After months of speculation among music fans and industry heads on the continent, Jay-Z’s Roc Nation confirmed today, via social media, that it has signed Tiwa Savage, a Nigerian-American singer and songwriter, to a management deal with the label.
In a recent interview with Ebro on 1Beat Apple Music, the singer revealed even more details about the management deal:
“I met B High (Jay-Z’s cousin who is the representative in Nigeria for the brand), I got a call, and he mentioned it and…he was serious. I don’t know if it you’ve ever met him, but he is serious. And I love the fact that they are not trying to change me,” said the Savage to on the show. “They really just want to bring what I already have to offer to the rest of the world, and they truly believe in the movement. So yeah, I’m really excited about it.”
Savage also explained why it took so long to confirm the deal publicly, “the reason why we did not really make too much noise about it is because a lot of people come over from Africa and they say they’ve got this deal and that deal, and then nothing happens,” said the singer. “We just wanted to do it the proper way, get it official. I didn’t want to do that to my people. I wanted them to really believe that it was really happening, so we wanted to wait for the right time, and the time is now.”
Savage who is now based in Nigeria is no stranger to the western music market. A graduate of the Berkelee School of Music, located in Boston, Massachusetts, she has worked as a songwriter for the past eight years, is signed to Sony/ATV publishing, is a member of ASCAP; and has songwriter credits to her name as a co-writer for ‘A couple of forevers’ for Chrisette Michelle, and ‘Collard & Greens’ for Fantasia, among others.
While Savage enjoyed a successful songwriting career in the States, her passion to become a recording and performing artist compelled her to audition, in 2006, for U.K.’s reality television show X-Factor 3, among other attempts to break into the industry. When all failed to yield the result she hoped for, she relocated, a few years later, along with her manager turned husband Tunji Balogun (T-Billz), to Nigeria. Since relocating, Savage is now one of the highest paid female singers, and an ambassador for numerous brands on the continent.
Savage’s management deal, however, comes on the heels of an explosive breakup/separation from T-Billz. Savage and T-Billz co-established 323 Entertainment, a management company initiated in Los Angeles, California. Upon arrival in Nigeria, the duo streamlined management of the Savage brand through 323 until the bitter no holds bar fall out.
With the new deal with Roc Nation, on Savage’s end, as a mature artist, the question becomes whether Roc Nation can help scale her brand to achieve global critical mass and household name success in the West and Asia; like Rihanna who is signed to a management and record deal with the label.
Indeed, beyond Rihanna, Roc Nation has arguably struggled with some of the female artists on its roster, including Rita Ora who sued the label last December to dissolve her record deal. Ora signed with Roc Nation when she was 18 but claimed the label didn’t deliver on its promises. They allegedly only released one album in seven years while she was on their roster, she allegedly had to “(s)elf-fund her promotional television appearances, recording costs and video projects, with the proceeds of her other professional endeavors.” She claimed her success was largely “self-generated.” Roc Nation counter sued. The parties have now settled the suit.
On Jay-Z’s end, the media/entertainment mogul made clear his interest in Nigeria’s music market last year, amidst intense scrutiny and negative reporting about TIDAL music, a subscription based music streaming company he acquired in March 2015.
A month after his acquisition, Jay-Z took to twitter and announced that he sent his cousin Briant “BeeHigh”Biggs, Director of Mobile Strategies at Roc Nation, to Nigeria, and that Tidal was now a “global company.” Since arriving in Nigeria, Biggs, within the past 12months, has sat with many local indie label executives (large labels by local standards) in Nigeria to forge seemingly strategic alliance that would propel success in Africa. Roc Nation is allegedly brokering two types of deals: a) discovering new talent, and b) signing mature artist like Savage that it can help achieve critical mass/success.
However, Jay-Z’s goals expand beyond scouting and scaling. Beyond trying to tap into Nigeria and Africa’s mobile market, he is bent on proving his naysayers wrong when it comes to TIDAL and in my view, Africa is his gateway.
Indeed, at the just concluded historic One Africa Music Festival held at the Barclays Center in New York, and organized by Paul Okoye of Upfront and Personal, an event/artist management company, TIDAL forged a deal with Okoye to stream his event live on TIDAL. Post event, the hugely successful music event is now available ONLY on a subscription basis on TIDAL.
Clearly, the music business follows the money and all roads, at this junction, leads to Africa. It is a prediction I made five years ago when there was no data to back my assertion. It is a prediction that is in fact now a reality with data solidly backing my predictions. Jay-Z gets it and so do companies like Beggars Group, Sony, among others who are now ready to really play in Africa, particularly West Africa.
The critical question, however, is whether Africa’s key industry influencers/shapers get it? Can they also work in this dealmaking process, collectively, towards positioning Nigeria/Africa’s music ecosystem so when all is said and done, it does thrive?
Right now on the continent, it appears industry stakeholders move and operate in clicks, only periodically reaching out in an attempt to gauge the cards new entrants may hold that may threaten/block their path to the money bag. This, to me, is not a sustainable model for the industry.
Congrats to Savage and her team and let’s see what the future holds.
By the way, can American labels do a better job of according our artists the respect of a press statement when they sign them? Is that too much to ask?
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