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.
Beth, tell us about what the #&@$ you do!
I am the Artist and Label Manager within East Africa and by extension Ghana. My roles range from listening to music by our artists/labels and going over their release plans to working together with the marketing teams. With the marketing teams, we ensure that we not only send out the music to DSPs with the correct metadata and assets, but also that we let the right people know about the releases, such as music editors and curators.
I am also tasked with discovering new talent or general developments that are happening within the music industry across the region. Together with our VP of Africa we make sure that The Orchard is at the forefront of this development.
“I see myself as the medium to communicate the artists’ visions to the different departments and to ensure that the various departments fully understand what the artist is aiming for with each release.”
How does your role / department fit into The Orchard?
With the artist and labels at the core of the company’s business, the Label Manager is the connecting link between artists/labels and the various departments of The Orchard. I see myself as the medium to communicate the artists’ visions to the different departments and to ensure that the various departments fully understand what the artist is aiming for with each release.
My role is also about being able to communicate The Orchard’s role as a digital distributor to our artists and labels. Especially in a market where most artists employ the DIY approach to their careers, there can be a lot of the lines that become blurry.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is being able to listen to music before it flows out into the world. But importantly, it’s spending time with our artists. Sometimes my role is advising them on the various aspects of their digital music presence, and how we can best capture people’s interest in the way they present their finished work to the world.
Prior to the current prevailing world situation, one of my favorite things to do was venture out to music events and networking events to discover new music and meet new people, as well as promote The Orchard’s presence within the East African market. I’m looking forward to when we will be able to reconnect in person and enjoy the wonderful shows by the artists.
What’s a campaign/project you are proud to have worked on?
We work with many great, dynamic artists within East Africa and Ghana. I think each project has its dynamics that provide learning opportunities and challenges in equal measures. It is how we capitalize on the successes and also learn from the challenging opportunities that make it worthwhile. That said, I think one of my favorite projects working with an artist like Chemutai Sage, who is primed for the world stage. She is making her comeback to the music scene in Kenya with her latest project Jungle Trap. Her fans have been waiting for such a long time to hear her voice on the global stage.
Out of Rwanda we have a great working relationship with a very promising label, which I am proud to have been able to be part of the initial conversations with up until we brought them onboard. I think as a company, being able to provide a leveled platform for artists from every walk of life and being part of their success story is very fulfilling. And together, we are always working to support very young music scenes and see that they are able to grow onto the world stage.
How did you first get started in the music industry?
My first dalliance with the music industry was in 2014 while working on a Public Service Announcement around Malaria. The concept was using celebrities and Kenyan musical artists to reach communities in Kenya greatly affected by Malaria. Seeing the impact this had on the rural areas in Kenya was a confirmation that when music is put to good use it can change lives. I thus opted to learn as much as I could, and since then it has been a beautiful journey. I’ve worked in various capacities, including running the East Africa office for an African online magazine, organizing one of the largest trade and conference events in Kenya, as well as touring artists to neighboring markets like South Africa.
What advice do you have for independent artists / those who want to break into the industry?
Speaking from an East African perspective, one thing would be talent alone is not enough. Artists must strive for excellence. Every step made should be precise, clearly thought through, and must add up to the bigger picture. There is a lot of noise to cut through within the industry – so less time for anyone to allow mediocrity.
Obviously, the artists we work with come from environments that are quite challenging, this means they have to be able to spread themselves across various facets of their careers. While it’s a challenge, I think it allows them to learn more about the business aspects of their business and understand what each strand of the music business means to their careers.
Secondly, it would be for them to build the right team. I’d suggest surrounding yourself with people who can give an honest opinion of your work, whether that be friends or anyone else. Obviously not every piece of advice is to be followed, so that is where the artist needs to have their own clarity on what they hope to achieve with their career.
What artists have you been listening to on repeat lately?
I tend to listen to a lot of different artists over and over. Currently, I have been listening to a lot of Frank Sinatra. Some of his songs get me reflecting on life and I think even years from now I will still be whispering the same messages that his songs carry.
I’ve also been listening to Blinky Bill’s last album Everyone Is Just Winging It And Other Fly Tales. I think he kept things so simple in this album and didn’t overthink everything, which is very relatable. I’ve also been listening to music by other acts like Winyo – his music just gets better even after listening to it for years.
The artist Phy is yet another act that I am so enthralled by. I can’t wait to hear her make her comeback and continue to share her very dynamic sound.
“There are so many amazing colleagues from The Orchard that are based across the world. I know that I am able to reach out anytime to learn about their market or get support from them when an artist I’m working with is keen to rise in that market.”
What’s your favorite thing about working at The Orchard?
I think it’s the fact that you have the ability to determine how far you want to go. Since the first day on the job, the vision was easily communicated by our VP for Africa. It’s a great feeling to be entrusted by this vision and allowed to spread my wings as far as I want.
Also, it’s knowing that you are never alone, even when you are the only person on the ground. There are so many amazing colleagues from The Orchard that are based across the world. I know that I am able to reach out anytime to learn about their market or get support from them when an artist I’m working with is keen to rise in that market.
Favorite tradition at The Orchard?
It would have to be the regular check in sessions with European and New York Label Management teams. It provides an opportunity to connect and learn what is happening in the other territories. More importantly, it is the ability to share with peers on a variety of issues. That creates a sense of belonging for a company that has so many teams distributed across the world.
How do you discover new music?
Concerts are a big way for me to discover music. I’ve discovered some very niche artists this way from festivals around the world. WhatsApp is another way. In Kenya and the neighboring markets, artists have embraced the idea to create broadcast lists. While sometimes it can be so overwhelming, some days great music gets shared. And of course, traditional ways like TV shows or playlists.
What’s something you’ve learned outside of work that helps you to be your best self at work?
Stay true to yourself. In a world that is constantly changing, unless you truly know who you are and are able to live true to that, it’s easy to lose yourself. Sometimes it’s the pressure to fit in with the cool crowds or to try to pretend to be something that you are not just to please others.
When you truly know who you are, it means you respect yourself enough to not compromise on your values. You know what you stand for. It allows you to be honest with others and also allows them to understand you as a person without trying to figure out who you are every other time.