Business of Music in Africa: How to Choose Your Music Team with EME’s Stanley Ekure aka TINO

One of the key things to expect from are interviews from some of Africa’s most brilliant and successful minds in the music industry aka Africa’s music industry insiders who will share their wealth of knowledge with you all to help you grow individually as artists; and also as fellow music entrepreneurs. This feature from our Africa music insiders is aptly titled “Business of Music in Africa.”  Kicking things off is my interview with Banky W’s EME Recrod Label Executive Stanley Ekure aka TINO

Read the interview, print it out and reference it often. It contains loads of wisdom. This is a republished interview from Notjustok. Enjoy
_____________________________ First, thank you so much for taking time out of your very busy schedule to do this. I really appreciate your time. . .Welcome. We have so much to talk about!
The pleasure is mine . . .

TINO SHARES HIS PERSONAL BACKGROUND know you in Nigeria’s music industry as TINO but in America’s motivational speaker world, you go by a different name. Tell us your full name and how you became a motivational speaker?

TINO: Valentino Bendel is a pseudonym I use in the entertainment world, so if you operate in that field then it’s most likely you know me as ‘Tino’. As a songwriter and producer you often express yourself in the moment and your content is dictated by what you feel and your creativity. Being in the corporate world I wanted to be judged by what I did in the corporate field so I kept everything separate. I started off with just ‘Tino’ and when Bendel State became Edo and Delta states; I decided to add ‘Bendel’ as a tribute to my roots. My full name is Stanley Chukwuechezonam Ekure. Seven years ago I was a Managing Director of a real estate brokerage in Manhattan and needed to keep my agents motivated so I had these sales meetings which eventually became bigger and bigger.

I spoke sparingly outside the real estate community, I eventually left to found one of only two black owned real estate brokerages in the Manhattan and as a way to brand and market myself took on a more speaking engagements. When my brokerage got acquired I had much more time to really focus on speaking and my clients were really behind the whole push as they had always wanted me to do something in that arena. I currently speak all over the world on a wide range of topics and working on two books ‘Manifesting The Most Magnificent Version of You’, a motivational book, and ‘He Will Never Love You: Every Woman’s Guide To Finding Mr. Right’, a relationship book geared to women. (You guys, Tino is being modest. He has spoken next to some of the biggest names in the motivational speaking world.) I happen to know you are a VERY brilliant man which is why I wanted the opportunity to interview you. I really want to take this interview apart, carefully, so it truly benefits. .  . artists reading this. You are one of the main business minds behind the success of the artist we know as Banky W. Tell us how your relationship came about with Banky W?

TINO: Well thank you. I can’t take all the credit for Banky. He is a tremendous talent and very driven. EME has a great team and we all bring different things to the table. This is going to be a long answer. I’ve always been involved in and surrounded by music. My Uncle Gideon Nwaomu should get all the credit for my start in music, he was involved in the industry as far back as 25 years ago managing the likes of the legendary Ras Kimono and a host of other mainstream artists. I started a label in the 90’s with my good friend Segun Demuren. We were young in New York City; he handled the business side of things and I the creative (writing and producing).

We were the first and only independent record label to pack the ‘Tunnel’ without a record on the radio. To make a long story short we had our run and things came to an end in 2001 with Gun moving back to Lagos. Tunde Demuren (Gun’s younger brother) and Banky are childhood friends, so Banky has always been around and had been like a little brother to me. The three of us linked up professionally and formed EME in 2002. Banky and I wrote and produced all our material as ‘The Muzik Men’. He was still in RPI pursuing a degree in engineering and it wasn’t easy for him going to school, working and doing the whole music thing. We sold our first records out the trunk of our cars and now the rest is history. Banky was my friend before business and we cherish and respect that. We (EME) are all very close friends (literally blood brothers and brothers from another mother ) so it is easy for us to talk about whatever and trust each other. It’s a deep connection; we are mates . . .Empire Mate$!!! (Empire Mates indeed). What do you believe has helped sustained your relationship with Banky W to last this long?
You have to find people that you connect with and who get ‘you’ as an artist. We always had this dream for Banky as an artist and the EME brand. You have to believe in yourself because until it becomes clear to everyone else that you are going somewhere there will be a lot of resistance. There will be trials and tribulations, ups and downs, but it’s how you react and deal with adversity that matters. What did you learn from that roadblock or setback? Many of the lessons we learned years ago are what we use to navigate and innovate today. In terms of sustaining a relationship it is really not one thing that does it but a combination of trust, keeping an open line of communication, the ability to admit you are wrong, not taking anything for granted. What characteristic in Banky W would you say has played a significant factor role in his success that  artists reading this should emulate?

TINO: I’m glad you asked this question. Banky W has worked really hard to get where he is today. He dedicated himself to the whole process: songwriting, recording, producing, mixing on the creative side and learning the business side from the ground up. He pushed himself to get better musically and was never satisfied until he did so. He learned what worked for him as an artist. The best thing you can do for yourself as an artist is give yourself an honest assessment of your talent and abilities. What do you do best and where are you lacking? Do more of what you do best and less of what you don’t. If you don’t have the ability to execute a complicated vocal then don’t do it. Find other ways to connect with your listener. Maybe try a different style, experiment with different tempos, have better content or write a better lyric, there are tons of creative options.

A great example of this is the artist Tuface. Here is an artist who is very cognizant of what the consumer expects of him and is able to marry that with his talent and what he does best. He knows how to stay in his lane, whether it is reggae, urban, pop or a ballad, he keeps it strictly and uniquely his own. He does not conform to the beat but instead seduces you to experience it on his terms; the track becomes an accessory and his voice and lyrics the stars. I receive tons of demos and try my best to give feedback when I hear something promising because it is crucial that you develop talent in this business.

TINO BREAKS IT DOWN ON HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR TEAM Let me ask you this. In the entertainment industry, there is a saying that you should “be careful who you get in bed with.” Many reading this want to be where Banky W & Tino is. Let’s start from the fundamentals. Who are the professionals that make up a winning team? How do our artists pick these professionals?

TINO: A team by my definition is a self sufficient system capable of, and not limited to, the manufacturing, marketing, management and monetization of the product. For any new artists reading this interview take the time to re evaluate your career and those around you. You do not need a gang of people behind you to achieve your dreams. The character of each and every person you associate with should be in line with yours and your longtime goals. It is no different than any other business; you need competent people capable of taking your career to the next level. Everyone on the team should have the exact same goal and be totally committed to it and be willing to dedicate their time and effort to realize it. Never put someone on the team because they are there or simply because they are your friend or relative. They must have a skill and bring some value to what you are doing.  Let’s narrow in on the Manager, a significant person in most music industries including Naija’s. What specifically do artists look for in a Manager?

TINO: I don’t know what they look for but I can tell you what they should look for. In the Nigerian market until you get signed to a record label your manager is going to be your support system so as a new artist or one trying to get their ‘break’ it is crucial that this person has the time, ability and resources. It is very time consuming and unrewarding in the beginning because you are building from the ground up.

If your manager does not have the time to spare, artists: you will be working just as hard because it is a ‘anywhere bele face’ situation, it is going to be impossible. Next is ability. What is this person capable of? What can he do? Does he possess the skills and the mental dexterity required to deal with all that entails managing? Can he think on his feet? Can he roll with the punches? Is he humble? Can he deal with rejection and still remain objective? Most importantly does he have a passion for his artists and for the job? If not, you will not be able to get through the wilderness of obstacles, rejection, resistance, doubt and hurdles you need to cross to get to success. Lastly is resources which includes money, circle of influence, and know how. My people say “soup wey sweet, na money kill am”, there is definitely a need and a place for money (especially in the beginning) but that should never be the primary reason you make someone your manager.

If all they are bringing to the table is money you need to have an investor relationship with them because every component is as important as the other. You can have a manager who is still hopping okada but committed and out there hustling day and night, I will take that manager over someone who has just only cash because you can’t quantify hustle and the person with a will always find a way to make thinks work absent cash.

For an established artist it is more specific as they have certain goals and requirements based on where they are in their career, lifestyle, and what they want to accomplish. They are not looking for someone to knock down walls and validate them. Instead, they need someone to execute specific things. Usually established artists give big name and high profile players in the industry their management reins but giving a less established but focused manager a shot shouldn’t be ruled out.

In any case there has to be some compatibility between the talent and the Manager, you are going to be spending a lot of time together. Do you get along? Last thing you want to do is get in bed with someone whom you clash with, it is a sure recipe for disaster. You need someone who believes in you and your abilities.

TINO TALKS TO NIGERIA’S MUSIC STAKEHOLDERS In the USA, an entertainment lawyer is critical to the success of a musician. In Nigeria we are not even there yet. What other professionals become important on the music team after an artist selects a Manager? What do you look for with these other important persons?

TINO: You are right and that is at the crux of the matter. The blueprint for the Nigerian and African market is different. In the US and beyond everything is structured and you have opportunities that don’t exist in our market. Publishing and distribution account for the largest percentage of artist revenues anywhere else in the world except here. There are no royalties, nationwide distribution system and many of the basic infrastructures available to artists in other markets. Imagine this: the bulk of Nigerian artists make their money from shows and only a handful sign endorsement deals so performance revenues drive the industry but yet there is not one touring company in all of Nigeria. How many artists have been able to perform in every capital of the 36 states? There are fans in all these cities clamoring to hear and see their favorite artists live but it hasn’t happened yet.

Even though this is a major source of revenue there hasn’t been any capital investment to facilitate this from the government or entertainment sector. Now do not misunderstand me this is not a critique of the Nigerian music industry and in no way do I disparage anyone, I think we (the music sector) have done an incredible job in creating and developing what exists now and should be applauded. What I am trying to say is we will have no help from the government or any other entities, so we need to do it ourselves. We need to be creative and think outside the box.

We, the stakeholders, need to make the changes and investments needed to the infrastructure we need. There are a plethora of untapped opportunities in the market but it takes harnessing the right ideas, leveraging the right assets, and knowing how to attract corporate and private money. That being said you need someone who is dynamic and can adapt to the constantly changing conditions and challenges a market like ours is sure to present. This is a relationship driven business and it is very important that the person you choose has to be likeable, disciplined and have good communication skills. I know for a fact that there is a groundswell and serious push by some major players and a few months ago I had the privilege of one such meeting with some of the brilliant minds (Ayeni the Great and company) and I look forward to finding a practicable solution. To delve a little deeper into the question: This is such a unique market you will need someone who can wear different hats and is not easily shaken. It is such a wide range you will need to cover especially starting off as an unknown or new artists so whoever they are they have to be prepared to work long hours. Creativity is another key.

Don Jazzy is a great example. Have you ever sat down and looked at his discography? From just his camp the bulk of D’Banj, Wande Coal, Dr. Sid, D’Prince and Mo Hit Allstars came from the mind of one man. In fact I have to acknowledge his genius, so Don Jazzy I salute you! You need talented people, if you don’t write or produce you need songwriters and producers and even if you do write and produce like Banky, co producing with the right people works well too. For the W Experience we brought veteran producers like Cobhams, ID Cabasa, Dr. Frabz but also let fresh new ones like Sunny Nweke shine. We live in a digital world and you have to have a presence on the web as well as in social media circles so someone in the team has to cover. You also need someone who knows the business either firsthand or at least has a clear picture of what needs to be done from A–Z.

There are marketing decision, the question of image and artist direction which is very important to the whole package. Tunde ‘Donnie’ Demuren is hands down the best A&R in the game. His vision and direction for songs, ideas for beats and collaborations, and just being able to get artists to buy into the direction of the record is extraordinary. Many times I hear demos and everything sounds the same, it is void of content. A good A&R solves that problem. A&R stands for ‘artist and repertoire’, and traditionally these were those who did the artist development although the art is seldom applied effectively nowadays. So there you go that’s your team.

TINO SPEAKS ON THE BENEFITS OF NEW MEDIA FOR ARTISTS New Media has changed the music world, forever. As a result, labels do not see the need to invest in a new artist when there is a high likelihood they won’t see a return on their investments. In Nigeria, we are seeing artists embrace new media from to twitter, youtube, facebook etc. to really push their brands. What are your thoughts on the importance of each member on an artist’s team knowing and understanding new media, especially managers?

TINO: It is key because as an artist you can reach a much larger audience and generate some serious revenue. I was in Cannes for MIDEM in 2010 and met so many unknown, independent artists and labels who were making 10,000 USD a month from online sales, ringtones etc. Granted they do not face the connectivity problems and issues we do here in Nigeria so it is much easier, faster, and convenient for them to operate the way they do but my point is if you as a new artist use these tools properly the sky is the limit. Look at Justin Beiber. He was plucked from obscurity because he uploaded videos of him doing his favorite songs and the right person discovered him. There are everyday examples of things going viral and artists who figure out ways to monetize such things will benefit tremendously. Twitter, facebook, amazon, cdbaby, itunes, rhapsody,, Pandora, the list goes on and on. You even have internet radio stations that now pay royalties in addition to playing your music and promoting you. It is how you use this technology that matters and that will determine the difference. It does not take a lot these days to get a package together.

Three or four songs, a biography, a logo, artwork and few pictures and you have an electronic press kit you can use to market yourself. There are over 10,000 sites out there for you to upload your music and market yourself. If one song gets hot and starts selling ten downloads a day for ten weeks on just ten different sites that’s $7,000 USD or N1,050,000 in seven weeks!!! Now imagine that you have two or three songs doing that? From a label standpoint investing in your artists is essential. Most labels expect a readymade package that they can just take and start making money but the truth is if an artist already has the music and everything together then they don’t need a label.

Take Wizkid for example. When we signed him he had his own material but we chose to develop him. He needed to have the security and support to reach his full potential and blossom into the star we knew he was. He did a lot of features (M.I’s “Fast Cars”, D’Prince’s “Jonzing World”, Jesse Jagz’s “Intoxicated”, Lynxx’s “Good Luvin”) outside EME that introduced him to a wider audience so that when he did “Holla At Your Boy”, “Don’t Dull” and “Tease Me” the consumer was already familiar with his sound and we were able to capitalize on that. Now he has the most anticipated album of 2011 and is as high profile an artist there is right now. It is the same model we are implementing with Skales, who will also ride the wave to mainstream acceptance and be a major player in the industry when it is all said and done.

As a label you have one opportunity to make a first impression with an artist, so why not make it your best. The successful labels like Mo Hit, Storm and EME invest in developing their artists. There are so many things that artists have to get used to: the media, rehearsals, interviews, photo shoots, hectic touring schedules, videos, press and dealing with the fame. Your artists have to be prepared to deal with this, the big picture and the whole mechanism that makes up the music business. Artistically when an act does not have the pressure to produce and can just focus on the music in their hearts beautiful things happen and quality music is made. Confidence is also a big part of it too. Coming in to your own and getting comfortable in what you do creatively could take some time and that’s where artist development comes in to play. Voice lessons, learning the recording process and how to deliver the lyrics where it is believable, perfecting your stage show – these take resources and know how and labels provide these services and many more. I won’t take more of your time than I already have. What are your current EME projects you are working on?
TINO: We are finishing up with Wizkid’s album which I predict as one of the highlights of 2011; musically he is able to do so many things and is just an amazing talent. We are also going to do an EME record which I think will be quite exciting. Skales album is on deck this year too and I personally will be producing some of the songs so watch out for him. We are also looking at some newer acts and as a label you will see more branding and strategic moves. We also have a US tour June through July 2011 in the works which is going to be epic. A few other things but I don’t want to speak on them yet. What about non-EME projects?
I’m always into something and stay busy. I’m getting married in September; I’m going the destination route so it’s in St. Lucia. Later this year I will be doing a documentary and release my fiction novel ‘Where Crows Fly’. We have started working on developing content for film and television so watch out for something in the future. (Congrats on the wedding plans!) Thanks again for the time. I wish you continued success with the EME brand and all your other business ventures.
TINO: Thank you; anything for you.


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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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