The music industry is a fast paced industry and it requires consistency & creativity. It is a highly male dominated industry and this ranges from artists, producers, A&Rs, managers and other collaborators who bring an artist’s project to light. Women are usually faced with the issues of recognition or being given a chance to take part in the creative process.
Titilope Adesanya (often called Titi), is a music executive and currently works at EMPIRE as Director of Operations in Africa. Initially a radio broadcaster, she made her way into the Nigerian music industry through different experiences of serendipity. A Journalist by discipline, Ms. Adesanya is an unapologetic embodiment of strong will, creativity and foresight, which is why she has been featured on Billboard’s Women in Music 2023.
What seemed like a farfetched recognition, has become a major highlight for Titi in 2023. For International Women’s Month, we sat down with Titi and she told us about her journey so far, explorations of different aspects of her jobs and how she made it into the music business.
Who is Titilope Adesanya in your own words?
Titilope Adesanya: I am an easygoing person, an over thinker, a caring person who also tends to obsess over little things. All these help me to balance my job. I am also an unassuming person which sometimes is a blessing and a curse because generally, when working with people, you sometimes have to assume that everything could go wrong so you have to prepare for that.
It’s a busy industry we work in, so whenever I have a free moment I like to relax, eat, be with people I love, sit by the beach, go on a hike, have a movie night or just do karaoke with friends.
“Exploring different aspects of my jobs helped me discover my path. The whole experience of working in radio made my career easier” – Titilope Adesanya
I listened to a podcast you were featured in, and you mentioned you wanted to become an actress earlier, when did you realize you could go into the music business?
Titilope Adesanya: I had a friend that worked at Trace at the time while I was working at a radio station (I am a trained Journalist) I worked there producing and presenting as a newscaster but I also took part in producing an entertainment show so I started to see the space in the music industry.
The only reason I joined a radio station was because I wanted to be on air, I had always wanted to be a broadcaster or an actress but I later found out that acting was not really my thing even though I knew I would have been good at it. I didn’t feel like the industry was meant for me because I don’t like things that demand too much competition, I don’t like competition, I like to sit down and do my work.
Being an actress or being in that space feels like you need to do much. I finally discovered that I could get into the music space through a friend as a joke. I told her to hire me and she said “the guys upstairs are hiring” . Apparently the guys upstairs happened to be Africori; they were the first record company I worked with and they kind of set the entire trajectory for me.
I worked there as a communication personnel using my journalism background. I am also an organizational type of person who puts things together so I became a label manager. At Africori, I handled communications in-house and externally so social media, writing newsletters, blogs were my job descriptions.
I learnt how to fit in, how to creatively create strategies. In all, I found my path through exploring different aspects of my jobs. Getting experience in radio made my career easier.
Since your job was impromptu, what was your reaction when you got the job?
Titilope Adesanya: I had the interview and on my way back to the radio station, I already got the job. The interview was not a walk in the park, I was actually sweating but at the same time, it was relaxing because they were nice. I was put on probation for 3 months so I did not assume that I had made it big in the business already but I was confident that my work would speak for itself and they would retain me.
“South Africa awakened in me the fact that I could be a creative in ways I didn’t even know was possible”
You seem to have a lot of contact with South Africa, you were a product manager, country coordinator for a charity organization, even a radio presenter in South Africa. How significant has South Africa been in your career?
Titilope Adesanya: South Africa has been extremely significant. Two of the most important people in my life live in South Africa and are South Africans, I met them there. A lot of my formative years as a young adult were spent there, I spent 6-7 years, turned 21, went to school, got my first job in the music industry and learnt a lot of things in South Africa.
I was lucky enough to be in a space where creativity was the winner. I found the right community from the beginning actually just 3 months in and I am a huge believer in following your guts.
I was part of a charity organization so I had the access to connect with a lot of people and this made my job application to a radio station easier. South Africa awakened in me the fact that I could be creative in ways I didn’t even know was possible, there was a different world that existed creatively speaking and it’s in their culture.
The entire space is what I would like to refer to as a fertile ground for creatives and I think I wouldn’t have had the kind of experience I have if I did not start there.
At some point, it felt like it was beginning to stifle me and my movement back to Nigeria, catapulted me into a different scene which I think was necessary because I got the basis from South Africa and by the time I moved to Nigeria, I was grounded enough.
How did you start your journey with EMPIRE?
Titilope Adesanya: Eze Gozie Eze is responsible for that. He is currently head of business development for Africa & Diaspora at EMPIRE. I met him a few years ago in South Africa and over the years, he offered me job opportunities but none felt better than what I had back there in South Africa until he told me about EMPIRE. I had a conversation with Ghazi, Nima and other team members of EMPIRE.
Eze has a good eye for spotting the right people and the best position for them and he did a good job with this one.
It is not uncommon for one to be nervous when starting out in a new job, what was your experience during your early days at EMPIRE?
Honestly, I still get nervous every other day when working on a project, it does not matter how many times you have gone through the process though there are some things you can take care of easily without stressing about it. I think the best way to describe it is that I still get anxious with priority projects.
You question yourself to know if you have done the job well?, is anything missing?, will the artist like what we have come up with?, how will the audience receive this project? things like this will always cross your mind.
Having been at EMPIRE Records for almost 3 years and during those years, you have handled several projects, what was the first project you managed?
I have been involved in a few projects since I started at EMPIRE but LAX’s ZaZa Vibes is the first full I saw all the way through and still involved in today, there has not been a better sync. We worked together and we achieved even more than what was expected, we ended up having a global hit record Sempe which is still growing 3 years after that album. While I worked on so many, this was the most accomplished one I started with.
Through your social media, you radiate positivity and good vibes, how supportive have your circle of friends and colleagues been?
My friends are the best! There are times were I have been through rough times alone but there has always been a cushion for me and this is because I have great friends. They are always there when I need people to get me back to form and when I need them to celebrate with me. My friends are literally all that I have. I spend all my free time either by myself or with my friends, there is no in between.
My colleagues are warm and welcoming, when you need an extra hand, someone is willing to help out. The entire DNA of EMPIRE is warm regardless of the region and I think that’s why the company stands out because over here, it’s all about the fans, creatives, and artists, that’s what makes the industry.
You have been featured on Billboard’s Women in Music 2023, what was your reaction when you heard the news and what does this mean to you?
I was ecstatic, that’s the right answer as to how I felt when I got the news. It was sometime in January when I was told that I was selected for Billboard’s Women in Music 2023 and once more being an overthinker, I was waiting to disprove how big that was but reality dawned on me when I attended the event in Los Angeles that this is a huge success.
I sat down in a room filled with thousands of people, some were nominees others were there to celebrate women. I’m thankful to be a part of this amazing opportunity. I learnt how to celebrate myself because I tend to keep moving but this left me moved and inspired. I am also taking it as a reminder that I can achieve more, this is an acknowledgement that if I ask, I can get more.
A lot of women are encouraged by your recent achievement especially women who are trying to get into the music scene
Actually, there are a lot of women who work in the music industry, they are behind the scenes and they work endlessly to promote what we see out there. The more we are recognized, the easier it will be for women to come in, there are rooms women can occupy. I am thankful that I can be a source of inspiration to other women. You just have to make people know you exist.
What would you say to women who want to work in the music industry?
Learn how to stand your ground. Don’t second guess yourself too much. Yes, think deeply about your decisions but don’t doubt yourself; If you do, it will affect your self esteem and this will lead you to start seeking validation from everyone else. Meanwhile, while you are questioning your capabilities, you will discover that it’s actually something you can easily sort out.
In a nutshell, my advice for women coming into the industry,
“Everything you think about is valid, still, think carefully about your decisions. It’s okay to make mistakes, don’t second guess yourself and learn how to stand your ground”