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With offices and employees spread across the globe, sometimes it takes time to get to know everyone. In our series ‘What The #&@$ Do You Do?!’ (WTFDYD), The Orchard highlights Orchardites from all over the world to learn more about their role at The Orchard and experience working in the music industry.

Hi iKECHUKWU! Can you tell us about what the #&@$ you do!?

I am the Director for The Orchard’s Nigerian office, which is run out of Lagos State. My role involves overseeing the administration of the day to day activities of the company and ensuring its representation, position, and image are in line with the goals we set out during our planning phase. Outside of this, I am also responsible for all acquisitions within the territory — with a view of building a roster that not only complements The Orchard, but also broadens as well as diversifies our existing catalogue. Finally, I play an advisory role and act as a conduit between our international departments who are interested in breaking acts they represent into this new and exciting market of Nigeria and Africa. 

How does your role / department fit into The Orchard?

Well first and foremost, it’s very important to note that The Orchard has been doing business in Nigeria since 2004, however it was run out of the UK office. The fundamental significance is now we’re on the ground building on top of that legacy. Nigeria is a leading market within the continent, making it very important for The Orchard to not only now have proper visibility, but play a new role in contributing to its evolution. Within Nigeria, I continue to work regularly with all areas of the industry — making my experiences, contacts, and current position vital in navigating our new course.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

I have quite a few, however if I had to choose only one then it would be negotiating the deals. Each deal is unique even if it’s just by margins. It’s by understanding and appreciating what these margins are that will be the major difference between securing a client or losing them to a competitor. The art of negotiation is really about understanding the uniqueness and requirements of each potential client and exporting the essential elements we have to offer by presenting them in a way that speaks exactly to each client. It’s also about understanding the market, competition, and being able to predict their moves just like you would in a game of chess. Above all, for me, it’s about being genuine and straight to the point – no gimmicks!

What’s a campaign / project you are proud to have worked on? 

It would have to be two in particular. The first would be DRB Lasgidi, because that was my first official deal I brought in. It was like my “baptism.” I learned a lot within a short period of time. Secondly, Naira Marley as he is currently one of Nigeria’s most controversial and biggest artists at the moment! By really taking our time to understand the actual needs of the artist, we were able to secure him as well as his new label Marlian Music – which brought on seven new acts as well. Securing Naira Marley and the label was a great statement of intent for The Orchard in this region. It meant letting people know we are here and we mean business!

How did you first get started in the music industry?

Wow, I guess we’d have to go back to the mid 90’s when I was an intern at Hardzone Full Services PR in London Brixton. We had the privilege of exclusively working everything that came into the UK for Def Jam Records. Jump ahead a few years later and I had another break being on the Street Team for Black Kat Records, as well as the assistant to the Bournemouth District Manager. We were the first UK Black label to have a distro deal with Sony, which was major. I took all my experience collated after that and went to study music business to sharpen my raw street business skills, which equipped me with the ability to marry street savviness with the structure required by corporates to do business at a higher level. I’ve never looked back, really.

What advice do you have for independent artists or those who want to break into the industry?

Be ready to work! If you’re in this for quick fame, money, or lifestyle then you’re really in it for the wrong reasons. Study your craft over and over and over again. Be a sponge. Stay hungry. Study the classics – it’s all there online! Don’t complicate shit. Keep it simple, unique and effective! Also, check your attitude. Build the right team around you with people that can tell you about yourself once you start tripping and getting high off your own hype! Manners are everything and cost nothing. The people you pass on your way up are the same people you will pass on your way down (just look at all of yesterday’s stars, where are they now?). Remember you’ve got between 2-5 years (if you’re lucky) of spotlight time. And no matter how big you get you will be replaced by the next flavor of the month, so whilst you have the spotlight diversify and get your house in order so you can still eat well when the phone is no longer ringing non-stop!

What artist have you been listening to on repeat lately?

I’m an old soul, so when I’m working I like instrumentals playing in the background. I’ve been listening to a lot of Herbie Hancock and Celloman. Both these artists allow my creative juices to flow without boundaries! If I really want to get in touch with my dark side, then there is no other than DMX because I love the way he paints a convincing picture of what he is describing with words. I can literally close my eyes when listening to him and imagine it! As for new music, I’ve been listening to a new artist from Nigeria named Tomi Thomas, who has his EP coming out soon titled Hopeless Romantic. It’s a fusion of Dancehall with Afro-Soul. I’ve been vibing to that daily! 

What’s your favourite thing about working at The Orchard?

The people and the diversity. It’s the people that make the company. There are so many people to meet, all with something special to offer that can empower you – and hopefully you them. It’s all about the exchange of knowledge. Getting to learn more and more about the company also emboldens one when you’re negotiating or just representing the company! 

Favorite tradition at The Orchard?

Attending some of the monthly global content meetings that take place online. For anyone that loves negotiating, this is a major master class in practice. It’s like getting a front row VIP seat where you hear about some of the massive deals being negotiated around the world. The challenges experienced in different territories, along with possible solutions coming in from different angles, which for someone like me is like candy! You really get to experience just how powerful the company actually is and you leave the meeting almost feeling fully charged and empowered! 

How do you discover new music? 

I’m fortunate that I discover new music from so many sources. I’m a guest presenter on a radio show in Nigeria (The PGM Radio show Beat FM 99.9) and we have over 500 songs sent in every month. Then there are recommendations from people wanting my opinion on their projects, plus I also have a lot sent to me from people who are looking for a distribution deal and know I’m in this role. Finally, through AMAN, (The Artiste Managers Association in Nigeria) where I’m the second VP. 

What’s something you’ve learned outside of work that helps you to be your best self at work?

Humility. Regardless of what I’ve learned, achieved, whoever I’ve hung out with or have in my phone – it doesn’t mean a thing. In every new position you start from ground zero again, building up relations, trust, confidence, and you will make mistakes. But from mistakes we learn. And at times they provide interesting solutions! I stay hungry for knowledge and regularly review  and set new  goals. I’m always trying to learn from everybody, regardless of background or position. Being a former lecturer has equipped me with the ability to understand that those that appear shy or quiet may have a lot to offer. You just have to find a way to communicate with them and get to know them. When you befriend others they just might feel comfortable to show you something truly magical! Finally, I’ve learned very early to find a way to constantly ginger yourself, so I always play Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” at the start of my day and before I do any negotiations big or small. It gives me a great edge and sense of invincibility!

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