timz’ Extended Play album by an artiste called Bad Boy Timz. The artiste in question went on to be Apple Music’s ‘Artiste of the Month’ for a certain month. The EP also had over two million digital streams in its first month of release and so far, it has had over seven million streams.
I also handled A&R for Vector’s latest body of work, ‘Vibes before Teslim: The Journey to Self Discovery’. It made it to number one of the hip hop album category on Apple Music and has had over three million streams since its release in November 2019.
My most recent achievement is Timz’s latest single, ‘MJ’ which was distributed by my company. It made it to the top five most streamed songs list in Nigeria in three days.
I trust God and I work really hard. Therefore, I’m sure there will be greater achievements to come.
How important are A&R personnel to the entertainment industry?
A&Rs are the backbones of the music industry. We scout for talents, see through the recording process and determine the music collaborations to be made. Also, we ensure the songs and the artistes behind them have maximum exposure. Personally, I think A&R is the most important aspect of the music business and soon, the world will see that.
You’re also a music consultant. What roles do you play in that regard?
As a music consultant, I create career plans for artistes. I coach them on performing and also help with the recording process. In addition to that, I help to plan their project rollouts and marketing.
From an A&R perspective, how would you assess record label structures in Nigeria?
Compared to other countries such as UK and US, the record label structure in Nigeria isn’t very solid. There are only a few of the existent companies that can boast of being well structured. Most labels focus on the immediate financial reward and disregard the welfare and mental health of their artistes. They find it difficult to invest in and empower their team members. It’s no longer surprising seeing artistes fight with their labels. Most labels don’t think long-term. But, I’m glad we have some well structured record labels such as Mavin Records and YBNL that are constantly breaking boundaries. Although we’re not there yet, I believe sooner than later, we would have a more solid record label structure in Nigeria.
What are some of the challenges you have encountered and how have you been able to overcome them?
Music business in Nigeria is big and expensive. It’s not news that to push one’s music in Nigeria, one would have to spend a lot or have a connection to someone influential in the industry. I didn’t have any of those two options when I started my career. Therefore, I depended on building relationships to survive. When I started my career, I barely understood how the music business worked and I also got denied by ‘gatekeepers’. I went back to my drawing book severally and created a plan to put more value on myself and now, gatekeepers are a thing of the past.
Have you been able to accomplish the purpose why you established your company?
No, I haven’t. I still have a long way to go. Music business changes constantly, so one has to adapt.
How can digital streaming be a game changer in the entertainment industry?
I’m glad that now, there’s more awareness of digital streaming. Artistes are paid royalties when their songs are streamed and with the right song and proper roll out, a single can fetch one a fortune through digital streams. Nigeria, for a long time, has had problems with music blogs uploading songs with free download links rather than the official song link directing to a different streaming platform. Whenever this happens, artistes lose money and it’s painful because artistes put a lot of work and energy (not to mention funds) in the creation of a body of work. Digital streaming with a proper marketing plan ensures artistes’ hard work pays off.
Do you think the Nigerian entertainment industry has made the most of the opportunities provided by digital streaming?
We haven’t, but awareness about digital streaming is fast spreading and I’m glad about that. I spoke about it at the Social Media Week in Lagos earlier in the year.
In what ways does your firm empower youths?
My company is focused on not just distribution and marketing but we’re also focused on grooming artistes. We are not all about artistes. We have different departments such as Playlist, Distribution, Marketing, Content Creation, that are run strictly by youths with little experience. At this stage of my career, I believe in growing together. I personally do not fancy hiring top professionals. I would rather hire youths with high potential, dedication and passion with a good idea of how things work. I would provide them with resources needed to advance their knowledge and groom them to become professionals over time. When they become professionals, they empower other youths and the cycle continues.
What stirred your interest in the music business?
I have always loved music— from the production to the promotion aspects. I have ventured into different branches of the music business such as rapping, production and promotion and every experience was filled with so much excitement that I enjoyed. Music is my escape.
Have you ever worked under an employer?
No, I haven’t. As a matter of fact, I have never thought about working for any other company. I am more focused on building my own company through affiliations with record labels and music publishers.
What are some of the principles you have followed that have helped you to be a better businessman?
Some of the principles I have followed are— being open and willing to learn, patience (delay is not denial), setting realistic goals and working hard to reach them, learning from my failures and correcting them rather than taking them to heart, and removing the entitlement mindset.
I believe that if one wants value, one has to bring value. Focus on adding value first. Also, one must be honest, transparent and have integrity.
In addition to that, one must never get comfortable. I believe there’s always something new to learn every day.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
My mum is my biggest inspiration but in the music industry, it would be Don Jazzy and Mr Eazi.
What’s your advice to youths who aspire to work in the music business as professionals?
Take care of your mental health, be patient and ready to go through the process. It may be long and painful but the reward is bountiful. As my dad always says, “The difference between extraordinary and ordinary is the ‘extra’”. So, whatever one does, one shouldn’t forget to put in extra energy, passion and dedication.
Source : PUNCH NEWS