Home Business News ‘A few of the most profitable and distinguished expertise that I’ve labored with are additionally a few of the most shrewd and business minds that I’ve labored with.’

‘A few of the most profitable and distinguished expertise that I’ve labored with are additionally a few of the most shrewd and business minds that I’ve labored with.’

‘A few of the most profitable and distinguished expertise that I’ve labored with are additionally a few of the most shrewd and business minds that I’ve labored with.’


MBW’s newest interview in partnership with the Did Ya Know? podcast sees Adrian Sykes speak to one of many business’s most distinguished and revered legal professionals, Nick Eziefula, about his profession, his different profession, paying it ahead and what artists have to know…

Changing into a lawyer wasn’t Nick Eziefula’s Plan B, the graft was too laborious and he’s been too profitable for his ‘day job’ to be related to something apart from an A.

However, for some time, it did vie with what he would in all probability admit is his old flame, hip-hop, to emerge because the talent that will ultimately obtain skilled prominence.

As an adolescent at Eton (yep, Eton), Eziefula, performing as Yungun, would attend open mic nights and win the odd rap battle.

While finding out legislation at UCL he was a featured artist on a handful of releases, earlier than releasing his first album [The Essance, 2004] while working as a trainee at a significant Metropolis legislation agency. Stick juggling down as a 3rd talent.

When a suggestion got here to help Jurassic 5 (yep, Jurassic 5) on tour, nonetheless, the dedication was so nice that he had to decide on. Rap fought the legislation – and the legislation received.

Initially, he was quietly crushed by what he noticed as ‘giving up’ his profession as an artist. However then he shortly realised he might do each. So he did. And nonetheless does. Now recording as Essa, his fourth album, The Resonance, is due out subsequent 12 months.

His profession as a lawyer, in the meantime, is in overdrive. He’s a associate at Simkins, the leisure, media and business legislation agency, the place he works throughout quite a lot of sectors, however mainly music, the place shoppers embrace artists, labels, managers, accumulating societies, DSPs and extra.

He distils his job description right down to ‘serving to folks get offers executed’ – however in fact there’s much more to it than that. And rather more to Eziefula than even his two jobs. He’s additionally a sought-after commentator on business points (he was a distinguished voice on TV and in print discussing the current Ed Sheeran case and has written op/eds for MBW) and an energetic mentor for rising Black executives.

Right here, as he discusses his roots, his values and his work, he’s considerate, hopeful and, as you’d count on from a rapping lawyer, extraordinarily eloquent.

A fundamental however massive query first: why the music enterprise?

I all the time had a ardour for music, listening to music and making music. I received closely into rap music particularly as an adolescent. In addition to having that keenness, I’ve all the time needed to be a lawyer. So, each time folks requested me what job I used to be going to do once I grew up, that was the one one which made sense for me, which is lucky as a result of, because the son of a really strict Nigerian father, I had a restricted set of decisions.

Physician? I don’t need any blood and guts. Architect? I can’t draw. Engineer? I don’t even know what an engineer is. After which there was lawyer, which to me was all about phrases, and that’s what I’m into. From there it made sense to converge these two issues and to try to discover a house the place I can mix these pursuits and ambitions – music and the legislation.

Inform us a bit about younger Nick and what your upbringing was like?

I grew up in a quiet, leafy a part of North London, a really center class space. I had a really privileged upbringing in some ways. I went to actually good non-public colleges, which my father labored laborious to place me via.

I went to Eton and had a very subtle schooling, but in addition a spread of fairly uncommon and tough experiences.

I’m of combined heritage – half English, half Igbo Nigerian – and there have been only a few folks with that form of background all through my education. So I’ve all the time felt a little bit of an outsider. Many individuals like me, of combined heritage, typically really feel a way of that.

In some respects, I’m nonetheless like that now; there’s a slight awkwardness, a slight outsider complicated, however that’s typically manifested itself in an effort to all the time try to make connections with folks.

So, regardless of describing myself as a little bit of an outsider, once I give it some thought, the circles that I transfer in, and there are numerous of them, I even have good relationships with folks from all completely different walks of life, which is likely one of the actual blessings I’ve had in my life.

I’ve grown into that understanding, and that outlook. There have been instances in my life once I didn’t fairly see it that manner.

“It’s turn out to be pure for me to try to have a look at issues from a number of angles.”

I’ve grown up all the time being aware of distinction – between myself and every of my dad and mom, between myself and the remainder of my social group, and many others. And that consciousness of distinction makes you query issues, have a look at issues in a sure manner. You concentrate on how different folks have a look at issues as properly. It’s turn out to be pure for me to try to have a look at issues from a number of angles.

And that may be a big a part of my job as a lawyer, to take a look at issues from completely different views, to grasp the angle of the opposite celebration that I is likely to be negotiating the cope with, for instance. That’s turn out to be simply a part of the best way I see life.

How was the Eton expertise for a combined race child?

Effectively, it was tough. However one in all my coping mechanisms was to try to excel. I’m a grafter, and I actually labored laborious to do properly in my research. I used to be very aware of the lengths that my household had gone to as a way to maintain me in these colleges, and of the size of the chance I used to be being afforded, so I wasn’t going to blow it.

Similar on a social degree, I attempted to embrace the problem and discover a option to join with folks, to bridge the divide; there’s frequent floor between all of us in some methods.

I attempted to make friendships, be participating, be approachable and be open-minded. In consequence, I’ve received buddies who’re aristocrats, and I’ve received buddies who’re, you realize, very completely different!

Alongside that, I do know you had a love of hip-hop tradition and rap music. What kind of artists are we speaking about?

The primary rap document that I heard, manner earlier than I used to be an adolescent at Eton, was The Magic Quantity by De La Soul. I used to be like, wow, this is unimaginable. What is that this? I didn’t perceive half of what I used to be listening to, however I knew it was particular.

After which once I was an adolescent, one of many first rap albums I actually received into was Doggystyle, by Snoop. And from there I went again to The Continual and the entire G-funk stuff.

After I was about 14, I went to the Studying Competition and I noticed Ice Dice, Gravediggaz, Gang Starr, and by now I’d turn out to be form of obsessive about rap.

It was a manner of reconnecting to a part of my black identification, via the music. I feel it all the time meant one thing extra to me, even when I didn’t fairly realise that on the time.

And that’s by no means actually modified. I nonetheless have that keenness to today. Final night time I went to see The Lox, which is why my voice is a bit hoarse in the present day, as a result of I used to be there, rapping alongside, behaving like an adolescent.

How did you get into the enterprise?

I did a level in legislation at UCL. It was vital for me to be in London, as a result of by that point I’d gone from simply listening to music to attempting to make music underneath the title Yungun.

I’d write raps and go to open mic nights. It took me some time to pluck up the braveness to step up although, as a result of, at the moment, the underground hip-hop occasions in London had been moody and edgy, tough and prepared. I used to be this goofy, posh child from boarding faculty, looking for my manner with folks from a very completely different stroll of life with out being laughed out of the room.

“I used to be this goofy, posh child looking for my manner with folks from a distinct stroll of life.”

Once more, the answer for me was to try to be good. I received to the purpose the place I felt, properly, not less than they’re not going to say that I can’t rap. They may not like what they assume I characterize, however they will’t inform me I’m not good. 

And did there come some extent the place you had to decide on between the 2?

I’d received a trainee contract at one of many prime media legislation companies within the Metropolis, however partway via I used to be supplied a help slot on tour with Jurassic 5.

I informed my agent I can solely get a specific amount of days off work, so I might perhaps do these dates however not these dates. She was like, ‘It doesn’t actually work like that! We’re gonna give this to somebody who simply says sure’.

That was an actual second for me. I bear in mind pondering, I’ve hit a fork within the street, the place it seems like one or the opposite, and I used to be a bit down about that.

However then I met an outstanding singer and author known as Eska, who was a little bit of a inventive mentor. I used to be very crestfallen about having to drop the inventive aspect, however her perspective was completely different. She informed me, ‘What a blessing you can pursue two issues, what a wealthy life you’re going to have doing each these items’.

And I simply began taking a look at it in a extra constructive manner: OK, I’ll not have the ability to do this tour, however I’ll simply maintain doing what I do. And I’ve continued that to today, all the time remained energetic. Not all the time as energetic as I’d prefer to be on the inventive aspect, however I’ve received no complaints. I nonetheless make music, now as Essa, I’ve almost completed my fourth album and we’re seeking to get that out subsequent 12 months

You made that profession resolution, and that has led you to Simkins. Are you able to inform us about your function there?

The day-to-day may be very assorted. I work in music, however I additionally work in different sectors – promoting, the tech house and extra.

I’m a business contract and IP lawyer and many various things cross my desk. I do loads of work for expertise, but in addition for labels, publishers, managers, accumulating societies, digital platforms; it’s actually, actually broad.

Principally I’m concerned in deal-making and recommendation. I assist folks get offers executed. And the subject material of these offers is generally IP rights of 1 type or one other.

What recommendation would you give to younger artists in the present day?

One of many issues I’d say is, don’t be fearful of the opposite folks in that room that you just’re strolling into. They is likely to be seen as extra skilled, extra senior, however have the braveness of your convictions.

Specifically, once you’re grappling with offers, contracts and a few of the technical elements of the business, you won’t have the coaching and the background, however you don’t should be a lawyer to have the ability to perceive the fundamentals of a deal. What’s the discount I’m putting right here? What am I giving them? And what are they giving me in return? Essentially, how does that work? There can be layers of technicality and element round that, however the fundamentals and the core of it are issues that everybody who’s energetic within the business must know. I’m all the time shocked by how little some folks grasp the basics. How are you going to be doing this and not likely get what that is?!

There are loads of artists who don’t actually deal with the enterprise aspect of issues, however that’s not the best way to go. You wish to be eager about and centered on the enterprise aspect of what your profession entails, in addition to the inventive.

A few of the most profitable and distinguished expertise that I’ve labored with are additionally a few of the most shrewd and business minds that I’ve labored with.

They’re inquisitive: What’s this about? Why is it taking place this fashion? They’re by no means afraid to ask a query, they usually don’t assume they’re going to look silly for asking. The clever folks ask the questions, not the dumb folks. It’s sensible to ask questions. Learn up, ask questions and don’t be fazed.

Inform me in regards to the work you do with Energy Up?

The music business, like many industries, and society at massive, has range issues; it’s simply not likely the place it must be. Loads of energy and alternative sits inside fairly small circles, and fairly homogenous circles, when it comes to folks’s background.

For anybody that doesn’t know, Energy Up is an formidable programme that’s combating anti-Black racism throughout the music business by boosting the careers of Black creatives and Black professionals.

The individuals, 40 folks a 12 months, get funding, entry to assets, coaching and mentorship – they’re linked to a community.

It’s a programme that’s arrange for not less than a 10-year interval. So there’ll be a complete load of us coming via who get this increase. The concept is that this may shift the dial and you’ll have way more folks of color in positions of affect within the business.

It’s one thing that I utilized for and was chosen to be a 12 months one participant. I then introduced my agency in, Simkins, to be a supporter. So my 12 months has handed, however I’m nonetheless concerned in a distinct capability, serving to to help the remainder of the group.

I bear in mind once I first received into the music house as a lawyer, I used to be seconded to Warner Music, and Gez Orakwusi, a really gifted Black lawyer there, very kindly mentioned, I’m going to introduce you to a few different Black legal professionals. They had been Dej Mahoney, and, might he relaxation in peace, Richard Antwi.

The three of them took me out for dinner and it was a really significant factor for me to see Black function fashions within the house that I work in, and for them to welcome me in the best way they did and go on a few of their knowledge and, you realize, simply maintain a watch out for me. And that continues to today.

I’ve all the time thought I ought to pay that ahead and that’s one thing I do with folks arising via the enterprise.

And whereas we’re speaking mentors, I additionally wish to give a shout-out to Cliff Fluet, who has been a very vital presence in my profession and has all the time been very supportive. He’s one other senior Black lawyer within the leisure house that I’ve all the time appeared as much as and admired.

Are you seeing extra folks of color on the legislation aspect of the music business?

Greater than I used to. At that dinner, when there have been 4 of us, that was nearly the entire Black legal professionals within the recreation on the time. There are numerous extra of us now. A couple of extra of us now.

However within the company world, I’m typically in rooms the place there are few folks of color, and I feel that’s nonetheless a problem. It’s one thing folks have turn out to be more and more aware of. In 2020, after the homicide of George Floyd and the way that galvanised the Black Lives Matter motion, I really feel there was an actual shift in there being only a fundamental understanding of the disparities, the problems, the issues and a way that one thing needs to be executed.

Some folks really feel it’s a bit insincere, that firms are simply going together with what expectations are. I take the view that I don’t actually care if the trail to progress is a bit bumpy and imperfect, so long as progress is made

Lastly, going again to one thing your father all the time mentioned to you: what’s subsequent? 

I truly don’t really feel like I ever wish to cease. There are such a lot of issues I wish to do and new issues I wish to study. 

However I’ve discovered additionally to not all the time look ahead and up, but in addition typically to look again, respect how far I’ve come and respect what I’ve in life.

As a result of all the time pining after the following objective can typically be unfulfilling; you’re failing to cease and scent the roses. So I’ve been studying to do this a bit higher.

And truly, in the course of the pandemic, when the world form of fell aside – and I really feel very blessed to say this, as a result of I’m aware that different folks had a really tough time – I used to be lucky to nonetheless have the ability to help my household, keep it up my profession and get via that interval in a steady manner.

I used to be fortunate to have the ability to do this, however it wasn’t simply luck, it was loads of what I’d constructed. I’ve mirrored on it since within the sense that when the world was actually rocked, I used to be nonetheless in a position to rise up.

And that was, I suppose, a mark that I’ve come far sufficient, when it comes to all these achievements, to achieve some extent the place issues work, you realize.

A part of that all the time striving, all the time pushing for issues mentality was primarily based on this sense that – and I used to be informed this as a child – you’re not like your wealthy white buddies who’ve a security internet round them; you’ll be able to’t afford to make errors, you’ll be able to’t afford to get this incorrect, as a result of there isn’t that security internet for you.

I suppose what I’ve come to grasp is that I’ve turn out to be my very own security internet to some extent. Don’t get me incorrect, I’ve had help and assist from others in that journey, however I’ve reached some extent the place there’s a sure degree of stability, which is an actual second for me.

It doesn’t imply I’m any much less formidable, however I’m working to be extra appreciative of what I’ve, and the blessings I’ve.

This interview is taken from a superb podcast collection, Did Ya Know?, which tells the customarily unheard tales of key figures within the British music business, focusing initially on pioneering executives of color. The workforce behind the pod contains Stellar Songs co-founder Danny D and Decisive Administration co-founder Adrian Sykes. Music Business Worldwide is proud to be companions and supporters of Did Ya Know? You possibly can take heed to it wherever you discover your favorite podcasts.

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