Elizabeth Eason leads Label & Artist Services at Vydia, an end-to-end platform that provides managers and labels with the tools and infrastructure they need to support their businesses. The company monetizes content, as well as taking care of distribution, supply chain, complex rights management, data pipelines, and payment. Eason works with artists in a number of genres and locations, and works to empower Africa's emerging music market. She has implemented marketing strategy for Joeboy, The Cavemen., Akon, and Five Finger Death Punch, to name a few artists.
With the rise of digital streaming platforms (DSPs), the music market in Africa has become more globally accessible, and Vydia has partnered with platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music to curate more spaces for African subgenres and bring the music to new global audiences. The popularization of DSPs has also opened up the music industry for an increase in independent artists and management. Although there is still much room for growth and development in these areas, Eason and Vydia are working hard to make the global music industry a more equitable place.
We spoke to Elizabeth Eason about her role at Vydia and the past, present, and future of the African music market. Eason shared about viral marketing strategies, including Lil Nas X's 'Satan Shoes,' how consumers can best support the emerging independent and African markets, and more.
Read the full interview below and let us know what you think.
Tell me a little bit more about Vydia and your role leading Label & Artist Services.
Vydia was started nine years ago by Roy Lamanna who originally founded the company to support video distribution. We have since expanded our services to include global audio distribution, rights management, analytics, payment solutions, marketing, and more. Our mission is always to provide the infrastructure and tools so independent labels can maintain transparency and ownership of their content while being able to focus on scaling their business.
My role leading Label Services includes overseeing all playlist pitching, advising and executing on marketing strategy for various artist projects, and overall superserving our label clients by bringing opportunities to their roster of talent. We want to provide the technology and resources for our label clients so they can focus on what they do best: developing artists. We’re not a label; we’re not here to develop the artists. We think it’s more impactful if we can provide those tools for independent talents so that they can remain independent.
"We want to provide the technology and resources for our label clients so they can focus on what they do best: developing artists."
How and when did you first get involved with music?
I’m a classically trained violinist, having studied in Paris, Zurich and in school at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I ultimately decided against pursuing a career as a professional violinist and turned towards music business instead. While in school, I worked as a college rep for Universal Music Group, interned at StarMaker Karaoke, and Merge Records. Since UNC didn’t have a music business program, I knew I would have to have strong internship experience in order to be competitive with the kids coming out of NYU or USC. So after graduation, I moved to LA and got my first job in sync licensing (licensing music for T.V., film, and advertising) and eventually made my way to Vydia, where I’ve been the past two years.
What is your favorite book?
We have a book club at Vydia, and read Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger. It’s about creating viral marketing strategies, and Jonah mentions a lot of strategies that you often see implemented in music. Take for example, Lil Nas X and his rollout for “Industry Baby”. There was a lawsuit filed against him from Nike over his customized ‘Satan Shoes’. Instead of lying low, Nas took advantage of the opportunity and opened the “Industry Baby '' music video with a spoof of the lawsuit. The song now has over 100 million streams on Spotify. It’s extremely impressive how he can create humor out of hatred.
Which barriers have most blocked the market potential in Africa in the past?
Accessibility to and the adoption of streaming. The infrastructure hasn’t always been great. Naturally, Africans in larger cities or hubs are more likely to have access to newer technologies. In recent years we have seen more telecom companies engage in partnership with the streaming platforms–so when you buy a cell-phone there’s a streaming app already downloaded and available on your device. There’s been good progress but there are still a lot of barriers that need to be overcome in order for the Africa music market to truly be united.
What marketing strategies have been most effective for the African artists and labels you work with?
On the playlisting side, it’s making sure we capitalize on all the DSP opportunities available to our artists. Partners such as Spotify and Apple have been working hard to expand their curation to create space for additional subgenres like Afropop, Afro Soul, Highlife, etc. They have also activated more campaigns featuring African artists like Apple’s "Song Stories" and Audiomack’s "Hometown Heroes" which is great for garnering new audiences.
Outside of the DSP world, it’s been key for artists to actively engage across all social media platforms. Triller and TikTok are widely used in Africa–TikTok actually has a team in South Africa–so it’s important to use influencers in global markets when launching a challenge. Broadcast is also an important part of release strategy for African artists as it’s pretty accessible. There’s BET Africa, Trace, and a lot of other local networks that can help further the reach of a project… both in radio and in T.V. Finally, collaborations. Mr Eazi collaborated with J Balvin on a couple songs, most recently “Lento” but also “Arcoíris,” which was on J Balvin’s Colores album that won Best Urban Album of the Year at the Latin GRAMMYs last year.
How can consumers in the United States best support the emerging African music market?
Take advantage of newfound access to global genres! Genres like Afrobeat and Highlife have been around for a long time but only recently did streaming users gain mainstream access to listen to them. Subscribe to local African press outlets like Pulse Nigeria and Okay Africa to become more familiar with the musical landscape. Listen to Cuppy’s show on Apple Music and keep an eye out for African artists performing in your city. There are so many ways you can support African artists here in the US and we are only going to see more of their presence in mainstream music.
"There are so many ways you can support African artists here in the US and we are only going to see more of their presence in mainstream music."
Who are your favorite African artists right now?
Teni, Rema, The Cavemen...there are so many! “Feeling” by Rema and Buju is the big song trending at the moment. Every week it continues to stream like crazy... And then The Cavemen. is a fast-rising Highlife group in Nigeria that I’ve been lucky to work with. People love them; they keep selling out their shows–I can’t wait to see them live.
Is there anything else you’d like people to know?
This is a pivotal time for independent music. We have seen more and more large-scale managers and artists leave the major label system and go independent. We have also seen the rise of new global artists as a result of emerging markets gaining increased access to worldwide distribution. And while we are slowly gaining a larger market share, we still have to work a little harder to make sure our independent releases are considered for the same opportunities as the major label ones. I’m optimistic that we will be in a more equitable space in the future, but it’s going to be crucial for independent distributors to stay proactive in providing independent labels with the tools for success in an evolving industry.
"I’m optimistic that we will be in a more equitable space in the future, but it’s going to be crucial for independent distributors to stay proactive in providing independent labels with the tools for success in an evolving industry."