Meet Peter Jideonwo, the artist manager to some of music’s biggest stars
"I am really just a happiness engineer. I make everyone happy and I make stuff shake"
"I am really just a happiness engineer. I make everyone happy and I make stuff shake"
Like almost everything in the constantly shape-shifting music industry over the years, the role of artist managers has evolved to fit within the scope of the fast-moving, post-digital era. As independent artists gain more traction and power in the music scene, bypassing gatekeepers and the need for labels and traditional contract deals, it’s become increasingly harder for artists to stay sonically relevant and in-tune with their audience in the age of social media. There’s more at stake, a lot more responsibility required to make it in today’s world, and a good artist manager is integral to creating the type of success an artist wants.
In the last few years, Peter Jideonwo has proven himself to be one of the more adept artist managers of the times, successfully managing some of music’s brightest names over the years, including Trippie Redd, The Kid Laroi and the late, highly revered Juice WRLD. Currently, he co-owns independent label Grade A with partner Lil Bibby, and together they’re controlling their little but burgeoning corner of Hip-Hop’s bustling scene in so many different ways, from artist development to social media strategy and, more recently, merchandising, a business that runs the gamut of the hottest rappers at the moment, including Lil Durk, Polo G, Lil Tjay, G Herbo and many more.
View this post on Instagram
Although Peter has certainly earned his stripes over the years, the 27-year old Nigerian would never have imagined that he would become a manager to some of the best names in the Hip-Hop space, but years of cultivating a hustle spirit in Surulere, a suburb in Lagos, Nigeria where he grew up, gave him the much needed thick skin to thrive as an artist manager and budding music executive. Jideonwo tells me that he grew up in a moderate middle-class family that shuffled between Lagos and Port Harcourt, and he quickly learnt that he would have to be enterprising and proactive to get what he wanted.
So when his family moved him to school in the UK at the age of 10, and then to college in the U.S. later on in his formative years, Peter knew that he had to stand out in some way. As a millennial who grew up in the promising age of the internet and social media, Peter soon realised that he was good at getting people to care, and his over a million followers garnered across different parody accounts over the years was proof that he had these people skills. Then, years later, a chance encounter with a Nigerian collective in the States led Peter on a journey that culminated in everything the artist manager is currently bountifully reaping.
“I met a Nigerian guy who was in a collective with other Nigerians and they were party promoters but my problem is that I went to college in Indiana so I didn’t have that kind of crowd. However, I approached him expressing interest in the job and quickly learnt the ropes,” he tells me over a Zoom call last Thursday. After soon learning how to pull crowds of people to parties and nightclubs near him, Peter set his sights on a much grander vision–hosting a music concert. “I never wanted to really be a party promoter because it’s just not for me. I’ve never been an out-there person. So I sold my car for $10,000 and went to the people I worked with asking that we host a concert,” he admits. Although the first concert was an astronomical success at the time, his partners didn’t see a future in Peter’s line of interests and he soon parted ways with the collective.
Peter didn’t relent on his dreams to host similar shows and concert experiences, and it was his hunger to boost the visibility of the artists he booked for shows that endeared him naturally to the role of an artist manager. After working successfully with G Herbo on shows in Chicago, the pair soon began touring different states and venues, looking for gigs and concerts that would take in a street artist, despite the negative connotations attached. As Peter continued to build his portfolio, he eventually met Juice WRLD, the then Soundcloud rapper, who he boosted to social media virality in a matter of months. Peter had found his beat, and he’s been sticking to it ever since.
Just on the other side of his artist The Kid Laroi’s debut on the Jimmy Fallon Show, we spoke to the rising music powerhouse about his role as an artist manager and what it takes to stand out from the crowd. Our chat, which follows below, has been lightly edited for clarity.
NATIVE: How did the artist/manager relationships that you’re currently involved in begin?
PETER: I didn’t know I wanted to make it in the music industry. I have always been entrepreneurial and doing stuff on social media. At one point in my life, I probably had like a million-plus followers on various parody social media accounts so I’ve always been an internet kid since 2006. After working in party promotion after graduating college, I knew that I could drive traffic so I began thinking about other ways to use my skills. This is how I realised I wanted to do concerts although we lost a lot of money at the time. Then I ran into this artist in Chicago called G Herbo. No one would book Herb at the time because he was a street artist. I decided to take a chance on him and convinced one of my friends to book him. God was on my side and he let me book the show, my box office came to about 60-70k dollars and we made huge profits. This was my biggest breakthrough. After that I took him city to city. This was me with no connections, just me with Google, looking up venues, booking shows. That’s when I met my partner Lil Bibby and we instantly connected. We just kept building like that and then I started doing merchandising with Famous Dex. I really grew in that business not knowing how big it was going to be.
NATIVE: You’ve worked with vastly different Hip-Hop artists throughout your career. How would you say you’ve tailored your skills to each artist individually?
PETER: I think the most important thing is really the ability to deal with people, that is what God blessed me with. I would say this is because I grew up with a lot of people and just really know what makes people tick. Sticking to your word is the most important thing you’re going to do. I’m a good people person and I’m really good at establishing connections to a certain extent. You can get something out of everyone and that’s how I bring value every time I am in the mix. A lot of times with artists, people just take and take and don’t really add any value to their career so that’s what I try to do with each artist.
NATIVE: What’s the most important part of your role as an artist manager?
PETER: It’s doing everything that your artist is not doing. The problem with artist management right now is that a lot of managers think exactly as the rappers and musicians are thinking. They want to be in the fame and the limelight but they are not fully investing 100% of their time into making sure that the artist is going correct. Not everyone but a lot of people. The most important thing that an artist manager can do is doing everything that your artist is not doing. If your artist is focused on gaming and making music, then you can do everything else to enhance their brand. Make their brand bigger and try to establish other forms of their business.
NATIVE: What do you think Afropop artists and managers could be doing to boost their visibility on social media.
PETER: Again branding is important. I think a lot of people are already doing a good job of this but I think it’s a different animal when you try to step out of your comfort zone and break into the American market. However, I do realise that the African and American markets are vastly different and what might make you tick in one, may not work for the other because it’s two totally different types of people. I would say really think outside the box and do all the stuff your artist is not doing, especially if you’re the ones with the money. The music back home is great but there has to be something else. We have to do a better job of letting people know what our people got going on so it’s not just “that’s a great record” then we’re on to the next. We need to be doing more stuff to make your artist relevant in everything other than music.
NATIVE: How do you consistently stay on the pulse with everything pop culture and media?
PETER: The internet. I’ve been an internet kid for many years since 2006. I’m still an internet kid even though I am older now so it is really what you choose to do with your time. Are you going to spend the time watching someone else or making sure you are a success and learning? I don’t even spend time watching what other people do and how they spend their time. I’m constantly learning new things and finding out how the world works. Working is not necessarily what humans could be put on earth for. I wish we could spend our time learning more about our culture and improving it. My little three hours at the end of the night, I spend learning. I wish I have more time to learn. You need to be ahead of the curve to benefit your clients in some way.
NATIVE: We know you’ve done tremendous work with the Hip-Hop scene over there but are there any Afropop acts that you’d like to work with?
PETER: You know the person that I really like right now is Elaine from South Africa and I like VanJess as well. I am a huge fan of everyone and I love the culture and I do love what Davido, Wizkid, Burna Boy and everyone else is doing to enhance and break over here in the American market but these are the two that I would really like to work with just because they are fresh. I’m not the kind of person that you try to get into stuff that is already going, I love building things up. That’s what is really special about the work we are doing because we can take something from inception to a bigger stage.
Featured image credits/Courtesy of Peter Jideonwo
Doing what I can to make sure the culture isn’t slept on @tamimak_