Warner Records Debuts Africa-Focused Protect the Culture JV Label — ‘Afrobeats Is Universal and Incredibly Diverse’

  • Save

  • Save
Protect the Culture founder Marc Byers. Photo Credit: Warner Records

Amid rapid growth within a number of music markets in Africa, Warner Records has officially announced a joint venture label, Protect the Culture, with former Motown Records general manager (and Warner Music Group Afrobeats consultant) Marc Byers.

Warner Records unveiled its collaboration with Byers and the newly minted Protect the Culture this morning, about 18 months after the overarching Warner Music acquired a majority interest in African distribution and rights-management company Africori. Protect the Culture’s first act, Ghana-born and Massachusetts-based Lord Afrixana, has released a single entitled “No Dey Tire” via the just-revealed label.

Meanwhile, besides leading Protect the Culture, Marc Byers has signed on as an A&R consultant for Warner Records, and in the role, he’ll focus “on the vibrant African music scene,” the involved parties communicated. In a statement, the former Atlantic Records A&R exec Byers made clear his plans “to introduce more than just sounds coming out of Africa” via Protect the Culture.

“I have a passion for this genre and feel it will be the Pop music of the world,” Byers said in part. “Lord Afrixana is our first artist on the label and he’s incredibly talented. PTC wants to introduce more than just sounds coming out of Africa because Afrobeats is universal and incredibly diverse.”

And in a joint comment, Warner Records A&R president Steven Carless as well as EVP and A&R head Karen Kwak described Byers as “an invaluable A&R resource,” pointing to the signings of the aforementioned “Touchdown” creator Lord Afrixana and Nigeria-based Pheelz.

Warner Music is hardly alone in making high-profile investments in the African music industry, with Universal Music Group having brought Virgin Music Label & Artist Services to the continent a little over one year back.

More recently, Ultra International Music Publishing towards 2023’s start announced a West African expansion – including the rollout of a creative hub in Lagos, Nigeria. Subsequently, Paris-headquartered Believe disclosed material revenue growth in Africa and Asia-Pacific, whereas PRS for Music and Rob Wells’ Orfium that same month inked a “groundbreaking” Africa-centered partnership.

Lastly, African music streaming upstart Mdundo closed out June by forecasting a roughly 35 percent monthly active user boost (to 35 million MAUs) during its next fiscal year; the platform is looking to grow its userbase to 50 million before or during 2025.

Focused mainly on 15 nations in Africa – with a particular emphasis on Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, and Uganda – Mdundo offered access to 2.2 million tracks as of December of 2022, according to its website.