In a competitive and fast-changing industry, music promotion has assumed a different outlook. While there’s expectation for the product (song) to be of good quality, the record has to be channeled through various platforms to get through to the consumer (listener).
That’s the work of Frank Nwafor, CEO of Soundgenie, a music distribution company. With a good ear for music, armed with helping to refine the product to the best quality possible and also finding new relatable ways to make sure the music is heard, Frank is a game changer.
Commonly referred to as Frank Has A Plan, this method of mapping out game-changing, effective plans hasn’t been easy. The industry has its complications. Artists want instant results. “I keep facing challenges every day,” he tells me. “Artists want to rack up those enormous numbers so they can put up on socials as proof of success. What they don’t know is, it depends on the quality of the product.”
When Frank isn’t handling music promotion and solving the problems that come with it, he’s busy in the studio as an A&R. Last year, he was instrumental to the success of Badboy Timz’s hit, MJ. From the song’s creation to its distribution, Frank was actively involved. I met up with Frank on a sunny Wednesday afternoon in his cozy apartment to talk about his journey into the industry and his impact so far.
Tush Magazine: How did it start for you? Your journey into the music industry.
Frank Nwafor: It all began when I was in school (Bells University). At first I used to be a blogger. Then I got into music itself, I was a rapper for a while. But the whole thing got serious when I began assisting artists in school upload their music to Apple Music and Spotify.
I would later meet Badboy Timz through my ex and from his first song, I was enthralled. His freestyles were hard and had this refreshing look that was so distinct. So we did a 50-50 deal then, we would pull funds together, and from this joint venture, I would handle his branding and promotion. He fully concentrated on singing and creating those hits. Ideally, I was his manager for a while.
After school, I took time to research and study the music business and its dynamics. There was more to distribution, more to promotion and fronting for an artist. I had to get that knowledge and understand how to apply it.
You’ve come a long way in three years. You have three companies, handle A&R and also have worked with a horde of artists. What are some of the challenges you face?
Frank Nwafor: I keep facing challenges every day, man. Artists are ambitious. They want to get placements on editorial playlists. They want to rack up those enormous streams so they can put that up on their socials. What they don’t know is, it depends on the product.
And the thing is, what works for one artist won’t work for another. There’s this huge emphasis on playlists and artists don’t know playlisting is not a marketing plan. An artist’s song might rack up 100k plays in one week but just because it didn’t make a particular playlist, the artist might deem the whole promotional plan as a failure. Getting these artists to understand is a problem.
At the end of the day, you’re not entitled to those playlists. If your song didn’t make it to a particular playlist, it could be due to many factors. Perhaps they forgot to put it. The people who make these selections are human beings not robots. Sometimes, the people who make these selections might not listen to the song, once they recognize the artist’s name, they file it in. Playlists are important, but it is not a strong marketing plan.
What do you look for in artists before doing business with them?
Frank Nwafor: The humility, the hunger…
Do you look at stats?
Frank Nwafor: No. Stats are just figures. Trust me, anyone can make those numbers. They are numbers that can grow. The same big stats everyone hypes today can fall to zero. You’re doing 10 million today and tomorrow you’re doing 5k. We’ve seen it happen so many times. But you would rather start from the scratch. Do 5k today and you grow it to 10 million. That’s a bigger achievement.
It’s about growth for me and I’m trying to change the entire narrative. Most people I’m working with now are newbies. I’ve worked with some big acts but it is always undisclosed. It’s not a long term thing. If you’re trying to change the entire narrative, you start from the young ones. They have the passion but lack the money and connections. You can however help them bypass that financial constraint. If they possess the talent, drive and humility, upcoming artists will go far. Good music is a major factor too asides that, I don’t look at stats.
Let’s talk about Timz and your work with him. You A&Red his first hit, MJ and that song sparked the run he had in 2020. How did that song come about?
Frank Nwafor: First, Semzi (the song producer) called Timz and was like “Timz I’ve cooked one beat for you”. Believe me, Semzi specially manufactured that beat for Timz. Funny thing is we didn’t spend hours on writing or bouncing ideas off each other. We were watching TV and a Michael Jackson video came on, he was doing the famous moonwalk. That moment spurred Timz into action. And in one take, he recorded the song.
When we heard the final output, we knew it was a hit. The start of the beat alone is some madness. I’ve never heard any beat that sounds like that. We were supposed to have Davido on that record but he was so busy. We reached out to Teni too and she was busy too. But you know, she later came back for the remix.
Wow. How was the promotion of the song? Song was viral and was in the Top 5 songs on Apple Music for a while. Walk me through the roll out plan.
Frank Nwafor: Triller. Before we dropped the song, we were just testing what will work. We put the snippet on Triller and Triller was 30 seconds then. Before the song officially dropped, we had over one million views on just the snippet alone on Triller. That indicated people were in huge anticipation.
When the Davido verse wasn’t forthcoming, we decided to drop the song like that.
But something happened. The song was scheduled to drop Friday midnight. By 10pm on Thursday, the song was already on DSPs. The whole team was in disarray, some plans disrupted. Still, we kept up with the promotion from that point on all social platforms. All that built up hype from Triller worked in our favour. That’s why when people want to release their song now, a Triller campaign will precede it. But it doesn’t work like that anymore, since everyone is doing it also.
The rollout for MJ was painstaking but the returns were massive. It got 10,000 Shazams in 2020.
You’re well-grounded in crafting result-driven promotional plans, what’s one promo mistake most up and coming acts are making?
Frank Nwafor: Most upcoming acts depend on the usual strategies. You do the usual stuff, you get the usual result. Why not take it up a little bit. Put aside the normal promo strategies. The Twitter trends, paying influencers to dance to the song and thinking it will blow.
If you’re promoting a song, instead of paying big money to an influential dancer who will charge you much, why not pay micro influencers?
Let’s say you’re paying a big dancer $500. Why not split that money into small chunks and get 10 micro influencers who will charge you, let’s say $50. Spread that money around and pay them.
Instead of having one video from that big dancer, you now have ten videos. Ten content pieces instead of just one. You then get deals with dance pages. Those ten videos, distribute to all the dance pages. The interactions and engagements will quadruple that of the one video.
I know for one, most upcoming artists are confused on what to do. Any advice you’ll give artists in this state?
Frank Nwafor: Think smart. Don’t pressure yourself. Don’t fake it. Stop buying streams. Be patient. Believe in the growth process. Take a look at Omah Lay, people say he just came on the scene from nowhere. I don’t agree with those thoughts. I feel he’s been underground planning for a long time and those plans worked.
People were also saying Timz’s song, MJ was luck. The remix dropped and they said the same thing. It’s not luck, it’s all about having a plan. When people plan, their plans become successful. Artists need to be able to plan.
Also, people want to know what you do aside from music. That’s the fastest way to sell yourself. Show people what goes on in your life. Let people into your world. It’s not everyone that’s actually interested in your music. Some come to your page for lifestyle. Some will be on your page, drop comments but never listen to your music. It’s because they are coming for a different reason. Let people see that different side of you.
On social media, some upcoming acts will post just two images per month, trying to look cool. I’m like “are you paying for space, why are you trying to minimize space?” Posting once a month, people won’t gain that interest again. Post about some random stuff. What do you do when you’re not in the studio?
You need to show more than just new music out now. Or go check out the song or run up the numbers. I ain’t running up sh*t. Give me reasons to run up the numbers. Make me fall in love with the person rather than just the music. If you make people fall in love with the things you do other than music, they’re not going to leave you. You’ll stay relevant forever.
This article was written by Olabode Otolorin; connect on Instagram with him here