Music Business

Industry Moves: Oluwaseun Lloyd Named GM for Sony Music West Africa, Replaces Michael Ugwu

Sony Music Entertainment has announced the appointment of Oluwaseun Lloyd-Kuyinu popularly known as Banko as its General Manager (GM) for its subsidiary office, Sony Music West Africa. The announcement came a few weeks ago, in a statement to the press, with Sony affirming its belief in Banko’s ability to help propel the brand forward in West Africa.

“We have no Iota of doubt that the record company is in safe and profitable hands under Banko’s management,” said Sony.

Banko who expressed a vision of diversifying Sony’s portfolio and attracting further investments, as part of acknowledging his appointment, also had the following to say:

“There is no reason why Apple, Tidal and Spotify should not have their platforms in Africa. African music is overripe for platforms like Apple and Spotify to ignore,” said Banko. “I will not rest until the voice of every talented West African is heard on the world music stage. From the bubbling city of Lagos, down to the Kente-dressed natives of Ghana, even to the football-governed country of Sierra Leone, let this message be passed into every nook and cranny of West Africa that Sony Music West Africa is here not just to make indigenous stars but build stars of tomorrow that would shine independently,” he concluded.

His message to artists was: “To every young, talented West African with a dream of bringing home the coveted Grammy Awards, we say, wake up from your dreams; the time has come to turn it to reality. In a few days from now, we will be knocking on your doors; do not hesitate to open your them to us.”

Ms. Uduak’s Commentary

First, needless to say, Banko replaces Michael Ugwu, previously with IROKING, but now investor and director at Freeme Digital, in addition to the role he played as GM of Sony West Africa.

Second, I get the sense, with Banko’s comments, that he is the right talent for Sony Music West Africa. He is focused on Sony’s agenda and from an employer standpoint, that is what you want in an employee.

Third and nevertheless, I am unclear about his statements regarding Western streaming music platforms having a presence in Africa. Tidal, Apple and Spotify already have boots on the ground in the continent. Just last year, Tidal brokered a deal with MTN giving it presence in several African countries including Nigeria and Uganda. Similarly, Apple and Spotify already made their entrance on the continent. So, if his statement is about advocating for further expansion by Western brands into Africa, then it makes sense. Otherwise, it is unclear and appears uninformed.

Fourth, for a while, I have been thinking about digital music distribution in Africa and the promise it holds if the talents were also the investors and owners of distribution platforms. When you think about the fan base of Africa’s top talents, and understand that in today’s music market, digital distribution is key, it does make you wonder about African owned distribution platforms.

Banko, through resources from Davido, helped Davido set up his record label Davido Music Worldwide (DMW). He then served in an executive capacity as president of the company until his recent appointment. So, while I am sure it feels great for Banko to associate his personal brand with an American global conglomerate like Sony; when he makes statements like the need for Tidal etc. to have a presence in Africa, I wonder why he can’t help build Africa’s own Tidal, Apple type brands?

Tidal, for example, was launched by a Norwegian company called Aspiro in 2014. In 2015, Jay-Z’s company Project Panther Bidco, Ltd. acquired and relaunched it with a handful of American celebrity artists who had equity stakes in the newly acquired brand. What is stopping Banko from thinking big picture i.e. pitch a similar concept for Africa to Davido who can acquire an African or non-African music-tech company, just like Jay-Z did, and invite his colleagues like Tiwa, Wizkid, Mr. Eazi, Burna Boy, to be shareholders/stakeholders in the business? Why can’t Tidal’s basic business model be replicated, and then that yields to the West wanting to broker licensing deals with a Davido driven and owned digital distribution platform?

Again, it is great if Banko wants to push Sony. At a minimum, he has the opportunity to use his time there, well, and learn the Sony infrastructure/systems. But his statement seems myopic, to me.

Finally, for longtime readers, in 2016 when Sony launched its West Africa division in Lagos, Nigeria and appointed Michael Ugwu as GM, it seemed Ugwu perhaps could help move the needle forward for Sony with major inroads in the market place. That didn’t happen.

In my view, it was primarily because, as discussed on this blog in prior articles/posts, Sony got to the West African scene a little too late because Indian, Chinese and South African telecommunications companies have cornered the market. In addition, they chose a representative that had more of a foreign than local connection to the major players in the space, even though he did briefly work for IROKING. Worse, the 2017 social media outburst by Ycee against Ugwu accusing him of not fulfilling terms of a Sony contractual agreement, placed Ugwu in a light as someone unable to work with Sony artists in the region.

Congrats to Banko. Let’s see what vision he executes for Sony West Africa expansion.

-Ms. Uduak

Photos: Press photos courtesy Sony West Africa

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AFRICA MUSIC LAW™ (AML) is a pioneering music business and entertainment law blog and podcast show by Fashion and Entertainment Lawyer Ms. Uduak Oduok empowering the African artist and Africa's rapidly evolving entertainment industry through brilliant music business and entertainment law commentary and analysis, industry news, and exclusive interviews.

Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Ms. Uduak is also a Partner and Co-Founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. where she handles her law firm’s intellectual property law, media, business, fashion, and entertainment law practice areas. She has litigated a wide variety of cases in California courts and handled a variety of entertainment deals for clients in the USA, Africa, and Asia.

Her work and contributions to the creative industry have been recognized by numerous organizations including the National Bar Association, The American University School of Law and featured in prestigious legal publications in the USA including ABA Journal and The California Lawyer Magazine. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the prestigious Academy of Arts University in San Francisco.
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