Bugwu Aneto-Okeke: MAD Solutions Believes In The Future Of Afrobeats
When Bugwu Aneto-Okeke left his position as general manager at Mcomm Solution and Services in March
2017, he did it with one burning desire: to ensure Nigerian digital content distribution companies could
reach international shores directly.
The company he set up to push this drive, Measurable Accurate Digital Solutions (MAD Solutions), is now, three years later, operating at the cutting edge of creative content and technology in Nigeria and, on the other hand, one of Africa’s most profitable and powerful digital distribution service providers, handling publishing for a mix of established stars like Skales, Rudeboy, Asa, Seyi Shay, and Reekado Banks and younger talents like Canadian-Nigeria singer, TÖME.
Aneto-Okeke, the C.E.O. of Mad Solutions, says over a call that:
At MAD Solutions, we first focused on international distribution because we felt that, apart from the local
distribution in Africa, afrobeats was getting bigger and we were seeing the stats. People were listening to afrobeats all over the world and I felt that we needed to go a step higher and get proper international licensing deals for our artists. I’ve always been against going through third parties. Back then, when people wanted to upload their music on Apple Music and Spotify, they’d go through TuneCore or go through international companies to do that because we didn’t have Nigerian companies that had these licensing deals for those platforms. We went ahead and fought the battle and we were able to get into the door. We first got our licensing deal with Apple Music, then YouTube, and other platforms. Then we joined the Merlin body that gave us access to more licensing deals. With that, we were a full-fledged digital content distribution company, both audio and video. Currently, we distribute to over 45 DSPs, globally.
This year alone, MAD Solutions has distributed a ton of exciting projects: King Wasiu Ayinde Marshall’s
ageless Fuji the Sound E.P.; Darey’s first project in four years, Way Home; Skales’ Healing Process; and will
handle the distribution for Reekado Banks’ forthcoming E.P., his first body of work since his debut project.
For Aneto-Okeke, the Reekado project is especially special as it is something he has worked on for
months in advance.
The core of what MAD Solutions does can be broken into three large sub-compartments: digital content
distribution, digital marketing, and mobile value-added services.
On the digital content angle, we distribute content to digital service providers in worldwide territories representing the entire world, Aneto- Okeke says. On the digital marketing angle, we provide all forms of digital marketing across channels, and on the value-added services part, we have a USSD service called Football Info. It’s a service for those who want to be updated with what’s happening in the football world from the Premier League to La Liga and Serie A.
Working in the digital content industry for the better part of the last 13 years along with educational background – an Electrical Electronics Engineer with Digital Marketing Certification from the University of Capetown and a Digital Marketing Analytics certification for MIT Sloan School of Management – has provided perspective on what Mr. Aneto-Okeke considered the impediment to Nigerian companies being able to distribute music globally for so long. He explains:
We didn’t have all these requirements in the past,” he admits. We didn’t understand the tech, we couldn’t meet the requirements.” But a stint working with Ditto Music in a third party role opened his eyes to the possibilities and what needed to be done. At that time, it looked like an impossible task because to be able to have direct content licensing deals with those major DSPs, we needed to have the tech. There is a format the music has to be provided in, it’s not like how we used to do it back then. There’s something called the DDEX that is a content delivery technology that allows people to deliver audio, video with certain instructions. Instructions of release date, pre-order date, lyrics, monetization instructions, territorial instructions, album notes, and press releases. Imagine doing that manually? There’ll be errors!
Thankfully, by the time Apple Music came in to discuss licensing deals with MAD Solutions, all was in place for the tech to be adapted locally. He says:
After starting with Apple Music and performing well, we were able to add other major DSPs on board and today we’re distributing to everybody and pushing African music out there. Providing all the assets that are required as it should be and representing the continent properly.
The desire to represent the continent in the best light possible is reflective of the artists MAD Solutions
chooses to partner with.
We look out for the structure they have because, with the distribution service, there’s no fluke anymore, he says. It’s no longer back in the day where you didn’t know a specific song would blow. Those things don’t happen anymore. Everything is more intentional, moves are now more planned because everyone is now more exposed to know these things are planned and, at the same time, knowledge is trickling down to the artists via the distributors. Artists know they need to have certain things, the artists need to have a structure where they have a PR, especially digital PR. You shouldn’t want to release music and not have complete assets.
In a year as tumultuous as 2020, the music industry has also been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and
all the strains it has caused on regularly scheduled living. Speaking about Covid-19, he says:
There was a positive and negative effect on the business and on the creative aspect — with regards to artists. “In some ways, I’ll tell you that there were different phases of how COVID-19 affected the industry. In the beginning, it was uncertain, after May, a lot of projects began to come out because artists knew the lockdown was here to stay and they needed to put something out and revenues went up because the frequency of the releases was much higher. From that position, we also went into the era of having to support artists through advances on their royalties because they didn’t have access to multiple streams of income except for streaming money, and they needed the money to create.