Happy Friday folks! For a while I was avoiding doing interviews on AML. I conduct interviews all the time. So, on AML, I just wanted to put my feet up, relax and just discuss legal issues, lots of music business et al. However, as AML continues to evolve organically, I feel the need to have business of music and music law interactions with the people that AML is primarily focused on, the artists! Accordingly, allow me to introduce my very first, official, AML artist interview with the one and only EDEM! Yay! I am excited! The man is brilliant and you all know I think brilliant is super sexy.
Check out my interview with him on the business of music, music law and his career.
Ms. Uduak: Edem, how are you?!!!
Edem: I am awesome and blessed.
Ms. Uduak: I so owe you an apology. We are long overdue for this interview. What’s been good with you?
Edem: No hard feeling . . . accepted. (Laughs)
Ms. Uduak: (Laughs) Okay, let’s get into it. Let’s start first with your background. You went from Ayigbe Edem to Edem. Explain the history behind that and why you decided to lose the name?
Edem: Well it’s basically for a few reasons: change in brand direction and cultural representation. I felt in the quest to represent Ghana and Africa I had to sell my culture and background properly, therefore the name Ayigbe had to be dropped not to create misconception on the history of my tribe and country. Edem was adopted to give the African continent a clear and concise picture of my music prowess which goes beyond hip-hop unlike what Ghana heard or knew based on my debut album. The change basically represented a new direction and energy.
Ms. Uduak: ( I like the change). I was flattered when Lillian Blankson (BET International) first contacted me telling me you were a big fan of my work at Ladybrille and wanted to be featured. I didn’t really know about you then. But after I did my research, I was impressed.
Edem: Yes I am. I get to learn when I read your articles.
Ms. Uduak: (Thanks! ) I want to talk about your style image and then get into the business of music with you.
Ms. Uduak: You wear your hair in dreadlocks. I know I (like) dreadlocks and when I was a kid and told my mom I wanted to wear my hair that way, the look she gave me was enough to deter and suppress my desire. (Laughs) Why do you choose that way to express yourself?
Edem: Honestly I can’t pin point why. (Laughs) I just grew up as a kid with afro hair style and later decided to lock it for convenience. Then it felt good keeping it. (Laughs)
Ms. Uduak: I know education is important to you. You are currently studying Marketing and Business Administration in school. Why did you decide to go obtain a degree right now?
Edem: I feel education always gives you an upper hand, no matter how you look at it, it might look daunting in the (beginning, especially) with a certain level of fame but I feel it’s paramount.
Ms. Uduak: You are very inspiring. You lost your mom at 13 and your dad at 16. Where did you find the zeal to push on?
Edem:I believe it’s a divine zeal and my (older) sister played the role of a mom and dad at 18,19. I salute her.
Ms. Uduak: ( I do too). I hear you are considering also getting a law degree after you obtain your college degree? I’m excited for you! Why law?
Edem: Yes I am. A few career counselors have advised a degree in social welfare because of my charity works but law gives me the kicks. Somehow I feel being a lawyer is the ultimate in education, but that’s in future.
THE BUSINESS OF MUSIC
Ms. Uduak: Let’s talk about the business of music in Ghana. First, give us an overview of the music landscape in Ghana right now?
Edem: I think the music landscape is very different from what I have seen and learnt from others. Producers play a major role but are not properly paid. Artiste put out music by the minute to stay relevant because of the absence of royalties and cd sales. The absence of convincing data does not encourage investors venturing into the sector for fear of high risk and low or no returns. Radio is dominated by contemporary Ghanaian music making it difficult for other talents in genres like Reggae, Jazz, soul and other forms of music to break through.
Ms. Uduak: (Quite interesting). Ghana has such rich history (including) in music. Tell us about the country’s efforts in really protecting the intellectual properties of Ghanaian musicians especially with organizations like MUSIGA.
Edem: I happen to be a member of the sponsorship committee in MUSIGA. I must admit piracy and the fight to protect intellectual property is going to involve more than just MUSIGA. A concerted effort from the government and all other stake holders will be of great essence. I must say Obour of MUSIGA and the entire team is doing tremendously well.
Ms. Uduak: Being a music entrepreneur yourself, what are the five things you believe an artist needs to be a successful music entrepreneur?
Edem: Wow this is a tough one . . .
- I believe good music to start with. So your product can speak for itself because the musical seasons unfold in a funny way, you must be able to think on your feet and make difficult but smart decisions;
- Taking time to build a brand that will stand the test of time when your music is absent;
- Constant learning and adaptation to changing trends;
- Keeping an eye on the industry across the board; and
- A dedicated team, no matter how small, plays a major role too.
Ms. Uduak: One of the biggest things I get, till today, is questions from artists about how they can sign to a record label. I have discussed that in the past on AML. However, since we are focused on Ghana, explain to us how Ghana’s record labels work for AML Ghanaian artists hoping to get signed to these labels?
Edem: Sad to say, but to be blatantly honest I am yet to see a fully-fledged record label. What we actually have is recording studios putting out records, music groups, artists and managers trying to push music to areas where structures are more organised. Distribution is minimal, most artist self-manage or spearhead their own agenda.
Ms. Uduak: How about music publishing? Can you share brief insight on performance rights organizations, royalty payment structure and music publishing, in general, in Ghana?
Edem: Everything that is rightly done elsewhere is absent in the world of Ghana music. There are no recognized publishing companies, if there are any I don’t know, then there is the creation of awareness. Most artists are signed to companies in South Africa and the diaspora where our Music is not yet dominant
Ms. Uduak: As you know, much of an artist’s life is spent touring, especially in Africa. Tell us about some of your most successful tours and what it takes to put on successful music tours in a place like Ghana?
Edem: My first album saw me get on the road to play in all major cities and towns in Ghana, and performances in Togo. The release of ‘Mass Production’ (album) has seen this same major road shows and extended to South Africa which I just got back from.
Ms. Uduak: What do you believe is the future of Ghana and African music in general?
Edem: Extremely bright. I have high hopes. With the sudden crossover of African artists in collaborating with foreign acts, believe the continent is becoming smaller but Ghana obviously has a lot to learn from our brothers, from Nigeria and South Africa.
Ms. Uduak: Publicity and promotion, as you know, is equally important in the life of an artist. Where did you learn to publicize yourself the way you have?
Edem: I learnt a lot when I was being managed by the last two music groups. I must say studying marketing in school has given me a different perception on branding,promotion,target marketing, and I try to adopt all things and put into practice.
Ms. Uduak: With your talent, publicity and push, do you think you will be nominated at the 2013 BET Awards event next year?
Edem:Yes yes yes. I have a strong conviction. I can confidently say in Ghana, ‘Mass Production’ has kicked bums than any other album released within its time frame.
Ms. Uduak: We could have a very long and fun conversation on merchandising, your endorsement deals and so much more. But, I want to stop here. I will have to invite you again. Thank you so much for the time and sorryit took this long to finally make this happen!
Edem: Thank you . . . I hope it is sooner this time (Laughs).
Ms. Uduak: (Have mercy on me nau!)(Laughs) Actually, one last question. What are the projects you are working on?
Edem: I released ‘Warrior for Peace’ for the election. I have a new video coming up entitled ‘Heyba.’ I am in the studio recording my new album and recording with Naija/Ghana born Odeshi and working with various artists on the continent which will be disclosed in future.
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