Universal Music Launches Virgin Music Label & Artist Services in Africa: ‘African Cultural Heritage Has Not Yet Fully Found Its Place in the Digital World’

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About five months following Warner Music Group’s acquisition of African distribution and rights-management company Africori, Universal Music Group (UMG) has launched Virgin Music Label & Artist Services in Africa.

UMG, which rolled out the revamped Virgin Music Label & Artist Services back in February of 2021, unveiled the new-and-improved division’s expansion into Africa today. The development arrives amid rapid music industry growth throughout the continent of over 1.3 billion individuals, including an especially significant boost in North Africa.

Presumably based in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, like the overarching Universal Music Africa, Virgin Music Label & Artist Services Africa will work to afford “disruptive innovation and best in class services” to regional talent, according to its parent company. Additionally, the entity intends to pursue broader goals of achieving “global success for its roster” and expanding “the reach of music culture from across the continent to the vast African diaspora.”

Regarding Virgin Africa’s current reach, execs indicated that the operation encompasses a more than 15,000-work catalog as well as north of 50 “label partners” (from 25 countries) and 100 artists, including Angola’s Cabo Snoop and Democratic Republic of the Congo natives Innoss’B and Lokua Kanza.

On the executive side, Virgin Africa co-directors Guylaine Clery (also Universal Music Africa’s director of international development) and Félix Pea (Universal Music Africa’s A&R head) are set to handle day-to-day considerations, reporting to Universal Music Africa MD Franck Kacou, who signed on as a higher-up about six years ago.

Addressing the debut of Virgin Music Label & Artist Services Africa in a statement, Kacou said in part: “Our vision for Virgin Music in Africa is based on an observation that African cultural heritage has not yet fully found its place in the digital world and on DSPs globally. Indeed, with some of these services rarely existing in certain territories, this heritage is unequally represented. Our ambition is to make African music, a showcase of all that Africa and its diaspora can offer the world!

“We intend to give new life to forgotten songs, our investigation will go as far as digitizing them to make them accessible to as many people as possible, everywhere in the world,” he continued.

In terms of the steps that Universal Music Group previously took to establish a foothold in Africa – and recent years’ wider embrace of the continent’s music space – the aforementioned Abidjan office (and, in turn, Universal Music Africa) arrived on the scene in 2018, as did Universal Music Nigeria. Deals with regional streaming platforms Boomplay and uduX followed into 2019, whereas 2020 delivered the launch of Def Jam Africa and 2021 brought a series of executive appointments across UMG’s African offices.