In this week’s edition of Centre Stage, I bring you my conversation with Charlotte Bwana– a Kenyan native who moved to Nigeria to lead Audiomack’s expansion into Africa. Charlotte can be best described as a gentle soul with a fierce personality and a genuine love for Africa’s music and entertainment industry.
I’m bringing Charlotte to Centre Stage because she has made valuable contributions to Africa’s highly-acclaimed music industry. At Audiomack Africa, Charlotte leads business development and media partnerships and is responsible for connecting creators, listeners, and brands to each other.
Last month, Charlotte announced her membership in the Recording Academy Member Class of 2021.
Let’s dive in.
In your own words, what exactly is business development?
Business development is not sales.
In my role, business development means identifying and developing growth opportunities that will benefit Audiomack internally and forge mutually beneficial partnerships with external parties. I come up with ideas we can implement as a business and also figure out how these ideas can benefit Audiomack and the other parties involved.
Why does business development matter in Africa’s music industry?
Remember that business development is about building value-adding relationships, and the entertainment industry is very people-oriented.
Audiomack is in the media industry, but we are also in the entertainment industry. This means we deal with three groups of people: creators (music artists), listeners (fans), and partners (brands). Therefore to grow as a business, we must build relationships with these groups of people.
Business development matters because it is the only way to find growth opportunities and successfully market Audiomack’s creators to our listeners and prospective partner brands.
What three professional qualities does every business development leader need on the job?
Communication skills for sure! Why? Because you are talking to different people every single day. You have to speak with your team– the team that helps you get the job done — to ensure everyone is aligned. You have to relate with external parties, such as your partners and creators. You have to develop persuasive and conversational speaking skills so you can close deals and effectively communicate timelines and deadlines.
You need business intelligence skills. Do you have insights into the market you are in? Have you figured out how to access your target audience? Have you done thorough research about your competitors? The market changes constantly; what exists today may not be around tomorrow. So it’s essential to always stay plugged into your market.
The last quality is project management. Business development leaders must be exceptional project managers. You have to learn how to delegate and make sure every project has a start and end date. It’s also crucial to evaluate the performance of every finished project: What was the outcome? What was the return on investment (ROI)? What did we do right? What lessons can we learn from the hiccups we experienced while we ran that project?
What effective business development tactics can you share with us?
I only have one tactic to share – I hope that’s okay.
Before you walk into a room to meet with a person or an organization, take interest. Take an interest in that person, do your research and look interested in whatever that business is doing in their playing field. Before approaching a prospective brand or creator, I research their values, mission, vision, and goals. Then, I walk into every meeting prepared to listen and to be heard.
So, that’s the hack?
That’s the hack. Be interested.
You also handle media partnerships at Audiomack. How are you able to balance both roles?
Coffee! A lot of coffee. I am an expert delegator. You have a team for a reason – you cannot do it all. Once you do your part, find another team member who can handle a different moving part.
I have also learned the art of saying “no” when I have many deliverables on my table. Honestly, there isn’t a big difference between both roles. Still, I also know how to differentiate between how I function as a business development lead and a media partnership manager.
What goes into developing a successful media partnership?
I’ll share two things:
Know your partner’s target audience and ensure that their goals align with your business objectives. When there is alignment between both parties, a successful partnership will form quickly.
Establish what you need from that partnership. Clearly communicate growth opportunities, benefits, what you need from your partner and what you are bringing to the table.
How do you grow in your role? What do you listen to, watch or read?
I listen to a lot of music, specifically different music genres coming out of Africa.
Every morning, I read business articles from local and global publications. For example, I read CNN Business, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Business Insider. In addition, I try to dedicate at least an hour and a half to discover events taking place in global business hubs.
What do you enjoy the most about your role?
Meeting new people. It’s always fun and exciting to meet people from different walks of life and work in exciting industries. I also get to travel a lot more and see other parts of the world through colourful lenses.
I enjoy coming up with culture-shifting ideas at Audiomack. So when we made the MTN partnership happen, I was really excited that a Telco was coming onboard to make streaming music more accessible and affordable.
I love that I can tell African stories from an African perspective. At Audiomack, we give creators the freedom to toot their horns through the music they create and share on our platform. We make music about our food, clothes, communities, and daily lives.
Tell us some of your favourite social media accounts.
I barely spend time on social media because I get a little lost in my work. But I love Instagram because I enjoy consuming aesthetically pleasing pictures.
Twitter is also my jam. You can tweet something, and someone in America or Antigua will see and find it reliable. Sometimes you find comfort in strangers online or share wild stories with your followers, and it’s totally chilled. Twitter has made the world a global village, and I enjoy using it a lot.
Would you instead go to a day brunch in Ghana or a Grammy listening party in L.A?
Please, my passport is ready, and Rihanna is waiting for me! I love Ghana, but Rihanna is waiting for me.
What does being a part of the Recording Academy 2021 class mean to you?
Wow. This is the first time someone has asked me what the invitation means to me.
First of all, it reflects how much work I have put into Africa’s entertainment industry. Second, it’s a reflection of my dedication to showcasing Africa’s diverse music scene.
It also means that I get the opportunity to be a thought leader in my community and celebrate African music on a larger platform. The Grammys is the helm of music; being a member of the Recording Academy is a win for music on the continent.
What excites you about the future of music and dance in Africa?
The entire world is on the dance floor right now, listening to African music.
What excites me is that a generation of young people is growing up with African music as the soundtrack of their childhood.
Friends, there is a lot of work to be done, but we are doing so much better.