Kevin Eze: Shaping Afrobeats Narrative as PR Specialist

Taiwo Olabode

July 11th, 2023

The recent explosion of Afrobeats on the world stage, highlights how important the business side of music is. A key factor in the success of Afrobeats is the use of good PR strategies. From Davido’s appearance on Drink Champs, to Burna Boy showcasing his charming personality on The Daily Show; it is obvious that selling the brand is just as important as making the music.

In this interview, we caught up with Kevin Eze; a seasoned music PR executive to talk about Public Relations and arristes relations in the Nigerian industry.

TTC: Tell us about your journey in PR. How you started and how you got to where you are today.

Kevin Eze: I started in the tech industry, as a web developer. I was building websites for businesses then, and I also did a little bit of graphic design, but I think my journey into PR started as a blogger. In 2009, I started a blog called “NaijaXclusive” with my childhood friend, and the blog blew up big around 2011/2012. It was one of the fastest-growing blogs then if you remember.

TTC: Yes, I do.

Kevin Eze: It was popular then because that was the blogging era NotjustOk, tooXclusive, Jaguda, 360nobs. We were among the top blogs back then and that was my first time in the entertainment industry. Having a popular entertainment website allowed me to work closely with a lot of artists because there were no streaming platforms like Spotify or Apple Music around at that time. So we were the ones who planned their releases and all. From doing that, I fell in love with digital marketing, and I had to study lots of courses on it. This is because I felt there was a line between digital marketing and web design. After all, if you create a website, you have to market it to get customers.

I dabbled into digital marketing as a freelancer, and I was doing music marketing for most of the artists that wanted to promote their songs on our website. I think that’s where the journey started, we started working with all of the top artists way back then, the late Sound Sultan, Tubaba, Olu Maintain, Davido and Ycee. That was when I started doing PR, I went from being a blogger to being an online PR for these artists and that’s where the journey started and today we are where we are.

TTC: Why did you choose to focus more on music?

Kevin Eze: Studying digital marketing, you have to tap into an industry cause marketing applies to every industry, you can be a digital marketer and major in real estate or major in sports, but because I already had a music website then, my first clients were musicians and I just went on with it.

TTC: What’s the Nigerian entertainment and music scene like in music PR? 

Kevin Eze: The Nigerian PR scene is the channel of promotion, when it comes to PR, there is a lot of analysis and lots of strategies that are adopted. When releasing a single, you don’t just go to TurnTable and say “I want to release a single”, there are lots of requirements. The PR industry is doing quite well but at the same time, there’s still room for improvement and I believe that when the industry begins to grow better, we will be getting more recognition. I started in an era where we didn’t have many digital streaming platforms. So then, there was a lot of reliance on street PR, street DJs, and the rest of them, but over time that has changed.

TTC: What has been your biggest challenge as a marketer of music?

Kevin Eze: The major challenge is the sensitization of the artists to understand the need for the PR, and hiring professionals to handle their projects. It is not enough to just promote music, we need more music marketers in the foundational stage of the music because from what I understand about marketing, there are 4 Ps of marketing which are product, price, place, and promotion. As such, promotion is just one of them. Musicians need to involve marketers from the onset, or for example from the creation of the music down to the marketing process.

So far so good, we’re getting there because now that everything is a little bit digital we tend to see a lot of artists now fall back to professionals. Before, when you do PR, you just needed to have an extensive network of promotion, you only needed to have people on the radio, and in the streets. Now, you need to understand digital marketing for you to sell properly, and you need to understand the structure, and the system put in place from the DSPs to the social networks. Those are the major challenges and slowly we’re getting there. 

TTC: Music marketing becomes increasingly expensive as the years go by, and this in turn affects the cost of PR. How can young artists without good financial backing navigate this reality?

Kevin Eze: I believe there are two most important elements in life, which are time and money. So if you don’t have so much money, you should be willing to spend a lot of time. Whenever I see an artist complain that they don’t have money, I expect them to put time into their craft. Because if you have time, you’d be able to learn and do some things yourself.

As I said earlier, the digital world made a lot of things more complex, but it also came with a manual. You can go to Youtube to watch videos on how to self-release my songs, and how to market myself. As complex and expensive as the industry is, there is also a manual for people to follow through, and that’s what I’ve been doing with my brand on the internet. I’ve been putting a lot of materials and information on my social media pages. I think that’s what made a lot of people know me; putting out information, a lot of guides and tips that would help independent artists to get results, to be able to manage their career by themselves till they get to that point when they need a full-blown label. For artists that are complaining that the cost of PR has become expensive, first of all, I would like to point out that it costs you nothing to create content. It costs you nothing to create content and post on your Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. It costs you nothing to take a camera and record yourself showcasing your craft. The point when you’re trying to convince the audience is where you spend money because you have to get a lot of influencers. However, if you focus on making these platforms work for you, if you focus on following the guidelines on Instagram to become a star, you would be a star. If Instagram asks you to post two times every day, you post two times every day. If Instagram asks you to use a certain hashtag, you use that hashtag. If Spotify says you should release songs every three months, you release a song every three months. Doing this does not make the promotion cost zero but it reduces the overall cost. If you have a limited budget, you spend money on the things that matter and spend time on replacing the rest of it. I hope that’s something you understand.

TTC: Yes, it’s very understandable and I think you are also right. If they don’t have the money, they should use their time for what they don’t have the money for.

Kevin Eze:  So, just in plain terms, if you don’t have so much money to promote your music, spend a lot of time, sending your music to your friends on Whatsapp. I’m of the notion that social media, which is meant to make things easier, now makes a lot of artists lazy but that’s a conversation for another day.

TTC: Talking about Nigerian music against the popularity of the Afrobeats globally, how do you think PR and marketing come in? What do you think we need to do to fully hack into that system?

Kevin Eze: Afrobeats is now the next best thing in the global music space, but at the same time I know that it is because of our PR that it got to where it is. What I would say is that our artists making waves in the international space need to find a way to develop a bigger/standard industry here. I know a couple of them are doing this already, though I know that at some point, they would want to work with the international PR to access more regions, they need to carry the Nigerians along so that they can be able to get the necessary experience and bring it back home to develop something here. This is because, as much as Afrobeats is gaining the international recognition that we’ve all longed for, how would it benefit us more in Nigeria, the industry, and the entire ecosystem? So we need them to carry more of the local music marketers along, to gain that much-needed experience, and to network to be able to establish something back here. I’m praying for a day when international artists start patronizing Nigerian/African-owned PR companies, but so far we’re doing good.

TTC: Do you have any important skills that you can share with anybody who might read or listen to this interview that might be interested in going into PR?

Kevin Eze: If you wanna do music PR going into this current industry, you need to at least know about digital marketing, because you can’t promote without marketing online. Asides from the skillset, you shouldn’t be scared of how long the journey is, you just need to start. Marketing can be likened to studying medicine, there are a lot of little areas, and you need to focus on one site, every marketer has one area that they are specialized in, you can be a DSP PR person, you can be a Search engine optimizer or email marketer or, you can be a social media marketer, you just need to pick an area you love the most and become so good at it. Once you become good at it, start with one artist, then with another one, and keep going. You would get results but don’t also forget to get the needed knowledge by learning from the people that are already existing in the game, to learn about a couple of pitfalls to avoid.

Also, away from the PR side of things, I'm pointing it out to the artists out there, the major thing they need to focus on is to learn more. You’re a musician but it doesn’t mean you can’t go on Youtube to learn how to promote your music. As much as it’s good to build a team of delegates, it’s also important to know a little bit about what you’re delegating for, because at the end of the day, it’s your career that we’re talking about. 

If you have a basic understanding of how the industry works, you won’t fall for any story that PR can just come and tell you. This is one of the major things my brand stands for, educating artists with the basic and advanced knowledge they need to stand, without much professional help. When I moved from the blogging space to the marketing space, I figured out that most artists have little or no idea of how music PR works. Some of them don’t know how to function on social media, they fully depend on a professional to guide them through the process. This is why I created those tips, shortcuts, and articles that can guide them into achieving what they can achieve on their own before getting a major deal.

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