Jobs of Tomorrow: How a Former Lawyer Became a Globe-Trotting Scout for Music's Next Big Markets

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Echo Music Conference
Temi Adeniji at the Echo Music Conference in Lagos, Nigeria, in April.

After graduating from Princeton and then earning a joint law degree from Columbia and University College London in 2012, Temi Adeniji naturally went to work at a law firm. Nearly three years in, however, she realized it wasn’t her passion. In 2016, she stumbled across a Warner Music Group job posting for director of international and global commercial strategy and operations -- not an obvious fit, but she had always loved music, so she applied with her husband’s encouragement. She got the job.

Adeniji, 31, who is based in New York, has most recently helped the label group intensify its focus on emerging markets, arranging a partnership with Nigerian indie Chocolate City and launching Warner Music Middle East. “I consider myself an outsider,” says Adeniji, who is the right-hand to Stu Bergen, WMG’s CEO of international and global commercial services. “It gives me a different perspective than most who have been in the music industry their entire careers.”

What did applying for this job entail?

One thing they asked me to do was look at the markets we weren’t currently in and figure out what our strategy should be. It was a mini test-case of what my job has turned out to be. It’s a really exciting time to be in the music industry because so much is changing, with the switch from physical to digital and the renewed interest in nontraditional markets.

How do you research potential new markets?

When you’re trying to figure out how to enter a territory, you take meetings with everybody. It’s not like working in the U.S. or the U.K. -- the infrastructure is not necessarily what we’re used to, so it’s important to be a little more malleable. Generally, we’re looking at demographics, economic indicators, overall market revenue and whether a market is more geared toward local consumption or international catalog. Understanding how people consume music in that market is also really important.

What is a recent success story for you?

Boomplay [a streaming service first launched in Nigeria in 2015] at this point probably has the largest user base in terms of [digital streaming platforms], so we struck a deal with them. They’ve been instrumental in terms of permeating territories that are difficult or have been traditionally left out of the story.

How has the growth of streaming affected your role?

It’s important that we support platforms that are enabling artists and rights holders. Obviously in some of these territories, Nigeria included, there are a lot of challenges in the market, like [intellectual property] enforcement, and streaming helps alleviate some issues. It’s just the beginning in Africa -- there’s a huge opportunity there.

How often do you travel for this job?

Once every two months. [WMG executive vp] Alfonso Perez-Soto comes from the Latin market, and he’s very much like, “You have to go to the market to understand people.” His perception is you can’t really do this work on the phone or video conference, and it’s really important that you sit in front of people. Especially in markets that are not Western; people really value that. It’s much more important to sit down with people at dinner and talk about their lives so they begin to feel comfortable and start talking to you about doing a deal. It’s about coming to an understanding together.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Jun 29 issue of Billboard.


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