“In francophone Africa, music is often associated with talent and we forget that it is a profession that requires sacrifice and discipline.”

(Ecofin Agency) – Sony Music Africa General Manager Elvis Adedema was present at the Salon des Music Industries Francophone Africa (SIMA). He comes back to us about his group’s activity in francophone Africa and about the main topics discussed during the event.

Ecofin: Hello Elvis Adidiema. Why was it important for Sony Music Africa to participate in SIMA?

Elvis Adedema: It was important to be there because I think it’s a historic event. It is events like these that help advance the African music industry and make decisions that will revolutionize things. On a personal level, it was important to be present and participate in the discussions and contribute my experience so that we could leave with important directions and decisions.

AE: What was the objective of the discussions that caught your attention the most?

EA: What struck me was the quality and design of the contributors. We’ve seen people with great music careers, who no longer have anything to prove, but come on and participate in the debate. That’s what surprised me. This side of solidarity and this desire to get things done.

“Africa was a land with too much potential not to be there. We are talking about a population of more than a billion people, very young people, more than 400 million people between the ages of 15 and 35.”

AE: Your Major has been on Ivorian soil for a few years, in Abidjan. What was the drive to convince Sony Music to launch a physical representation on the African continent?

EA: I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t there when the decision was made, but from what I know, Africa was an area with far too much potential not to be there. We’re talking about a population of over a billion, very young, over 400 million people between the ages of 15 and 35. So there is a real potential for majors to create a strong ranking that will have a huge impact. We know there will be a lot of changes in Africa, but by settling there, we can be ahead of something. We’re in a job whose results will show over time, but the challenge is very exciting.

AE: In addition to Majors, major streaming groups like Spotfy and Apple Music are also in Africa. How does Sony Music interact with this entire ecosystem?

EA: We know we’re all in the same boat because we’re building something and that’s the importance of events like SIMA. It helps ensure that we all have the same vision. I know for example that Spotify recently created 5 playlists dedicated to music from Francophone Africa. A specific deficiency was identified and we reported it. The reaction shows that the entire ecosystem has the same vision of growth for the region. It proves that there is a common desire to get things done. Sony Musique Africa is part of this record. We are working to create an enabling environment for the music industry on the continent.

“We have a great difficulty in creating an environment similar to that in other countries, that is, where we can live on income related to royalties and schedules. Therefore, we are obliged to find other economic models such as live broadcasting, such as promotions and marketing of brands with artists. »

AE: What difficulties did Sony Music face when creating it on the continent?

EA: It’s all about what happened when it came to installation in Africa, but it’s one of the most difficult settings and it’s final because it’s frozen on the continent, it’s the base in France. Arriving in Abidjan, I had to face certain realities. The main problems in the African music industry are structural. We are having great difficulty in creating an environment similar to that in other countries, i.e. where we can live on the income associated with royalties and schedules. So we are bound to find other economic models like live broadcasting, like promotions or brand marketing with artists. It is true that it changes a little bit, but it is our best way to respond to the difficulties we face, and we remain optimistic and determined to change the points that present difficulties.

“There are platforms like TikTok that have made it possible to do some very interesting things in terms of promoting artists. This is the case, for example, with Belo Falcao (performer of the song “Dibango Dibanga”; editor’s note) or the Gabonese singer Emma. »

AE: You mentioned broadcasting, and we’ve talked a lot about it at SIMA. Do you think this is the right time for all players in the African music sector to start investing in this segment?

EA: I think that’s the purpose of this show. Among the topics that had to be put on the table. Now we don’t have the strength to make things happen on our own. We have to discuss with other players in the music industry, telecom operators for example, and public authorities who have a very important role. We want things to move forward in broadcasting. Either way, it is important for people to understand that there are new avenues of technical development that can make a difference. There are platforms like TikTok that have made it possible to do some very interesting things in terms of artist promotion. This is the case, for example, with Bello Falcao (performer of the viral song “Dibango Dibanga”; editor’s note) or the Gabonese singer Emma, ​​who didn’t necessarily have the visibility and who created a fan base and union of listeners on TikTok.

“We see the development of artistic professions in the English-speaking space as an example, and an inspiration for francophone Africa, and we are also looking for ways to reach their markets.”

AE: In your view, is there a real difference in the dynamics between the francophone space and the anglophone space in the African music industry?

EA: It is undeniable. The development of technical professions in the English-speaking world is impressive. For example, in Nigeria, artists like Wizkid, Burna Boy, Davido or even newer artists like Oxlade are exploding. Rather than seeing it as a problem, we see it as an example, an inspiration for francophone Africa and we are also looking for ways to reach this anglophone market. A lot of people talk about the language barrier making music from francophone Africa less exportable, but I don’t really agree with that. There is a real site and we have to think about how to place artists from the francophone area so that they also have a place in the sun. The potential is there in francophone Africa, we just have to find a way to help it come to fruition.

“Angélique Kidjo is an example that proves we have no talent problems. Artists from Francophone Africa should be wondering why she is always nominated for Grammy Awards and get some seeds.”

AE: Specifically, do you think the density of anglophone markets like Nigeria naturally does not condemn the music industry in francophone Africa to finding itself forever behind?

EA: If we take demographics, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Admittedly, Nigeria is one of the most populous countries in Africa and has the most developed music industry, but in terms of potential, we have a card to play. Nothing is set in stone. There was awareness in Nigeria, training and education in the music industry that was modeled on the US and that made all the difference. We have to find the ideal of artists from francophone Africa and this is even more important. Otherwise, if we take economic, demographic, and other very realistic aspects, francophone Africa has no reason not to hope for its own music industry. I think, for example, that Angélique Kidjo is an example that proves that we don’t have talent problems. It’s a practical case of study, a model of longevity, great professional management, very good communication and I think it’s the perfect package to represent francophone Africa at ceremonies of excellence such as the Grammy Awards. I think artists from francophone Africa should ask themselves why it is always nominated and learn from it. Music for us is something that comes from passion and talent, but often many people forget that it is a profession and that at some point you have to make sacrifices and be disciplined to be similar to this type of artist like Angélique Kidjo.

AE: During SIMA, we noticed that people didn’t really understand the role of big business and that they could be quite suspicious. At Sony Musique Afrique, how do you work so that some actors stop seeing you as a big bad wolf who comes to grab local titles?

EA: I think it takes communication work. At the committee level, I often insisted on a term: need. Today, when an artist signs with a major, he has needs but I don’t think he himself realizes what all those expectations mean. Artists expect an outcome, a certain level of success, but they can’t really articulate the exact needs and means needed to achieve that success. It is true that our role is to explain to artists that they must have clear expectations and well-defined goals, but they must understand that they also have a role to play in this field. Like I was saying, our beginnings were difficult because it took us a long time to understand the terrain and the mistakes that were made, such an initial strategy that we had to sign artists with a bad reputation. At the time, there was a misunderstanding on the part of the artists, directors and producers of their respective roles which did not allow them to start this collaboration on an equal footing but fortunately things developed. During my session I was surrounded by independent producers and at no time did they unite. They understood and said we have to work together. For our part, we must continue this outreach work.

Interview conducted by Servan Ahognon

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