Abena Adu is a modern-day jill of all trade making a name for herself within this often tough to succeed industry. Adu turned her love affair with music into a successful and multi-faceted career. Which includes artist management, her blog, “Without Further Adu”, working at Spotify, and stints in streaming and A&R. Learn more about Abena below.
Hi, Abena! Thanks again for connecting. First off, Can you introduce yourself and talk about your background a bit? You have an interesting story in the music industry as a jill-of-all-trades.
ABENA ADU: Hi Brittney! Thank you for having me. Ok so, my name is Abena and I am currently an Artist Manager and Blogger based in London. I also have a background in Streaming and A&R. My journey in the music began when I was really young; I loved buying CDs, reading the liner notes and generally learning about things behind the scenes in music.
(cont.) Then when I got into my teens, I started blogging about music on various different sites like Tumblr and WordPress. But in 2015, once I finished my first degree, I decided I wanted a fresh start so bought a Squarespace domain and launched WithoutFurtherAdu (WFA for short) in April 2016. The goal behind the site has always been to tell long-form artist stories as I felt artists at true grassroots levels weren’t getting to tell in-depth stories about themselves.
(cont.) In terms of my career, that began in 2019 when I decided to go back to University to do my Masters in Music Business Management. I also applied for several internships and have worked at Spotify, WARP Publishing and Q&A / Human Re Sources (who have split now but when I worked with them, were one company). I’ve had a great experience at all these places and they’ve really helped shape my view of the industry from both the artist side and the streaming side.
I have been asking this question often in this series, Why do you love music?
ABENA ADU: Ooooh, that is a good question. I love music because it’s one thing in life which brings me pure joy — when I listen to music or discover a new artist or see someone live, it’s a feeling which is unmatched. Music is also a massive part of all of our lives so to get to work in an area I really enjoy, is truly a blessing.
I love your blog “Without Further Adu”. First off, How did your blog come to fruition and how did come with that title?
ABENA ADU: As I mentioned before, WFA was born out of me wanting to tell artist stories. I always had one rule in that I only do interviews (I don’t do music reviews) and I only feature artists I really like. I was inspired in the early 2010s by content I read on The Fader and Pigeons and Planes as I felt at that time, they really were focused on sharing music from great artists on the come up.
(cont.) And haha, the name comes from my last name which is “Adu”. And is a play on words of the saying “Without Further Ado”.
What has this past year been like for you? How have navigated the COVID-19 crisis and lockdowns as a creative?
ABENA ADU: To be honest, I’m very grateful that no one I know personally was seriously impacted by Covid in terms of getting sick.
(cont.) But when the first lockdown hit in the UK, I was still at University doing my MA so switching to online learning was weird. Also, trying to focus on assignments and my thesis while the world was literally falling apart was difficult but I just pushed through and made it out the other side.
What advice would you give to young creatives who want to work in this industry particularly creatives of color?
ABENA ADU: I would definitely say if you say you’re passionate about music, then you have to show that. My way of doing that was starting a blog where I discovered and spoke about new artists I came across. I would definitely also say to build your network and more importantly keep in touch with people in that network.
(cont.) For example, I initially wanted to get into the industry to do A&R, so if I came across someone who did that job, I would send them new music every now and then so that I was front of mind for any opportunities; things may not happen the way you want, straight away but if you keep at it, the opportunities will come.
I’m also very lucky that I have a couple of Black Women I look up to in the industry who have become my friends and we really support each other. So I would definitely recommend reaching out to people who you can build a genuine friendship with.
What does the future of music look like to you post COVID-19?
Tough Question! I definitely think that more artists will become self-reliant in terms of having their own set-up at home to make music. Covid and lockdown has probably forced people to learn skills they never had before i.e. production so that they could still make music.
I also see a lot of remote sessions continuing, so instead of travelling halfway across the world to work with someone, (especially for smaller artists), they could do so via video. Although this does obviously take away the more personal touch of being in a studio with other artists.
In terms of live music, I haven’t got a clue!
What has been one of the most rewarding experiences of your career so far?
I would say when I worked at Spotify (I was an Intern and then went on to work part-time while I was at Uni). We were working on a live event at the end of 2019 called Who We Be Live (based on a playlist of the same name), and although it was a lot of stress, it was great to see so many people come to the show and enjoy all the artists on stage. We had Doja Cat before ‘Say So’ became a massive hit and Pop Smoke performed as well before he tragically passed; so it was really amazing to be a part of something like that.
What has been the single piece of pop culture that has kept you sane during quarantine?
Honestly for me, and I think a lot of people would agree, Chloe x Halle owned every Quarantine performance they did last year. Those two are an absolute force to be reckoned with and even though they couldn’t do live shows, they brought their album to life with so many creative live moments and honestly they were part of my highlight of 2020 in terms of music.
And… the last question, Is there anything that I might have missed?
ABENA ADU: I think you’ve done a great job at asking me some really thought provoking questions so thank you for this! I will just say that, to anyone looking to get into the music industry, it can be very disheartening at first to not get roles you apply for, so if anyone would like some advice, I’d be happy to give it!
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