Warner Records has formally established a joint venture label, Protect the Culture, with former Motown Records general manager (and Warner Music Group Afrobeats consultant) Marc Byers, amid significant expansion in a number of African music markets.

This morning, Warner Records announced its collaboration with Byers and the newly formed Protect the Culture, roughly 18 months after Warner Music purchased a majority stake in African distribution and rights-management company Africori. Protect the Culture’s first act, Ghana-born and Massachusetts-based Lord Afrixana, has released a single called “No Dey Tire” on the label’s newly launched imprint.

Meanwhile, in addition to directing Protect the Culture, Marc Byers has come on as an A&R consultant for Warner Records, where he will focus “on the vibrant African music scene,” according to the parties concerned. In a statement, former Atlantic Records A&R executive Byers stated that Protect the Culture will “introduce more than just sounds from Africa.”

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“I have a passion for this genre and believe it will be the world’s Pop music,” Byers stated. “Lord Afrixana is our label’s first artist, and he’s incredibly talented.” PTC wishes to introduce more than simply African music because Afrobeats is worldwide and immensely diversified.”

In a joint statement, Warner Records A&R president Steven Carless and EVP and A&R head Karen Kwak referred to Byers as “an invaluable A&R resource,” citing the signings of “Touchdown” originator Lord Afrixana and Nigeria-based Pheelz.

Warner Music is not alone in making high-profile investments in the African music industry; Universal Music Group recently brought Virgin Music Label & Artist Services to the continent.

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Recently, Ultra International Music Publishing announced a West African expansion, including the establishment of a creative hub in Lagos, Nigeria, for the start of 2023. Following that, Believe, based in Paris, reported significant revenue growth in Africa and Asia-Pacific, while PRS for Music and Rob Wells’ Orfium announced a “groundbreaking” Africa-focused alliance the same month.

Finally, African music streaming upstart Mdundo ended June by expecting a roughly 35% increase in monthly active users (to 35 million MAUs) over its next fiscal year; the company hopes to reach 50 million users before or during 2025.

According to its website, Mdundo provided access to 2.2 million songs in 15 African countries, with a special concentration on Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, and Uganda.


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