Warner Records Debuts Africa-Focused JV Label ‘Protect the Culture’ – ‘Afrobeats Is Universal And Incredibly Diverse’

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Warner Records Debuts Africa Focused JV Label Protect the Culture | Richmcculley

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Protect the Culture founder Marc Byers. Photo credit: Warner Records

With rapid growth in a number of music markets in Africa, Warner Records has officially announced a joint venture label called Protect the Culture with former Motown Records general manager (and Afrobeats advisor to Warner Music Group) Marc Byers.

Warner Records announced this morning its collaboration with Byers and newly formed Protect the Culture, some 18 months after parent Warner Music acquired a majority stake in African distribution and rights management company Africori. Ghana-born, Massachusetts-based Lord Afrixana, Protect the Culture’s first act, has released a single entitled “Don’t get tired” about the just-unveiled label.

Meanwhile, in addition to leading Protect the Culture, Marc Byers has also acted as an A&R consultant for Warner Records and in this role will “focus on the vibrant African music scene,” the parties said. In a statement, former Atlantic Records A&R executive Byers made clear his plans to “introduce more than just sounds from Africa” ​​through Protect the Culture.

“I’m passionate about this genre and I believe it’s going to be the pop music of the world,” Byers said in part. “Lord Afrixana is our first artist on the label and he is incredibly talented. PTC wants to do more than introduce sounds from Africa, because Afrobeats is universal and incredibly diverse.”

And in a joint comment, Warner Records A&R President Steven Carless and EVP and A&R Head Karen Kwak called Byers “an invaluable A&R resource” and referenced the signings of the above “Landing” Creator Lord Afrixana and Pheelz from Nigeria.

Warner Music isn’t alone in making high-profile investments in the African music industry, with Universal Music Group bringing Virgin Music Label & Artist Services to the continent just over a year ago.

Ultra International Music Publishing recently announced an expansion into West Africa in early 2023 – including the launch of a creative hub in Lagos, Nigeria. Paris-based Believe then reported significant sales growth in Africa and Asia-Pacific, while PRS for Music and Rob Wells’ Orfium signed a “groundbreaking” partnership with a focus on Africa in the same month.

Finally, African music-streaming newcomer Mdundo ended June by forecasting monthly active users to grow about 35 percent (to 35 million MAUs) over the next fiscal year; The platform aims to expand its user base to 50 million by or in 2025.

Mdundo primarily focused on 15 countries in Africa – with a particular focus on Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana and Uganda – and offered access to 2.2 million titles as of December 2022, according to its website.