7 Questions With INDUSTRY SHOTCALLER Emem ‘O’ Ema

Alright folks, I am taking a notch up by introducing a feature that profiles the “Industry Shotcallers” in Nigeria and Ghana’s music and creative industries. If they are shotcallers i.e. successful creative executives and/or managers,  you should be able to logon (AML) and find them.

This feature should, I hope, help aspiring  and established industry professionals create a strong rolodex of the “who is who” in the two highly important music markets in West Africa, Nigeria and Ghana. For musicians interested in signing a record deal, starting your labels,  licensing their songs, hiring a management team, hiring a publicist, among other things, you should know what is expected of you and what you should expect when you meet and interact with these industry shotcallers. Do like/share on Facebook, retweet etc. the features of these industry  leaders. I don’t think we thank the people behind the scenes enough! I’m definitely making sure we at least begin to do so. Alright! Let’s gerrit!

Kicking off the launch of AML’s ‘Industry Shotcaller’ feature is music executive Emem Ema.

Emem Ema, fondly known as Mem ‘O,’ holds a degree in law from the University of Lagos. She is an ex-member of the now defunct group called ‘Kush,’ which comprised of Ty Bello, Lara George and Dapo Torimiro. She is also the founder of her entertainment company called  ‘One Management.’ Under her leadership, One Management has worked with and/or represented a diverse portfolio of clients from multinationals to celebrity talents in the entertainment field including Singer Waje, Actress Nse Ikpe-Etim, Fashion Designer Yemisi, Filmmakers Nagite Dede and Kunle Afolayan (The Figurine), Artists Dare, Provabs, JayRule, among many. One Management was also responsible for helping secure and successfully bring foreign acts to prestigious events like Soundcity Music Video Awards, as well as working with Thisday Music Festival. Hi Emem! Thank you for agreeing to feature  on Tell us about yourself. How exactly did you break into the music and entertainment industry?
Considering that I’m still “finding myself” as I seem to have evolved everytime I do a self assessment, I call myself “that girl with a lot of dreams and an amazing imagination” that’s living her dreams with each passing day. I like to make things happen and the creative industry happens to be the right platform for me to express myself.

I got into entertainment at a young age, I come from a creative family. My parents worked at the Nigerian Television Authority as directors and producers so I happen to have visited locations and sets of some of our favourite TV shows and movies like Mirror in the Sun, New Village Headmaster, Second Chance, Tales by Moonlight etc.

[As an adult], my curiosity into the industry was peeked and I found myself drawn to music. [I] was in college and was a member of the fellowship choir where I got to meet some of my very good friends till date. (While there), we struck a relationship and realised we made great music together. We later on went on to be a band of 4 members called Kush, the rest as they say is history. Kush was my springboard into the entertainment industry. Currently, what exactly do you do?
Emem: I presently run a creative talent management company called ONE Management and a production company called Vzhun Media.

Our roster (past and present) boasts of some of the amazing and award winning talents on our continent and it has been a pleasure and an honour working with them and assisting in their career growth.  Hmmm . . . From a Publicist standpoint, what is your vision for Nigeria’s music and entertainment industry?
Emem: I call it our New-Oil! We are presently enjoying our second oil boom, however, we should learn a lesson from the first, if the industry isn’t properly harnessed and utilised, we may have some issues.

With the advancement of technology, the industry has an advantage which is, we can adapt the market to suit our unique position. [F]or music, you have the internet and you also have the fact that majority of our population still buys plastic. The artiste (product) should be able to position him/herself in such a way that your brand and product is attractive and accessible to your market. Always keep it fresh, that’s what I’ll say. [W]hat do you believe is the most difficult challenge in working with music talents in the industry?
Emem: The same issues we’ve always had; attitude and ignorance. Since no one knows it all, get a team of people who have experience and can help you get to the next level. Don’t think because you’re popular on one song or movie, you’ve arrived. There’s a lot more to life than bling-bling and hype. Read, keep up to date with the trends, push yourself beyond your last achievement and be disciplined. Take a look at Hollywood, for every Julia Roberts there’s 100 Scarlett Johansson wannabes trying to get their spot. Don’t rest on your oars, keep rowing! a fellow attorney in showbiz, and from a legal perspective, what do you think is needed to move the industry forward?
Emem: The need to understand the laws that govern the industry, one’s rights as a copyright owner/user etc. Most importantly, the enforcement of these rights.

We need policies that support and develop the industry; not just ones that protect the stakeholders but ones that market the creative industry as a product and Nigeria as prime location for creativity. That way, we’ll create more jobs and our GDP will increase and there’s more money to be share (within) the music and other creative industries. In your view, how do Nigerian musicians express their talents and passion for music in a way that has never been done before so our music can be recognized on a global scale?
Emem: I think originality is key and all you need to do is see how a David Guetta, or Adele has made it in recent years. Keep up with the trends. When U offer something that is a bit familiar but in a different way that’s never been done or felt before…you get a foot in!

Innovation is a word that is touted around and we can see why; what’s the difference between facebook and myspace? When you’ve answered that question, you’d understand why they don’t need another Trey Songz or Chris Brown because they have tons of those but a new Fela and Youssour. They may have seen or heard it before; but not in the way you’ve presented it. Our artistes should learn this. How do you want to be remembered?
Emem: How do I want to be remembered? It’s not really how but what I’d like to be remembered for. If it’s not asking too much (smiles), it would have to be for creating opportunities; being able to help someone in fulfilling their dream/life’s purpose.

As a stakeholder in the creative industry, it would have to be as one who contributed to implementing structure, long lasting improvements and making it more viable.Most of all to my loved ones and friends, it would have to be for being the listening ear, the shoulder to cry on…being there when it mattered most.

-Interview by Uduak Oduok

Africa Music Law™

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Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Uduak Oduok (Ms. Uduak) is a fashion and entertainment lawyer, speaker, visionary, gamechanger, trailblazer, and recognized thought leader, for her work on Africa’s emerging global fashion and entertainment markets, and the niche practice of fashion law in the United States. She is also the founder of ‘Africa Music Law,’ an industry go-to music business and law blog and podcast show empowering African artists. Her work in the creative and legal industries has earned her numerous awards and recognitions, including an award from the American University Washington College of Law for her “legal impact in the field of intellectual property in Africa." She has also taught as an Adjunct Professor at several institutions in the United States. For more information, visit her at

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