Warner Music Group (WMG) has entered a new partnership with Chocolate City, the influential Nigerian record label with a roster of stars that includes Femi Kuti, son of Afrobeat trailblazer Fela. Under the new deal, which was announced Thursday (May 28), Chocolate City artists will join WMG’s repertoire and receive the support of the company’s distribution and artist services via its independent label services division ADA.
“At Chocolate City, we have always been passionate about discovering and developing the best talent across Africa and giving them a platform for global growth,” said Chocolate City Group CEO Audu Maikori in a statement. “The partnership with Warner Music Group is unique in the sense that our clients get the best of both worlds — curated and bespoke services by a highly experienced team across Africa and a dedicated global team to further push their music and their brands.”
“The music scene in Nigeria is so rich and diverse that it’s important that we develop bespoke entrepreneurial strategies,” added Warner Music executive vp Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa Alfonso Perez Soto. “At the same time, we’ll keep in mind the lessons learned from other emerging markets, for instance Latin America where we successfully broke local artists globally. We have great affinity with Chocolate City’s creative and ambitious approach and we’re excited about Warner’s role in bringing to life their vision of taking their music worldwide.”
The deal, which is designed to broaden the reach of Chocolate City’s roster of artists across the world, includes a strategic, reciprocal marketing agreement with WMG South Africa. WMG will also financially invest in Chocolate City to assist in its mission of signing and developing promising local talent. Chocolate City co-founders Audu Maikori and Paul Okeugo, along with executive vps Jude Abaga and Aibee Abidoye, will continue to lead the company.
Other Chocolate City artists include M.I. Abaga, Dice Ailes, Nosa, ClassiQ, Ruby Gyang, Blaqbonez, C Kay and Street Billionaires. Its catalog also includes such popular artists as Brymo, Ice Prince and Jesse Jagz.
This is the second partnership WMG has entered into with an African company in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the label signed a major licensing deal with popular African streaming and downloading service Boomplay.
The deals come amid a surge in popularity for the Afrobeats sound (a progeny of the earlier style known as “Afrobeat”) across the globe. In 2016, Drake’s single “One Dance” featuring Nigerian singer Wizkid became a massive summer hit, topping the Billboard Hot 100 for 10 non-consecutive weeks. More recently, Migos rapper Quavo featured Nigerian singer Davido on his debut solo studio album, Quavo Huncho, while electronic music trio Major Lazer released an “Afrobeats” mix last September.
Sub-Saharan Africa is considered an emerging market thanks to a rising young population (1.1 billion) and the spread of smartphones in the region. WMG isn’t the only American music company that’s taken notice; in 2016, Sony Music signed deals with both Wizkid and Tanzanian singer Ali Kiba, while Universal Music Group opened a Nigerian division last July.