‘We are witnessing a resurgence of hip-hop across Africa.’

Photo credit: Roderick Ejuetami
Wale Davies

MBW’s World Leaders is a regular series in which we turn the spotlight toward some of the most influential industry figures overseeing key international markets. In this feature, we speak to Wale Davies, Sony Music Publishing‘s Head of A&R for Africa. World Leaders is supported by PPL.

Wale Davies wears a lot of different hats in the music business.

As one-half of Nigerian rap duo Show Dem Camp, Davies, aka Tec, has over 400,000 monthly listeners on Spotify and millions of streams.

Show Dem Camp has collaborated with some of the continent’s biggest rising stars, from Nigeria-based artist Oxlade (5.9m monthly Spotify listeners) to Grammy Award-winning Nigerian singer and producer Tems (14m monthly listeners on Spotify).

“We have been pioneering a lot of the alternative sounds coming out of the continent, primarily Nigeria,” says Davies, about Show Dem Camp’s work.

“I’m proud of the integral role we’ve played in introducing a lot of new artists, the present and future of the African music scene, through our music.”

Beyond his career as an artist, Davies works as an artist manager, co-managing Tems with Muyiwa Awoniyi.

He’s also a successful video and film director, (winning a Sundance Award for his short film Lizard) and is the founder of Lagos-headquartered media and production company Fatherland.

He says that making music has played a key role in his successful and varied career as an entertainment executive.

“Through making music, I gained a unique perspective that allowed me to help guide and shape artist careers, primarily as an artist manager, and since in other executive roles within the music business,” explains Davies.

Adding to his long list of industry achievements, Davies is also a prominent publishing executive, serving as Head of A&R for Africa at Sony Music Publishing.

SMP has been making inroads across the African continent in recent years. In August last year, SMP expanded its operations with a new office in Lagos, Nigeria, headed up by Godwin Tom as Managing Director, who reports to SMP President, International Guy Henderson.

In 2021, Sony Music Publishing South Africa signed a worldwide agreement (excluding Africa) with Gallo Music Publishers, the publishing arm of one of Africa’s largest and oldest independent major labels, Gallo Record Company (founded in 1926).

And in January this year, SMP hosted its inaugural West Africa songwriting camp in Accra, Ghana, spearheaded by Daviess.

The camp brought together various songwriters from across its global roster including Tems, Ladipoe, Lojay, Guiltybeatz, Ozedikus, AV, Berwyn, Moon Willis, Johnny Coffer, Rymez, and more.

The week-long event featured themed conversations and workshops including a discussion surrounding the intersection of the 50th Anniversary of Hip Hop and the art of Rap, featuring Davies (aka Tec) of Show Dem Camp and Nigerian rap star Ladipoe.

Here, Wale Davies tells us about his career in music, Sony Music Publishing’s strategy in Africa and his predictions for hip-hop from the African continent…

What have been some of your career highlights to date leading up to becoming SMP’s Head of A&R for Africa?

There have been a lot of highlights and amazing moments in my career so far.

If I had to narrow it down, as an artist with Show Dem Camp (pictured), it is incredible to see the community we have grown and the amazing fans that show up and help us sell out venues across the globe.

“With my role as manager for Tems, seeing her grow and build at such a phenomenal rate, and being a part of that journey, is definitely a highlight.”

With my role as manager for Tems, seeing her grow and build at such a phenomenal rate, and being a part of that journey, is definitely a highlight. With so many incredible achievements garnered in a short period of time, Tems is an inspiration for us all.

Since joining Sony Music Publishing, I have been fortunate enough to sign and work closely with some of the most important voices in the new generation of African music – from Guiltybeatz to Tems, Lojay, Ladipoe, AV and producer Lekaa Beats. Together with our already existing roster (Sarkodie, Naira Marley, Dj Maphorisa, London) SMP is building a strong footprint on the continent.

What are Sony Music Publishing’s ambitions in Africa?

We are focused on supporting and educating SMP songwriters across the continent and providing them with the tools and resources they need for success. By building strong foundations for our songwriting community locally, we can provide them with an elevated level of creative support. We are also focusing on global collaboration opportunities to help give SMP Africa songwriters a seat at the international table.

In which markets within wider Africa are you seeing the most growth currently?

In addition to Nigeria and South Africa, which continue to be creative hubs, countries like Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania are showing a lot of growth – it’s incredible to hear and see what is happening, and I believe that these markets will continue to expand and evolve.

You hosted the inaugural West Africa songwriting camp in Ghana in January – how did the camp go, and how important are events like this for Sony Music Publishing’s A&R strategy?

Our Inaugural Ghana Song Camp was an important experience for our team and songwriters and helped set the tone for future SMP events across the region.

As an A&R my approach is to make space for talent to create together and build lasting connections. To witness so much talent from across the continent work and form relationships across the week, and create amazing music together – it was a gratifying experience.

We want to be proactive in creating records and putting people in the right rooms. In a data driven world, I truly believe in the music being first.

What genre or business trends are you seeing in the publishing sector that you can tell us about?

I think the influence of data as a vital tool for identifying new songwriters has shaped the current conversation around songwriter discovery.

These tools have given publishers far more insight and visibility into different markets and regions they may have ignored in the past due to a lack of access. I think the refinement of these tools will lead to even more insight and will shine a light on songwriters from emerging regions.

Could you tell us about hip-hop’s growth trajectory specifically in Africa – what trends have you been seeing etc?

We are seeing genres merge and hip-hop artists experiment more with African sounds. We are also witnessing a resurgence of hip-hop across the continent.

Artists like Ladipoe (Nigeria), Blaqbonez (Nigeria) Blxckie (SA) and Black Sherif (Ghana) are creating new sounds and redefining what hip-hop from the continent sounds like.

What are your predictions for the future of hip-hop in Africa and what is your forecast for the future of Africa-based hip-hop songwriters and artists on the world stage?

I believe African hip-hop is making inroads and as more genres from the continent are gaining visibility, I know we will see talented generations of hip-hop songwriters and artists being a part of the conversation.

Ladipoe, a rapper and an SMP songwriter, had the most streamed song in Ghana and Nigeria on Spotify in 2021, and this is just the start of African hip-hop artists breaking into the mainstream consciousness.

Where are the biggest opportunities, and what are the biggest challenges, for international songwriters in Africa currently?

As an industry, we need to work together to help modernize and revamp local societies and frameworks to better support songwriters across the continent.

At SMP, we are looking to expand support for the songwriting community in Africa and help address many of challenges that they are facing, including lack of education around publishing and lack of access to studios and creative spaces.

“As an industry, we need to work together to help modernize and revamp local societies and frameworks to better support songwriters across the continent.”

We are providing opportunities for education through panels and masterclasses, like the ones we recently hosted at our Ghana Camp. We are also creating spaces for songwriters to work and collaborate through the launch of new songwriting conferences / camps in Africa and around the world, which we are continuing to expand this year.

I believe SMP has an important role in shaping the next generation of African songwriters and building a sustainable ecosystem for the growing music scene.

If there was one thing you could change about the music business, what would it be and why?

We can’t purely rely on data, let’s take it back to the core. Let’s begin to trust our instinct.

World Leaders is supported by PPL, a leading international neighbouring rights collector, with best-in-class operations that help performers and recording rightsholders around the world maximise their royalties. Founded in 1934, PPL collects money from across Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America. It has collected over £500 million internationally for its members since 2006.Music Business Worldwide

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