On the death of labels and EME becoming a media company - The Native

The death of labels and EME becoming a media company

The days have not been very long since EME had a major stake in Nigerian music as a major record label. Founded in New York by Banky W and Tunde Demuren, EME thrived under Banky W’s leadership, pushing Wizkid as a flagship artist, Skales as a rapper and songwriter, Shaydee and Niyola as vocalists and Dj Xclusive as the label’s official DJ. The label’s rise set a tone for improved quality, aesthetics and style. Though EME looked successful on paper for many years, the label slipped under the radar following Wizkid and Skales’s exit in 2012 and 2014 respectively. In the years since, more music and project releases have come from the label, but none has made the impact or enjoyed the same level of success as the label did with more billable artists.

But while this has all the looks of a run-of-the-mill, business failure written all over it, the underlying cause is perhaps a reflection of a bigger on-going shift in the music business. Labels have been at risk of extinction since the cusp of the digital age. In an era where anyone can cut out the middleman by digitally self-recording and publishing music, many artists have taken the job of managing their careers upon themselves. It’s hard to say how the trend has influenced the decision of EME and it’s management to shut down the group’s record label arm, but via a press-release released earlier today, Banky W outlined the group’s decision to turn to advertising, public relations and marketing amongst other media related specialities.

When you really break down what a media company does, in this digital age, it totally makes sense that labels are going out of business. What’s the point of signing a 360 recording deal when platforms like NATIVE can handle promotion without having to play pseudo-manager in exchange for a cut of the profits from record sales? Asides big money marketing and publishing, labels don’t serve any real purpose since digitally-aided indie artists can distribute their music through streaming sites and promote it through the media.

Last year, Mr Eazi released his debut project, Accra to Lagos with nothing but hype from affiliating with Wizkid’s Starboy music collective and the goodwill from a fan base he built organically from university tours. But you wouldn’t guess that from how much publicity he got off the EP, touring across continents and making rounds in international media. On an episode of BBC’s “Hits, Hype & Hustle: An Insider’s Guide to the Music Business”, the firm responsible for marketing and promoting his music revealed the schemes and campaigns employed to make his successful run last year a reality. The video explains how they “Seed The Track Into The Interweb” by building relationships with editors, influencers and blogs—all the things a media platform exists to do.

There’s no real incentive to sign a record deal if music production and distribution no longer require big budgets and can be done independently. EME leveraging their strategic position and experience with breaking artists into the mainstream to start a media company could potentially be a golden idea. The label boss, Banky W released a statement via his Instagram where he explained the history of the brand and how they intend to restructure their services so they serve as a media agency concern itself with PR, talent management and production.

Empire Mates Entertainment (EME) was started by @captdemuren & I, way back in 2001/2002 – in my dorm room at my University in NY. The reason we used the word "Empire" was because Tunde and I were crazy enough to dream that we could build a company that would eventually become an Empire.. one that would serve as the launching pad for not only my career goals in music, movies and other interests… but one that would also serve as a stepping stone for other talents to become more successful and achieve their goals as well. We started the record label part of it right there in my room, which we relocated to Lagos around Vals day 2008 – and we thank God for guiding and crowning our efforts thus far; we've played our little part in helping discover/boost the careers of a number of talents in the Music business (some of your favourite Artists, Producers & Engineers..) and we are forever grateful for the opportunity to live out our dreams by giving others a platform to shine as well. In January of 2017, after 9 years of being in the Nigerian Music Industry, we decided it was time to quietly close the Record Label Arm of our business (Part 1.. pls read next post 😁)

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EME’s ‘silent’ death as a label is a testament to the changing times with regards to artists management. The agency will no longer be overseeing music distribution like they did when acts like Wizkid and Skales were still with them. Instead, Banky is keeping his company relevant in this digital era by re-purposing his label to serve as a media company that’ll cater to artists’ branding, touring and project campaign needs. It’s an innovative way to maximize the influence and success the brand has built over the last decade.

(Part 2 – continued from previous post) Essentially we have restructured our business.. and instead of operating just as a record label, we have expanded and changed our focus a bit… we are now a full fledged Media Agency that focuses on Creative Marketing, Advertising, PR, Brand Events/Activations AND a talent management firm. This switch in focus has been amazing and fulfilling.. behind the scenes, we have been able to impact the launching and marketing of a number of brands and companies the way we did artists.. but even in the talent management side, we are no longer restricted to working with just Music Artistes. We still work with Musicians, but we also work with OAP's, Actors and are evaluating sports management as well. The goal was always to find talents and brands we believe in, and partner with them to help them become more successful… now we have expanded to do that for more than just the Music business. We are excited about our client portfolio: the corporate brands we rep, as well as the talents. At the moment, our clients are: @djxclusive83, @ebuka, @toolzo, @adesuaetomi, and of course yours truly Mr W. (And a few corporate brands as well) Talk to us for all things Marketing/Advertising/PR/Media/Entertainment. We shoot tvc's and documentaries just as great as we do music videos. We launch brands and products as well as we have launched Artists. Need some help with your digital marketing? Need an ad campaign? Influencers for your next launch? Finding the right brand ambassadors for your product? We are your one stop shop for the marriage between corporate Africa and Entertainment. For a simple reference, it's kind of like how Jay went from Rocafella to Roc Nation. Just.. same name, new targets. @theofficialeme_ is our IG page, and for booking any of our clients pls holla at us directly. Grateful for our past, and excited about our future.. this is EME. God bless you all and thanks for the support.

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Featured Image Credits: Instagram/bankywellington


You are meeting Debola at a strange time in his life. He wandered into a dream and lost his way back. Tweet at him @debola_abimbolu


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