In the vast evolving world, the music industry has grown from an unattainable reverie, and metamorphosed into an up for grabs, well received space. Breeding the most creative geniuses and in more ways than one, conveying the voice of millions of supporters on a global scale.
The music industry is like a theater, with the generality of the audience captivated by the allure of the performance on stage. It is said that most theatrical work is displayed on a glistening stage, but behind the curtains, there is an unexplored and underappreciated world. Brimming with talents of the largest contributions, working tirelessly without praise.
Just like theater, the music industry is broader and has quite a larger scope than the eye can see. During our conversation with Elizabeth Sobowale, current manager to an award winning artist Adekunle Gold, gave insightful suggestions as to how we can make the industry even better.
Briefly tell us about your childhood experiences that have helped you evolve as an adult?
I was born in Sagamu, Ogun State. I come from a very big family and my parents had high expectations so as a child I always wanted to give my best in everything.
One of the biggest influences in my life is my Head Teacher at Solomon Iluyomade Academy back in Sagamu. He was an ex-military man . We were taught like we were in military school. All the education and habits that I developed during those early years have stuck with me till now. Every morning at assembly we were made to chant “With determination, success is mine” and I still strongly believe and practice that till today.
What was the drive that inspired you to go into music?
I never thought I would work in the music industry. I wanted to be a news presenter but when I moved to the UK at 12, I changed my mind because it was hard to imagine someone like me on tv when there were hardly any black women already doing it. Then I decided I would study Journalism because at least people won’t need to see my face/skin colour to read my articles. Gradually I started to realise that that industry was also heavily gatekept.
I ended up studying English Language and Communications, it was a broad course but it allowed me to explore a bit of journalism, public relations, advertising, branding and most importantly communications. I also took French classes and combined my course with external internships at PR companies.
What were the things you had to do to mentally prepare yourself for your journey?
My childhood prepared me for my journey. In my primary school in Sagam, we sang this funny song “7:30 is the time for school, never late in the morning”. That song still rings in my head! I’m up everyday and ready for work before 7:30am.
My parents also taught me to not expect anyone to give me anything. If I want something, I have to go and get it myself, no one will hand anything over to me and nothing will fall on my lap if I don’t work for it. If I want something I will ask for it and if you say no, I will try again another time, No is not a never. That’s my mindset.
You currently are the Program Director for MBA for Africa, what is the impact of MBA for Africa on the students?
I joined MBA for Africa because it is a platform that gives individuals the opportunity to learn about the different career paths that exist in the music industry and to understand that it is possible to have a sustainable career in music. Godwin Tom started MBA out of frustration of not being able to hire well trained and skilled staff for his company at the time. MBA is solving this by providing the education and training needed to build a well informed music workforce.
The academy is growing, we had over 300 students in 2022 and 2023 is going to be bigger and better.
Adekunle Gold recently got signed to DEF JAM Recordings, what does this mean to him (Adekunle Gold) as a personal brand and not just as an artist?
He has always been an incredible artist, a creative and a genius. AG and Niyi have built an amazing brand and Def Jam is here to amplify all of that.
We also know that his style over the past few years has significantly changed, how does this reflect in his personality?
No one stays the same all through their life, transformation is an under appreciated gift and an artist that can be developed is special. AG is one of the most curious and open minded person I have ever met. His mind constantly seeks to know and understand everything and when you soak in that amount of knowledge it’s bound to transform your mind and output. That’s why he can’t stay the same and I am glad he doesn’t. He’s intentional, careful and thoughtful about his process and his art.
Most people would choose a Masters in Music, Artist Management/PR, you chose African studies… why?
After 8 years of management I wanted to know and be able to do more, I wanted to help others become managers, music execs, artists and more. I was always frustrated at the lack of structure and clear career path in the music industry in Nigeria and would engage in debates from sunrise to sunset about it.
Then one day it clicked for me, I should be using my experience and voice to not only advocate for my clients that I manage but to also advocate for a community of people that have the desire to engage in this industry but lack the right support, education and funding to make their dreams happen.
So I decided I would go back to school and gain the right knowledge about advocacy, policy, politics, economy, geopolitical and the international relations of Africa. Culture and language was also a big part of my masters and I had to take Swahili lessons.
I’m proud to say that I graduate this year with a distinction awarded thesis titled “Nigeria’s Music Industry: Exploring the Role of Music and the Creative/Cultural Industries in Nigeria’s socio-economic development”.
As one of the fastest growing music economy. Nigeria’s music industry holds immense potential in transforming people’s lives, communities and the entire country.
Looking at the Nigerian music industry, what should be the next step?
Our music is growing but we must remember that we are responsible for ensuring that the music industry does not become an extractive industry whereby the local population is unable to fully benefit from the returns. We need to continue to speak up about what the industry is lacking and advise stakeholders on the necessary and urgent policies that will help us create and protect our intellectual properties and music businesses.
We need to support initiatives like Femme Africa, Audio Girl Africa and the MBA for Africa Womens fund that are putting effort into bridging the gender gap in the music industry and creating an environment for women to feel comfortable in an industry that terribly reflects the misogynistic nature of the country at large.
There’s so much to be done in the live sector, artists can’t even tour within Nigeria without security fears and touring within Africa is a logistical mess.
The music industry is booming but it’s sustainability for the local population is heavily reliant on Nigeria’s national development. So I guess my point is that the issue is bigger than us but every little helps.