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Afrobeats Intelligence: The storytelling power of Joey Akan

Diverse voices, talents, and culture shape African music. Afrobeats Intelligence provides an unfiltered glimpse into the soul of an industry and culture the world can't seem to get enough of.
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In the heart of Nigeria’s bustling music scene, Joey Akan, a name synonymous with the essence of Afrobeats, embarked on a journey whose impact would resonate far beyond Africa. As the founder of Afrobeats Intelligence, Akan has become a torchbearer for the genre, shedding light on the beauty of African music and culture.

Afrobeats is distinguished by its pulsating rhythms and moving lyrics. Every note and word is a musical representation of Africa’s diversity, unity, and resilience. This fusion of traditional African beats with modern global influences has struck a harmonious cord with audiences worldwide.

Afrobeats Intelligence originated during Akan’s time at Pulse Nigeria, where he started as a writer and steadily climbed the ranks to become the head of music at the publication. During this time, he recognized the explosive potential of Afrobeats, a genre swiftly capturing international attention.

Driven by the vision to tell the story of Afrobeats from a local lens on global platforms, Akan collaborated with media outlets such as CNN, BBC, Fader, Pitchfork, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Netflix. But, his friends urged him to share his voice through an independent platform. “My friends consistently told me I had a lot to say and believed I would benefit from having a platform of my own.”

With the unexpected COVID-19 disruption, he had ample time to engage with artists and industry insiders, drawing them into candid conversations in their homes. And so it began. “My mission has always been to transform Afrobeats Intelligence into an information hub while documenting a vital part of our culture,” Akan said.

Nigeria has become a significant powerhouse in this genre, giving rise to some of the most influential artists and modern sounds today. As the world turns its attention to the continent’s most populous country, some foreign publications have tried to tell the story of Afrobeats and the Nigerian music industry but have yet to capture the nuances of this dynamic movement.

One significant issue is the misrepresentation of the genre. Afrobeats is often erroneously referred to as a monolithic music style when it includes a wide range of subgenres and influences. From Afrobeat to Afro-fusion, Afro-house to Highlife and Juju. The Nigerian music scene cannot be boxed into a single category.

Akan’s commitment to the truth and authenticity is the guiding principle for Afrobeats Intelligence. The platform shows the inner workings of the music industry, providing context and understanding to its audience. “Our system is unique and strongly influenced by our environment. I seek a platform that can showcase the stories I have to tell. Often, when people share these stories, they lack nuance. This is precisely why I aspire to create a platform that delves deep into these narratives.”

Unlike traditional news outlets, Afrobeats Intelligence doesn’t just report about music; it contextualizes it. It also democratizes African music by telling the most important stories through different mediums. From in-depth interviews to thought-provoking articles, it is a comprehensive resource that paints a clear image of the African music landscape. The platform interprets local events in a way that resonates with a global audience, bridging the gap between cultures.

Akan has given local music an authentic voice and a global spin by focusing on the truth and dynamics of the industry. “It is not just a music resource centre; it is the industry’s conscience, a repository for African stories, and an educational tool that enlightens the world about the nuances of African music through its editorial bent.”

Afrobeats Intelligence has steadily advanced to meet people where they are, evolving from a newsletter into a podcast. Chux Odoh, a PR/Media consultant, has been a newsletter subscriber since its inception and selectively listens to the podcast. His professional connection with Akan drew him to the platform. “Our shared background in the entertainment industry led me to check out the content, especially since it revolves around Afrobeats, delving into the culture, the people, and the music that defines it.” 

Odoh listens to the AI podcast based on specific topics or featured guests that pique his interest. “I am more inclined towards the newsletters because they are quick reads. I finish reading them within five to ten minutes. But I also listen to the podcasts, which often span forty minutes to an hour.”

Joey Akan’s voyage with Afrobeats Intelligence has produced several remarkable articles and interviews that have left an indelible mark on its audience about Africa’s and Nigeria’s music industry. A candid conversation with the iconic Asa, where he revealed she was a smoker, humanized the artist in a way that resonated even more with her fans. “It’s the first time someone has done that. She wasn’t happy when it happened but appreciated it later.”

The podcast with Omah Lay provided invaluable insights into the pressures within the music industry, becoming one of the best repositories of Nigerian music podcasts. One of the most incredible moments was the therapy session with Zlatan, where a two-year-old feud was resolved on a podcast, serving as proof of the power of open dialogue and reconciliation.

Odoh’s favourite episode of the Afrobeats Intelligence podcast features Jesse Jagz, a renowned rapper in the Nigerian music industry. He admires Akan’s dedication to the show, especially the effort he put into travelling to Jos to record the episode with Jagz. This particular episode validated his long-term admiration for Jagz’s creative work.

While most of the podcast’s guests have been artists, he believes that Afrobeats is a multifaceted genre with many industry stakeholders beyond the artists themselves. He hopes to see more diverse conversations that include critical players from distribution companies, major labels, and other industry professionals. This would provide a more balanced view of the Afrobeats space. “However, I understand you must provide content that excites your audience. Most people are drawn to stars and celebrities.”

The demographic reach of Akan’s platform is as diverse as the vastness of African music. Afrobeats is no longer confined to Africa. It has made its way into the hearts and playlists of millions worldwide with its infectious sounds and vibrant melodies. This explains the expansive reach of Afrobeats Intelligence from Nigeria to the US, UK, Ghana, Kenya, Europe, and even the Philippines through word of mouth and passionate sharing. 

“The audience reach is evenly spread, like the world map. It attracts everybody, especially music nerds. The age brackets include the younger generation (17 – 35), the older generation (36 – 55) and music executives worldwide. It is like an industry newsletter; everybody is subscribed to me locally and internationally.”

What is Akan’s secret sauce? He doesn’t “do” marketing. Instead, he focuses on editorial excellence, carefully crafting stories that captivate his audience. And they, in turn, champion the platform. 

Odoh finds the Afrobeats Intelligence podcast both informative and entertaining. He appreciates the host’s ability to provide insightful references and facts, often offering perspectives not available elsewhere. He also enjoys the newsletter’s fun and engaging writing style. He hopes the podcast will explore more knowledge-driven content. “It should consider delving deeper into various aspects of the music industry, such as A&R, production, music marketing, and PR. By featuring a diverse range of guests with expertise in these areas, the podcast can offer valuable insights to its audience. For instance, discussions could revolve around the challenges artists face in gaining recognition in Nigeria or the intricacies of music promotion,” he suggested.

The unrivalled audience engagement that Afrobeats Intelligence inspires makes it unique. “The engagement is high,” Akan acknowledges. “I produce, they consume voraciously. My readers are largely from social media. It is a parasocial relationship.” 

With an average of 10,000 to 500,000 listeners and 10,000 to 50,000 readers per article, Afrobeats Intelligence is nothing short of a force to reckon with. But it’s more than just the audience that recognizes the value of Afrobeats Intelligence. The platform has attracted partnerships with industry giants like Spotify, paving the way for Afrobeats Intelligence’s first live event in October 2023.

Managing Afrobeats Intelligence has not been without challenges. A self-funded entrepreneur, Akan admits that finance is a constant struggle. However, his unwavering commitment to his craft has spun partnerships with other brands like MTN, Pepsi, and Union Bank. These collaborations have proven a lucrative lifeline, providing financial stability to run the platform.

Akan’s ambitions for Afrobeats Intelligence are as big as the music that inspires it. “I want a resource centre for music. I want to create a place where people can cut through the fluff. A service where I provide insights,” he said. Odoh shares the same perspective. He views the platform mainly as educational rather than promotional. He’s wary that it should shift towards music and artist promotion, as such a move might dilute its core mission of providing valuable insights and knowledge to its audience. “I believe that Afrobeats Intelligence’s strength lies in its ability to educate and inform, allowing listeners to gain a deeper appreciation for Afrobeats music and its multifaceted industry,” he said.

The testimonials and feedback from followers, subscribers, artists, and industry professionals best illustrate the impact of Afrobeats Intelligence. “People always tell me they love my work. People within the industry read it; it shapes thoughts and holds a mirror to them,” Akan said. “People have told me they ventured into this field because of me. I defined the music space.”

The platform’s success is measured by its impressive reach, with each episode touching the lives of half a million people. It’s not just about numbers but how these numbers shape the industry’s conversations and thoughts. Some of its inspired conversations include humanizing how record label owners are perceived. Record labels are often villainized, but Afrobeats Intelligence has highlighted the challenges they face running a record label in Nigeria and the dynamics of their relationships with artists. Akan believes that Afrobeats Intelligence is the intersection between humanity and music.

Zlatan’s podcast episode, a testament to a journey from humble beginnings to success, unfolded a captivating grass-to-grace narrative. The newsletter featuring Oxlade sheds light on aspiring musicians’ challenges, particularly when met with familial resistance to their musical pursuits.

Afrobeats Intelligence provides a captivating window into an industry relentlessly pursuing global success. It’s a time machine, transporting listeners to the past, where the seeds of African music were planted. It’s a gateway to the present, where innovation and collaboration thrive. Most importantly, it’s a telescope into the future, democratizing the core of African music.

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