Tag Archives: Chris Anokute

Young Forever. Def Jam and Chris Anokute officially split.

Chris Anokute & Katy Perry

If you’ve been following the Twitter-sphere you might have picked up the leak of two of Katy Perry singles from her new album, PRISM, a little over a month ago.

As many had been eagerly anticipating that release, it goes without saying that the singles were retweeted and just like that, the planned October 22nd release of her album went up in smoke.

Allegedly, the leaks came from the infamous Perez Hilton and caused quite a stir at Capitol Records, Katy’s label, who were – how do you say – “pissed.”

As anyone who has used social media in this millennia knows, once something hits the interwebs, you can’t really take it back.

So Capitol should have run with it and pushed their marketing and promotions ahead to take advantage of the early buzz.

Or accepted the leak as great pre-promotion, as a litmus test to see which DJs in which markets were feeling and playing the records – and concentrate their efforts where buzz and spins were concentrated (or missing).

But Capitol Records, in typical dying record label form, blew its stack and started playing the blame game.

Instead of “capitalizing” (pun intended) on the moment, they started looking for someone to blame.

And do you know who ended up in their crosshairs? Chris Anokute.

“Chris Anokute? Isn’t he at Island Def Jam?” You ask.

That’s right.

But in the cover your ass shit storm that ensued, Chris became the scapegoat for the label’s ineptitude.

You see Chris, who used to A&R Katy Perry saw Perez Hilton’s tweet of Katy’s single and retweeted it (as did at least 60+ others who saw the tweet that morning).

Although Chris is no longer at Capitol, he and Katy remain close and she counts him among her closest friends.

So it went without saying tag when he saw Perez’s tweet, he shared the link to Katy’s single with his 14k followers.

Sharing is what friends do in the age of social media.

Right?

Well not if you’re a label exec.

Allegedly, the powers that be at Capitol and Island Def Jam felt that somehow Chris’ retweet violated some unwritten code of conduct.

And apparently that breach caused at least one executive to try airing it out on Chris.

And I say “apparently” because Chris put a response on Facebook, essentially blacking out on the dimwit dinosaurs running most major record labels.

Here’s a taste:

This is the abridged version of the blackout.

And with that, it was on.

Shortly after that incident Chris Anokute was released from Def Jam.

The deals of his termination are sketchy, and he’s probably bound to some draconian non-disclosure agreement, so unfortunately I can’t share all the juicy details with  you.

Suffice it to say, he’s not up$et.

His termination caps a tumultuous year for Def Jam, which has seen mass exodus of its top A&Rs to rival labels.

And while that spells bad news for Def Jam, it’s great news for Chris’ new company, Young Forever, and his new artist, Bebe Rexha.

Where one chapter closes, another opens.

Chris wasted no time in getting back to work, this time for himself, with the chart-topping The Monster by Eminem featuring Rihanna.

Chris’ artist, Bebe, has co-writing credits on the song and also appears on the hook.

Young Forever is but one of Chris’ latest entrepreneurial ventures.

Quiet is kept, he’s also working on a killer app that will keep folks talking for a hot minute.

If you want to know what Chris is up to, make sure to follow him on Twitter @chrisanokute, where he routinely provides inspiration to independent artists looking to break into the business.

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30 Under 30. Forbes counts F2FA founders among the brightest.

Isaac Boateng and Sandra Appiah are two to watch.

Isaac Boateng and Sandra Appiah are two to watch.

Damn, I’m good.

Why, you ask?

Well this week two young cats I mentor were honored with a remarkable distinction.

They were cited in an article in Forbes magazine.

You know Forbes?

The financial publication for business scions, industry titans and world leaders.

Yeah. That Forbes.

The article, titled, 30 Under 30: Africa’s Best Young Entrepreneurs, featured 30 of Africa’s most enterprising young entrepreneurs under the age of 30.

If you know Forbes, then you know that this is a pretty big accomplishment.

So you can imagine how my chest swelled with pride as I read the article.

Sandra Appiah, 23 and Isaac Boateng, 28, both Ghanaian nationals are the founders of Face2Face Africa (F2FA), a New York city-based new media company with a mandate to restore Africa’s image within the global community.

Sandra Appiah and Isaac Boateng are my mentees.

Mind you, they didn’t even tell me they were being cited.

Amazing and modest? I love these kids!

It just popped up Monday morning in one of my Google Reader feeds.

Now I’m not one to brag…

Yes I am.

But I have a knack for molding young talent.

Stop laughing.

I’m serious.

I’ve worked with and mentored two other young entrepreneurs, who have achieved similar distinctions.

So this was not a fluke.

It started with Corey Llewellyn.

“CL” as he’s know among his friends, was one of my first clients back in the day.

He walked into my office and asked me to help him start a company.

At the time, he couldn’t afford me, but I took him on anyway.

He was a smart kid, with great ideas and hella contacts.

And I could see that spark in him that told me he was going places.

Fast forward to 2008 and The Network Journal listed CL as a member of the 40 Under 40 class of 2008.

And the company, Digiwaxx, is a household name in the music industry.

He was 30 at the time.

Then there was Chris Anokute.

He too, had the spark of greatness.

Chris told me he was going to be a record executive the moment I met him.

When everyone was saying he should finish college, I told him to follow his dream.

I got him his first internship at a record label, and the rest is history.

In 2007, Billboard saw what I saw and listed Chris in their 30 Under 30 class.

He was just 24.

And the kid who started off as my intern, is now the Senior Vice President of A&R at Universal Records.

So it’s not without precedent that my current underlings are getting their props.

Forbes is just the tip of the iceberg.

Now, I can’t really take credit for the success that these cats have achieved.

Their vision for Face2Face Africa crystalized long before they encounter the entrepreneur whisperer.

That’s me.

All I did was help them cut to the chase and fast track the success (that they’ve already started to achieve).

In fact, my best work comes from working with cats who know what it is that they want to do.

Folks like this just need a reassuring word or objective advice to keep them on the right path.

And I’m quite adept at helping people see their untapped potential.

There I go bragging again.

Anywho, the point of this meandering post, is that Sandra Appiah and Isaac Boateng, are two young cats who’s names you’d better remember.

If, for no other reason, than I told you so…

Because I just did.

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The Record Label of the Future. Lean. Mobile. App-enabled. Social. Real-time.

Mobile killed the radio star

Last night, I had a conversation with my mentee, Chris Anokute, the (now) Senior VP A&R at Island DefJam Records.

We’re on two different coasts, and don’t get to talk as frequently as we did when he was still in NY.

So our conversations tend to go on for hours.

Yesterday was no exception.

His label recently exercised the renewal option on his contract, and he wondered aloud, what the future held for him at the label.

At any label for that matter.

As we talked about his options – stay at the label, entertain offers from others, pool a few investors and set up his own company – the discussion invariably turned to what the future music industry would look like.

I told him that the music industry, as we know it, is dead.

Record labels are the walking dead.

Artists who are still trying to catch that brass ring, a record deal, are disillusioned zombies.

The future of music lies in embracing technology.

Period.

Any label exec, artist or producer, whose strategy isn’t explicitly tied to leveraging technology should call it quits – now.

2012 was the first time that digital music sales topped physical sales.

Worldwide, digital music sales exceeded $10B.

This trend is only going to continue.

And while the record labels are still giving out plaques for physical sales records, unsigned artists are generating revenues in the hundreds of thousands.

Without labels.

When he asked what the record label of the 21st century looked like, I told him.

And now I’m telling you.

1. It’s lean. Record labels today are bloated with unnecessary and often duplicative staff. You only need a few cats, who know their shit, to run a label effectively. A good A&R, product/project manager, marketing & PR specialist, radio promotions & street team, and a techie. Add a publishing guru, competent counsel, an anal accountant, a few eager beaver interns (for grunt work) and you’re set.

2. It’s mobile. There are more mobile phones than people on earth. But the labels don’t know that. Visit any label’s website from your phone. Universal Music Group, Virgin Records, Capitol Records, Epic Records, Island Records, Sony BMG, EMI, Warner Music Group. Not one of them – NOT ONE – had a mobile website. Or rather, not one of them had a site that was enabled to auto detect mobile browsers and render the appropriate content for the device viewing the site. If you’re going to connect with fans, you’ve got to make your site easy to navigate from a mobile device. a full HTML site on a phone is a shitty experience. Can we say “increased bounce rate”?

3. It’s app-enabled. I remember trying to convince Chris that he should drop an app when he released his next artist’s single. He told me (to my shock and horror – and I’m paraphrasing now) “apps are for established acts only.” That was the label talking – not Chris. Like hell! One thing that should accompany the release of every new artist is a free app. The app should be your personal portal into your favorite artist’s world. At a minimum, the app should include the artist’s bio, picture gallery, discography, music videos, songs, Twitter stream, and upcoming show dates. The app should have e-commerce capabilities, allowing a user to purchase a song, tickets to a show, or any media/content available for sale.

4. It’s social. Social media and music fit together like a hand in glove. Listening, discovering, sharing, liking are all the things fans do with their music. Apps like Spotify, Pandora and Last.fm let you stream music and share what you’re streaming/listening to via social media. Social media makes it so much easier to let your personal network know what you’re into and get them into it too. Labels of the future should make sure that everything they do is equipped to leverage social media to the fullest.

5. It’s real time. Labels are always whining about leaks and lost sales due to content being pirated and available to the public before its been officially released. You know how you prevent that? Make content available to consumers as soon as its ready! Artists are prolific, and production costs are remarkably low. So instead of trying to filter music before its released, release it and let the public decide what they want to pay for. Rabid fans want it all, even the crap. Look at all those Prince and the New Power Generation (NPG) albums that Warner Bros. sold. Not his best work, but you couldn’t tell Prince fans that.

The record label of the future is one that acts like a unified system, providing fans with seamless unobstructed access to the artists on the label.

In the second coming of the record labels, websites will be a one-stop shop, where you can browse artists, listen to music, watch streaming videos, download songs right to your device (and have them perpetually available in the cloud for future download/use on as many devices as you own), comment, like, favorite and share via any of your social media profiles.

They’ll rely less and less on iTunes, and as a result, see more profits as fans start purchasing digital music directly from the labels (again) and not from resellers.

Their marketing will be personal and focus on the mobile device and a primary point of entry.

They’ll operate less like record labels, and more like software companies, continually tweaking and updating their offerings to give their users the best user experience possible.

The 360 degree contract was the record label’s reaction to the fact that they weren’t recouping the bloated album budgets from record sales.

Tomorrow’s label has to be more focused on creating alternate revenue streams for the content they produce, and less reliant on the artist’s alternate sources of income.

Video games, toys, digital greeting cards, third-party apps, all represent new opportunities for labels to leverage their catalogues.

Needless to say, I’ve got opinions.

Chris and I will talk again.

And I will give him another earful.

But for now, you’re dismissed.

I hope you were taking notes.

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Filed under apps, digital advocacy, mobile, music, opinion

Blogging builds traffic. 30 days and the stats to prove it.

The numbers don’t lie!

Last month, a friend of mine who blogs, issued a 30-day blogging challenge.

She had fallen off her blog game, and resolved to write a new post every day, for 30 days.

She invited other bloggers to join her on her quest.

When I read her blog, I was inspired.

I too, had fallen off my blogging game.

In fact, I’m constantly falling off my game.

Even though I routinely counsel my clients on the importance of providing a regular and steady stream of content on their websites and social media profiles, I don’t really practice what I preach.

And since I don’t blog regularly, I can’t really speak to the issues involved in maintaining a regular output schedule.

Nor can I (genuinely) speak of the real impact that regular output has on a brand’s metrics.

Sure, I preach that the more you put out, the more of a footprint you create, the more pages of content BOTs can crawl to, the more relevant you become.

But for me, that’s all been theoretical.

I mean, I do blog.

This year marks the fourth anniversary of my blog.

Since I started blogging, I’ve posted over 250 times.

That’s an average of 60 posts a year.

Or a little over once a week.

But I really blog in fits and starts.

So I can’t say, honestly, what the impact of regular blogging actually is.

And because of this, I realized that I needed to take Aliya up on her challenge.

On August 31, Aliya completed her 30 day challenge.

Two days ago, I finished mine (I didn’t actually start when Aliya issued her call to action).

Looking back, I’m glad I did.

Because I now have empirical proof from the experience that reinforces the things I’ve been saying about the significance of blogging.

First, blogging creates traffic.

Period.

Since the start of the year, my traffic is consistently higher than it has ever been.

Last month, there were 3,638 view of my blog.

That’s my highest month of traffic ever.

My next highest month of traffic was in June 2010, when I hit 3,458 views.

Back, when in one day, I had 686 views.

The previous month (July), there were 2,712.

The month before that, 2,421.

Second, blogging increases your online presence.

Search engines, like Google love regularly updated content.

Every time you post a blog post you put your site/blog further up in the search results.

Google re-indexes your blog every time you update with new content, giving your site higher search ranking.

And if you’re using well written, relevant keywords, that only makes it even better.

During my month of blogging, I was getting hits for everything from futsal, Katy Perry, the iPhone, Nicki Minaj on down to SoundHound and Shazam.

Try it.

Google “Shazam vs SoundHound” or “Morgan Freeman is not dead” or “Chris Anokute” and invariably, my little blog is returned on the first page.

Third, regular blogging generates backlinks.

I can’t tell you how many times other folks linked to my site.

Whether it was because of the subject matter, the context, the images, tagging or the keywords, something about my content seemed to resonate with other bloggers.

As a result, I generated quite a few backlinks

Fourth, writing every day keeps you relevant.

Whether it’s politics, fashion, technology, music, entertainment, social issues, if you’re writing about topics of the day, contemporaneously as they happen, your voice, and your opinions will resonate will some audience somewhere.

If I could give bloggers one tip, it would be to write about what you love.

The biggest impediment that folks report for not writing every day (or regularly) is that they don’t know what to write about.

I write about whats going on – in my life, around me, in technology, social media, sports – whatever.

The second biggest blocker is time.

I’ve taken to getting it in whenever and wherever I can.

Sometimes, I blog on the train to work.

Other times, when I’m sitting on the ‘throne’ (some of my best work has been on the throne).

Point is, you need to make time for it.

Because one thing is for certain, blogging is an invaluable tool to generating traffic to (and awareness about) your site.

But don’t take my word for it.

Blog for yourself and see!

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Verdict: 2010 was a good year for StephenChukumba.com

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how my blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

About 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. This blog was viewed about 26,000 times in 2010. If it were the Taj Mahal, it would take about 3 days for that many people to see it.

In 2010, there were 43 new posts, growing the total posts I’ve written to 125.

The busiest day of the year was June 24th with 724 views. The most popular post that day was Going to jail messes with your money..

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, networkedblogs.com, mail.yahoo.com, en.wordpress.com, and baristanet.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for tattoos, lil wayne, futsal, mike tyson tattoo, and scalpel. I don’t know why folks were searching for scalpels or why they were referred to my site – but I’ll take it!

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Going to jail messes with your money. February 2010
People must be trying to avoid jail.

2

Got tattoos? Will hug. November 2009
Wookin’ po nub!

3

Attack! Attack! Attack! Lessons of a Futsal Coach. January 2010
I think the Wolrd Cup must have given me a bump.

4

Stephen Chukumba says: “I know how Homer Simpson feels” September 2009

5

Chris Anokute: The Making of A Music Mogul June 2010
With Katy Perry up for six Grammy Nominations, people ought to be peepin’ this cat!

 

All-in-all 2010 was a good year.

In 2011, you can expect more good things.

For one, you can reach me at http://www.stephenchukumba.com (and drop the .wordpress piece).

I’m also planning on blogging at least once a week, focusing on all that you deem important (tats, jail, scalpels – you know – the usual).

So please continue to read, and share!

Thanks!

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Filed under branding, Smack talking

Seven Tips for making it online (as an artist)

A few days ago, Chris Anokute was on Entertainment Tonight, where he talked about the importance of social media and the internet for artists looking to be discovered.

And I’ve recently been approached by a number of performing artists and musicians for advice on how to break into the industry.

Several years ago, I posted an article about tips on doing just that.

So I thought I’d resurrect that article, since it clearly still has application today – with a few tweaks of course.

Here are seven tips for making it as an artist online.

1. Utilize existing networks – YouTube has replaced MySpace as the source for finding new music. YouTube gives visitors an easy way to connect with and share your music without having to be your ‘friend’ which is a significant advantage over the former social networking giant.  Online stores such as iTunes and Snocap give you the ability to include your product in their online sales infratstructure, and services such as Paypal allow you to conduct direct-to-consumer sales. Your use of/and affiliation with these brands, give consumers the confidence that the product they are purchasing is quality because it is associated with recognized quality brands.

2. Give it away for free – Sounds ridiculous right? But its totally true that if you give something away, it usually induces a desire to purchase. Victoria Secrets mails out cards to recipients who are given a free pair of panties! When you walk into the store to collect your free pair of underwear, they politely ask if you want to purchase a bra to accompany them. Of course, presented with such an offer, who could refuse? This strategy is the exact same philosophy, offer them a wallpaper if they buy a ringtone, a free month’s subscription when you sign up for two months. Its a ‘freemium.’ Look it up.

3. Cultivate an extensive e-mail Twitter database – you are constantly in contact with people in your daily comings-and-goings. The next innovator, billionaire, neurosurgeon, politician could be right next to you. On an online environment, these potential links exist, and its nothing but an e-mail Tweet away. By creating an extensive e-mail Twitter following, you are creating a means of turning as many people as you know, into a possible source of future sales.

4. Offer your songs for sale – a branded website is great for building awareness about your projects and one should offer your products for sale simultaneously with any promotional effort you undertake. The beauty of the internet (and mobile) is the instant gratification component and instant decision making based on the desire for instant gratification. Failing to immediately offer your product for sale online is a flawed and costly omission.

5. Price your product competitively – do not try to ‘reinvent the wheel. put rims on it.’ Do not assign a value to whatever your are selling, without regard to the market set price, standard practice, law or industry operation, that would make your product either too expensive or under priced. Pricing your product at a price point lower than the competition (at least as an introductory offer, if not sustained as part of a sustained campaign), will generate an initial reaction. If you consistently offer a compelling product and a fair price, your audience will remain loyal and become repeat purchasers.

6. Offer packages – it is hard to resist a bargain. When you bundle products on the internet, the natural reaction of practically all consumers is to evaluate the relative cost for the product. If we perceive that we are saving money, even if we have to spend more than we were originally prepared to spend (when we responded to the introductory offer -OR IF WE HAVE TO SEARCH MORE), then we usually select the option which gives us that savings. But more importantly, you have put more units into the stream of commerce, which is ultimately your objective.

7. Promote your product heavily – online promotions, Tweets, Facebook status updates, Ning, e-mail blasts, banners, hyperlinks, e-flyers, contests, are all techniques to proliferate over the internet. Link your web page to as many different online properties as possible. Make sure that you utilize search engines, meta-tags, heavy descriptions and compelling graphics in everything you doto to inject life and activity around your website. This online activity should be done in conjunction with a word-of-mouth campaign, flyers, posters, etc. The purpose of promotion is to PROMOTE, utilize tactics to make you and your product memorable. Utilizing YouTube, Vimeo and Flickr, to add graphic visual components can go a long way to creating a memorable impression.

At the end of the day, the internet is a vast resource that can help (the right artist or project) go viral in an instant.

If you’re not using these tools to your advantage, I’d suggest you start.

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Chris Anokute: The Making of A Music Mogul

Kissed a Girl. California Gurls. Yeah, Chris did that.

A little over 12 years ago, I met this young man eager to make it in the music industry.

One day, a motley entourage of Black men, pushing some blond dreadlocked artist, walked into my office looking for an entertainment attorney.

At the center of this mass of Black men was an R&B singer named Don Conner.

In addition to Don, there was a ‘manager’ whose name escapes me (but claimed he was behind numerous successful boy groups), and a ‘money guy’ named Isaac Morgan.

A few other non-descript hanger-onners rounded out the posse and filled up my (then) small office.

And the very back of the office, sat Chris.

Mr. Manager started jabbering about how talented Don was, and how he was the next Jaheim.

Money Morgan talked about the distribution agreement they were ‘just about’ to sign, and the need to make sure that they had all their ‘paperwork’ in order.

Don said he simply wanted to sing and to ensure that his people were ‘taken care of.’

Their mouths moved a lot during that meeting, but very little was actually said.

The person who spoke the loudest to me, never opened his mouth.

That was Chris.

The entire meeting, he sat in the back of the room, listening, clearly taking it all in.

When the talking heads stopped, Mr. Manager-whose-name-I-can’t-remember got up and assured me that we were ‘going to do business.’

Mr. Money promised to follow up, once they had ‘things in place.’

The various hangers-onners gave pounds, head nods or blank stares as the entourage filed out of the room.

Chris politely shook my hand, and joined the large moving mass of Black men making their way out of my Montclair office.

Needless to say, nothing ever became of Don Conner.

Turns out he was already being managed, under a production contract with a distribution agreement in place to deliver six records.

A few years later, who should walk into my office, but Chris.

There was no motley entourage or talking heads.

Just Chris, solo.

This time, he came to ask for my advice on the best way to make it in the music industry.

Since that day he visited my office those many years ago, he remembered our initial meeting.

I impressed him as someone who shot straight, even if I said things that you didn’t want to hear.

We spoke at length about all the things he had done to this date, including working in Whitney Houston’s camp, promoting independent artists and hosting parties, along with waiting tables and going to school.

He told me that he had a passion for music and felt that God had given him the gift of an ‘ear.’

He could hear a hit instantly. We’ll talk about this platinum ear in at length in another post.

Although I felt his ‘ear’ was immaterial at the time, he impressed me as an individual with singular purpose and drive.

It was clear that he had experience in production, management, and promotion.

And had a hustler’s get-it-done-at-all-costs mentality, which was impressive for someone so young.

I told him that he was on the right path, because he was seeking out knowledge and advice from people in the industry.

The only thing I felt he was missing from his repertoire, was an understanding of the business side of the industry.

The music industry is a business, first and foremost.

And without the ability to understand the rights, liabilities and obligations of the respective parties to transactions, you were simply spinning your wheels.

So I gave him an internship.

A few years later, we started a management company.

Signed a few acts (Alkatraz and JUS). Hmm…wonder where are they now?

Got our first publishing deal.

Fast forward to 2010, and Chris is one of the youngest and most successful A&R’s in the music industry.

After a three year stint as Senior A&R pop at Virgin/Capitol Records, he is now Sylvia Rhone‘s most recent executive acquisition at Universal/Motown, charged with giving the label a pop presence.

For the guy who A&R’d Joss Stone, found Katy Perry, Stacie Orrico (and many more) he’s up to the task.

Check out Christian TV.

I’ve skipped over some of the juicy bits of Chris’ rise to fame.

But that’s for another time.

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