By Njideka Agbo
Warner Music Group (WMG) has announced a pioneering partnership with Chocolate City, the most influential independent record label in Nigeria. The partnership will dramatically grow the reach of African artists around the world, and will create new opportunities for global superstars in the region. Chocolate City will continue to be led by Co-Founders Audu Maikori and Paul Okeugo and EVP of Imprints, Jude Abaga and EVP of Recorded Music, Aibee Abidoye.
Chocolate City is home to a diverse roster of local talent from various genres including: Femi Kuti, four-time Grammy nominated son of the Afrobeat pioneer Fela; hip-hop artist and record producer M.I. Abaga, Afro beats sensation Dice Ailes, Nosa, ClassiQ, Ruby Gyang and promising new acts Blaqbonez, C Kay and Street Billionaires. In addition, Chocolate City’s catalogue includes celebrated acts such as Brymo, Ice Prince, and Jesse Jagz.
Partnership Creates New Opportunities for African Talent Around the World, as well as for Global Superstars in Africa.
Under the terms of the proposed deal, music from these artists will join Warner Music’s repertoire, and they will receive the support of the company’s wide-ranging global expertise, including distribution and artist services via ADA – WMG’s independent label services division. The Chocolate City team will continue to develop local artists and support the management of WMG’s global superstars across Sub Saharan Africa, including a strategic, reciprocal marketing agreement with WMG South Africa.
WMG will also provide financial support to Chocolate City to achieve its mission of signing and developing the best local talent in this fast-growing market.
Audu Maikori, Group CEO of Chocolate City, comments: “At Chocolate City, we have always been passionate about discovering and developing the best talent across Africa and giving them a platform for global growth. The partnership with Warner Music Group is unique in the sense that our clients get the best of both worlds – curated and bespoke services by a highly experienced team across Africa and a dedicated global team to further push their music and their brands.”
Paul Okeugo, Group COO and President of Chocolate City, adds: “Our music is truly global and it has long been our vision to create an ecosystem through which the boundless talent in our region can be experienced across the globe – this ground breaking partnership with WMG provides both the access, and capacity to achieve this objective. We are enthusiastic about the opportunities this partnership presents.”
Hakeem Belo-Osagie, Chairman of Chocolate City, states: “This kind of pathbreaking alliance is critical for entertainment companies in Nigeria as they begin to make an entrance unto the world stage. I congratulate the management of both WMG and Chocolate City.”
Alfonso Perez Soto, EVP, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, Warner Music, says: “The music scene in Nigeria is so rich and diverse that it’s important that we develop bespoke entrepreneurial strategies. At the same time, we’ll keep in mind the lessons learned from other emerging markets, for instance Latin America where we successfully broke local artists globally. We have great affinity with Chocolate City’s creative and ambitious approach and we’re excited about Warner’s role in bringing to life their vision of taking their music worldwide.”
Temi Adeniji, Director, International Strategy and Operations, Warner Music, concludes: “Nigeria is one of the most exciting music markets in the world and Chocolate City’s trailblazing role in it over the years cannot be overstated. The label will provide us with valuable insight on best practices in the region, as well as on-ground expertise in scouting and developing emerging talent. Our partnership allows for a free exchange of ideas and music that will promote and support local artists, exemplifying WMG’s primary objective in determining our approach to emerging markets.”
Today’s news follows the recently announced deal for WMG’s repertoire to be distributed by local streaming service Boomplay.
Sub-Saharan Africa is an exciting emerging market for music companies. It has a largely youthful population of some 1.1 billion people with increasing access to streaming services thanks to rising smartphone penetration. At the same time, the popularity of Afrobeat and local hip-hop is surging worldwide, attracting the attention of international artists and producers.