A-Q, the Headies-winning rapper wants to build an ecosystem for all kinds of professionals in the music industry.
As someone who has earned his stripes, hustling to the top of the Nigerian rap ecosystem to the point where as he said, he isn’t “doing bad for himself”. Seriously, take it from him when he tells you that there is yet so much work needed.
Every time somebody thinks of an artist in this country they basically think of a successful one, someone that has already navigated the music business. Nobody really cares about the process that the young artist has to take to get to where he is. So everything just feels normal.”
This is a cycle he knows too well from his previous role running Chocolate City’s hip-hop and rap division, signing new rappers, building careers, and trying to build careers. He can tell you for a fact that it’s not easy.
“Whoever dares to try should know that first, the songs need to be made. But to make them, the artist needs producers. Then distributors. Then social media managers. Then content creators. Then Artists and repertoire (A and R) etc”
To solve it, that is to help musicians and record labels access the different professionals they need to make their business work, he started The Connect Head, a platform where music professionals post their gigs and are hired by people who need their services. More like Fiverr, but for the music industry.
What is The Connect Head about?
Initially, he didn’t plan on taking on the entire music industry. He had it all sorted out in his head. He was going to start a platform where producers can sell their beats. His motivation for launching this stems from his experience with his producer at the time, who he said did more than produce for him.
For A-Q, his producer was one of those people that you can call “a people person”. He knew how to reach people, and he had institutional insights. And for so many of A-Q’s needs his producer knew, as they say, one or two things about solving them.
Then he lost his producer. He needed a new one. And, this time he wanted to have two on the ground. But the price variation was weird. Some said one hundred thousand naira (N100,000) naira. Some others went as high as five million naira (N5,000,000). But this was only the beginning of it.
Now he needed people to sort things out. It was the same weird price variations.
“I thought to myself, there’s nothing that gives an idea of what the prices of beats are. And it started taking me down the rabbit hole and it was the same for everything. And when I thought about that we started working on this,” he said.
In January with his team, he started working on The Connect Head, with the hope of solving the problems. He wants to regulate prices in the industry, give it some stability, put some data out there, build a music business.
“The Connect Head is a tech solution for the music business,” he said.
“As the African music business expands globally, it’s bound to encounter more problems, especially that we didn’t envisage. It’s Market place that connects artists or record labels with everything that they need to keep the process going,” he said.
But first, he recognises that the industry needs to be educated about why they need the services offered on the platform and what the music business is entirely about.
“Artists don’t really know what to do next when they just get into the business. It will make sense if there was a kind of manual in terms of guiding the artist and that is what The Connect Head is doing,” he said.
To fill this lacunar, he has plans on organising masterclasses on the music business and creating resources on a blog for upcoming artists who sign-up.
“If I say you need an A and R, and you don’t know what he does, you’ll have to ask?” he said.
Another interesting feature of the platform is crowdfunding. It allows rising artists looking to raise money to share their aspirations with people who vibe to their music and raise funds to actualise them.
How it works
At the core of the problems that The Connect Head will be solving are the challenges that young and upcoming artists face starting careers in Nigeria.
Artists who want extra services will pay a subscription fee of three thousand naira (N3000) for the premium services which includes access to publishing deals, distribution and other services they may need.
You might need up to four or three different services and the three thousand naira allows you access to all of it. We think it’s worth it,” he said.
The premium also comes with a get funding feature where The Connect Head will be rolling out cash to artists whose works are impressive.
“For the get funding premium feature, it’s us saying we like what you’re doing on The Connect Head, we see that you have a bright future, and we want to help you. We would give you funding to do your project or something,” he said. “But the thing is that it must be spent on The Connect Head. That also helps the players on the platform, because it makes sure that the ecosystem is working.”
He didn’t spend thousands of naira on billboard ads, radio jingles or targeting advertising on the internet. He doesn’t think that is the type of promotion this business needs. He wants people to see that it works and is needed and then join the platform.
“The best form of promotion is results. Once people see results it will be talked about,” he said. “I told my partners, rather than put up this billboard and other forms of advertising, let’s put our money into this ecosystem.”
For the services that The Connect Head offers, it charges 10 per cent from both parties, which A-Q says guarantees that the deal is secure. “The seller does not get paid until you are satisfied with the job.” He has also included a “dispute resolution” feature just in case matters arise.
“In our terms of service, silence after three days means you’re satisfied and the seller would get paid.” If there is any dispute the team behind The Connect Head steps in to resolve it.
“That’s why it’s great that it’s music heads that are doing this. If we look at the conversation and we look at the work put into it. It still boils down to communication. And whether we like it or not a happy customer,” he said.
"We also try to encourage content creators to have watermarks, so [their work] is not used when the transaction has not been completed. And if you see your work being used, you have all of the information. And all of the information of that person not paying you. And you can issue a takedown immediately.”
The future of The Connect Head
With The Connect Head, A-Q is very ambitious about what could be achieved. “It had to be created by somebody that has navigated the industry for a long time; that has gone through the process,” he said.
At the moment, there is a problem with the industry data. A-Q believes that The Connect Head can help solve that.
When successful, we can make a rough estimate of how many new musicians got unto a DSP (short for Digital Service Provider, like iTunes and Spotify.) It will also provide an idea of how much is needed to make a song and data that will help record labels plan and structure their businesses better.
“Today, we don’t even know the average amount a beat cost,” A-Q said. “Somebody can say a beat will cost 5 million and another person will say his beat is 100k. The discrepancies are a lot.”
Already, his dreams are coming through.
Last week, when he logged unto the website he perused through the prices for beats there were between 200,000 to 300,000. When he checked this week all the prices have come down. He said that he wants to create some price stability in the industry with The Connect Head going forward.