How Kimani Moore Launches Music Stars Online
When Kimani Moore says the team at Kimani Moore Entertainment are “in the air,” it’s not a metaphor. The Nigerian-born entertainment and A&R executive says that not once in the past four years have she and her employees been together in one room. Instead, they manage their roster of up-and-coming Nigerian talent digitally. It’s why they’ve been able to maintain their hustle during the pandemic, ending 2020 with two new partnerships: distribution and marketing support from Platoon, a record label acquired by Apple in 2018, and a global publishing deal with Peermusic.
“I just say ‘fuck it’ and I jump and do stuff,” Moore tells me in a call from Lagos. (She’s based in London, but still visits family in Nigeria.) After graduating from university, she hopped on a plane to Atlanta without a job or place to stay, and used her social media connections to connect with pros like Chubbie Baby, who was the VP of A&R at Epic Records before creating his own record label, AweSomLife Entertainment.
While she’s quick to hop on a plane, it was her adventurous nature online that lead to the formation of Kimani Moore Entertainment. SoundCloud has been key: It’s where she’s found talent like Lagos-born R&B singer Odunsi, part of a group of Nigerian artists who combine local influences with R&B and pop beats for a sound called “Alté.”
“I had never heard or seen anything like it,” Moore says.
Moore tells me how she builds brands for her clients, herself, and the app she’s working on in hopes of digitizing the relationship between artists and the music industry.
What’s special about the rising generation of African music talent?
It sounds like I'm being over the top, [but] I feel like this is the next generation of people that are going to put a dent into what has been a pretty flat line, as far as innovation. I think everyone is looking at what's been done before and then replicating that, but no one's actually being like, “Fuck it. I'm just going to innovate and I'm going to do something new.” So I think that that's what these guys have that is definitely different. But the thing is for me, like, nothing's ever really new. So what it is that they're doing, they're digital babies taking everything of the past, they're looking at things that are coming in the future, and they're infusing all of that together.
How do you help them build their brands?
When I'm working with a client, I like to understand where they see themselves currently. Who are you trying to be? Or where do you see yourself in five years? If I don't get the answer I'm looking for, I won't even work with them. I only work with superstars. I only work with people that I think are gonna break the mold or turn some shit on its head. I don't care about you knowing how you're going to do it, just [you] knowing that you're the main ingredient for that. If you understand that, then my job, my team's job, is then to show you, “This is who you are. And this is where you're trying to go. If we attach you to these brands then we can work together to get these results.”
And how do you go about representing your brand as a company?
We're only doing that this year because I wanted to reach a four or five-year mark and show results before I established my brand. I just believe that the proof's in the pudding.
I'm actually trying to raise capital for the business, $2 million by the end of this year. I'm trying to build an app to digitize and streamline the music business and the management business and put them into one space. This [initiative] is part of building the story around the company and what we do and showing people what we can potentially do with other clients. Success for me is: I've been able to change and impact someone's life, so they’re never going to be the same once they're done with working with us as a company or as a brand, even down to my employees, when they leave. I want them to be like, “I learned so much working with this company or working with this brand.” So we definitely play the long game.
Can you tell me more about the app?
Within the music industry, from a business standpoint, I just feel like no one knows what they're doing, in the sense that artists don't have full transparency. I joined a bank called Monzo and what I love about Monzo is that it's real time. So as I'm spending money, I'm seeing where the money is going. If I have a problem, I can talk to somebody in the app. I don't really deal with any physical cash, everything's just on the app. So I was like, it could be really good if I could turn this into something for my clients. So I spoke to a couple of artists, my own artists, my friends that have artists. And I was like, “What's the biggest frustration?” And they were like, “I don't know where my money goes. I don't understand my contracts.” Things like that.
So the app that I'm working on is almost like an artist portal. There's two sides of it: There's the management side, where the artists can basically log in [to see] your bank, which will show you all the deals you've done and how much has come in, all your expenses for X amount, if you have any money that you're owing, if you borrowed any money—it basically shows you everything. Then I want to be able to simplify contracts. What we're trying to do is convert those long-form contracts, all the jargon and all the long words, and make them so that the contract is condensed into one page, and that is what the artist sees. The one pager that has all the crucial information that they need to understand.
The second part of the app is the side of it that has your team. So if, let's say, you're working on a single, you get to see that you submitted it and it's with this person. Now on the flip side—the label’s side of the app—they will have their own system integrated in so that the artists can chat directly to whoever it is they need to talk to.
What do you think are the best digital and social media platforms for emerging artists right now?
I would say my go-to—and this is not only for artists, it's also for businesses—is Canva. Canva was what we used initially in the early days to make our stuff look somewhat professional when we didn't have any money.
Twitter used to be the happening place and then everyone migrated onto Clubhouse. I don't think that's going to last long, especially for the new-age kids. They don't care about that. They are really into the TikToks, they're really, really, really into the Reddits. SoundCloud is still definitely a major contender. Not a lot of artists are sophisticated enough to understand how to use apps like Google Drive and stuff like that, so they still go to SoundCloud [to upload and share their music].
I definitely think there's going to be a boom of music people on Reddit, especially people that understand music, fashion, things like that. It's not only for tech geeks. There's a growing community of underground musicians on Reddit, even if they then use other places, obviously, to stream their music.
When you're looking at a potential client, are you looking for them to already have a significant social media following, or is that something you help grow?
With Odunsi, when I first started managing him, he only had something like 120 followers on Twitter. I kind of prefer it when they're unknown. It makes it easier because you can then help cultivate and shape their brand. And I think the most important thing for me when I work with people is for them to understand that they're building a business, and building your brand is building your business.