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From 16BarsReloaded’s second #MusicUnscripted workshop, we got a glimpse of how major labels create superstars.

Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Some of the Music Industry professionals at #MusicUnscripted II

The second #MusicUnscripted featured a panel of industry professionals discussing the ‘Independence vs. Signing To A Label’ journeys to musical superstardom.


  1. Gavin Gutu – Label Manager, Urban Division Universal Music Group+
  2. Mzwandile Sibanda – Publishing A&R Universal Music Group
  3. Gigi Lamayne – First One Womxn Show in Africa
  4. Yanga – uTatakho
  5. Slique – Injayam’
  6. (Host) Precious Nkadimeng – SpokenPriestess
  7. Katlego Malatji – Entertainment Lawyer 
From that discussion, here’s what we learnt about The 3 Key People That Help Manage a Record Label:
1. Label Manager
Gavin Gutu. Label Manager, Universal Music Group. [Image: Instagram]

A label is essentially a talent agency, operating as a system of parts that work together to ensure business success for their investment (artist). 

The label manager is the coach of this team, basically making sure all the parts are moving in line with the business strategy.  

Gavin’s team at Universal Africa:

  • PR  
  • Radio/ TV Plugs
  • Digital Marketing  
  • Scheduling 
  • Production 
  • Marketing 
  • Promotions


This team can easily be adapted to suit the needs of any artist, while each of the positions can be outsourced whenever required.

Inside Info:  With new artists, many label managers learn from the successes and failures of other prominent careers. For example, in working with a female rapper – the careers of Cardi B, Lil’ Kim or Nicki Minaj can provide valuable learnings with regards to the challenges they faced and how they manouevered them.

2. Publisher
(2nd from left); Mzwandile Sibanda. Former A&R for Publishing at Universal Music Group

While a publisher’s role varies, they generally warrant that the label gets paid whenever their music is being used. 

Publishers will handle the SAMRO, CAPASSO and $A$KO(🍞🍞) stuff to make sure a composition earns as much of it’s value as possible.

Inside Info:  Since royalties take longer to pay out (about two years), most publishers look at things from a long-term perspective. Their aim is to make money for about 5 years after a big song has been released. 

“Publishing is hard work. Get a publisher.” – Mzwandile Sibanda

3. Legal

It’s never too early to start sorting out the legal side of your business. 

The only thing more documented than the music industry’s superstars – are the legal debacles that have ensued behind the scenes.

(Far right); Katlego Malatji. Not your average lawyer [Image:]

An artist is a business in (and of) themselves.The entertainment lawyer sees to it that the moves of this business are legally compliant and aligned with the business’ aspirations.

After helping rapper A-Rooke* get out of a bad deal with Ambillion Ent*, Katlego Malatji stresses the importance of getting lawyers involved as early as possible.

“Even if you record a song at your friends house. Wake up the next morning and the song is huge. Your friend owns those masters.” – Katlego Malatji

Inside Info: Most artists come after they’ve signed a bad deal. At this point, a lawyer can only advise on how to get the best out of an awful situation. 

*not their real names

“You needs a lawyer bruh…”

What you need

  • A Label Manager to keep things running
  • A Publisher to make sure you get paid
  • And a Lawyer to make sure you don’t get sued

While most labels have waaay more departments, with more complex systems than this, the core areas alone can help you get started on any dream.

At both the artist and manager side, a successful music career requires a strong work ethic, strategy, self-awareness and a willingness to learn. You need to be out there making connections; while ensuring your product is delivered up to standard

>>> Keep following @hivejoburg for more learnings & cool stories swirling out of the culture.

Peace, Love and Pretty things.✌️ 

Written by: Lungelo Hlela (I am Multeemedia) // Images taken by: @dayphotolife

– – – – –

Lungelo Hlela is a Digital Copywriter based in Johannesburg, South Africa. When he’s not writing for brands, most of his work includes themes about social issues, history and popular culture. Follow him @lungelosam for more of his existentialist ramblings and romantic ideals.

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