Running a record label in Nigeria in 2018 seems like high risk, with little returns, creating a space where label owners have failed to recognise the worth of properly going through the process, while simultaneously understanding that the place of the label transcends just putting out music alone.
Hence, few who started in the 2000s are unable to stand the test of time and have folded in short time, while others have set a pattern that has bastardised the artist and label marriage, making it seem impossible to work.
It is not always about the glamour and the glitz, neither is it about the private jets or the large assembly of artists, there are few record labels who understand this and X3M Music owned by Steve Babaeko feature prominently on the list.
Most record labels begin by trying to be a part of the current trend and sign a number of artists with a catalogue of club music that fits into present demand with the aim of making instant profit.
But that is not the story with X3M Music which seeks to break from tradition and influence the status quo with a stated focus of primarily developing young talents.
At the helm of affairs pivoting the label to become a leading force in the industry is the amiable and pragmatic character in Steve Babaeko.
From relatively humble beginnings in 2008, when he set up the imprint, one he says he ran for many years with the earnings from his nine-to-five salary, to setting up his operations in a small room in Ikeja as his office.
The dreadlocked advertising and media executive had his mind set on a long-term plan for the music industry at a time when record labels in its traditional form were actually closing shop and sceptical of taking on new artists.
Steve Babaeko has always had a strong view on doing things with the right intention, even when the process may seem slow.
It is clear that in today’s industry, indie platforms are now the order of day, however, record labels remain the engine to pilot a well-structured music scene and his insistence to create a hub for like-minded talents, and foster a developmental platform for them to thrive, seems to be finally paying off, as ten years later, X3M Music boasts a catalogue of some of the best pop releases in recent times.
At the last edition of the Headies awards, alongside Davido, the label also emerged as the biggest winners on the night with its artist Simi winning three awards including the honour for the Award of the year, while Praiz also went home with the plaque for Best vocal performance.
The label has forged its way to the very top with the least amount of hype, but a number of clever decisions and impactful strategy, which is evident in how Simi has been able to roll out singles off her last album, ”Simisola”, and the well-planned releases of videos intermittently to keep her name in the conversation all year long.
The label’s early signings came in the form of rapper Overdose, Etcetera and 2008 Project fame runner-up, Praiz who joined in 2011.
‘’X3M Music is more like a family more than a label, if you have a boss that calls you bro, you know you are in a good place,’’ he says.
This Simi also admitted to shortly afterwards, ‘’I joined because of the structure, the team, the drive and financial backing is there and it is a place where you have to break the norm.’’
The general consensus is that the label has enjoyed more winning strides than stumbles in its decade-long journey, but Babaeko is under no illusions regarding the feats that have come the label’s way thus far.
Speaking with Guardian earlier in May, Babaeko explained his decision to set up X3M Music, especially at the time he did.
”Music is a passion for me and it’s not going to stop; there are just too many talented people in this country.
I mean, if I asked you who was Simi three years ago, maybe a few people knew about her. But who is Simi today? She’s known worldwide. In fact, somebody once sent me clips of videos from a wedding in Istanbul, Turkey; I’ve never been to Turkey in my life, but they were playing Simi’s music there.
So, that’s the power of music and we will continue to invest in that.” he said.
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