WME's Whitney Boateng on Afrobeats, representation and the return of live music

WME's Whitney Boateng on Afrobeats, representation and the return of live music

Whitney Boateng joined WME in 2021 as an agent, worldwide music. 

In the latest issue of Music Week, we interview WME’s worldwide co-head Lucy Dickins, along with Boateng and fellow agent Craig D’Souza.

Here, Whitney Boateng opens up about her ambitions for new acts, support for mothers in the live sector, and superstar artists including Nicki Minaj and Summer Walker...

What do you want to bring to WME in terms of new acts?

“At WME, there is always room for new and fresh ideas. This year, we have seen an increase in the contribution that Afrobeats music has added to the live space, with acts like Wizkid, Davido and Burna Boy selling out The O2. I hope to sign more African talent from across the continent. Aside from the incredible crossover potential – from live, to podcasting, to brand endorsements and crossing into film, television and modelling – we are a true family. I believe that is why we are so successful and have such longevity with our clients.” 

How do you feel about the health of live music in 2022?

“The last two years have been a rollercoaster for live music, and I am pleased that it has made a comeback. I am looking forward to live hopefully having its full-on return in 2022, it is great for the business. There were so many jobs lost or put on hold, so I’m grateful that we are getting our livelihoods back. Most importantly, it is going to be incredible for artists and fans to be able to reconnect with live music again. This year has so much in store, I can only expect brilliant things.” 

At WME, you’re now working with Lucy Dickins and Caroline Simionescu-Marin – do you think about being a role model for young people? 

“Lucy is a force, a leader and an incredible agent. Admittedly, when we first began speaking, all that I knew about her was that she was Adele’s agent. But there is just so much more to Lucy: she is a great boss to us all, and a mother. I genuinely feel blessed to be able to work for a woman as special as Lucy; she is the energy and life of our office. Our colleague Caroline has always been a peer of mine that I respected from our individual area of the industry. I’m enjoying working with another hard-working woman.” 

Which acts are you working with in 2022? 

“Rema, NSG, Chrissy, Blxst, Summer Walker, Jessie Reyez and more. My main goal is to get them touring festivals and performing headline shows. We have missed so much over the last two years, I am ready for all the festivals and shows 2022 will bring.”

Summer Walker has been huge in the US and is streaming heavily here – what are the plans to build her as a touring act? 

“Summer had great success last year with her album going to No.1 in the States, it is a magnificent body of work and she is immensely talented. She has an incredible team of agents at WME and her managers at LVRN are outstanding. Summer came over to the UK in 2019 and sold out almost 10,000 tickets within minutes of going on sale. She is clearly in demand and there will be plans to get her on the road this year.”

What have you learned from Nicki Minaj?

“Nicki Minaj is one of the best rappers of this generation. In 2020, she became a mum and it’s been refreshing to see that she has not let that interfere with her career. I have learnt that I do not have to conform to what being a traditional woman used to be. Women that tear up the rule book, change the game and break moulds make history – and Nicki has done that in every capacity. She reigns supreme, from how her records sell, to her image and her undeniable influence. Being a mother is just one of her many facets. I think, as women, it’s important we see this, and I am thankful she has shown me this, as a mother especially.”

How is WME supporting women and mothers in the live sector?

“There are many things that make working at WME special, and the support that I have as a full-time working mum is one of them. I feel the benefit of working for Lucy: she is Superwoman when it comes to being a working mum. This is not gender exclusive, however, WME just gets it. And because I am never nervous about motherhood jeopardising my job, I can work to the best of my ability, and I appreciate that.”

In 2020, you were instrumental in #TheShowMustBePaused – how is WME helping to create positive change?

“WME has a team dedicated to inclusion, and I think this is one of the things that sets us apart. The team focuses on all minorities and groups, and I have seen the work inclusion does to ensure everyone in the company is educated and not bigoted. I feel a no-tolerance policy here that I have not felt anywhere else. I wish other companies, in the live music sector especially, would follow suit.”

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