Hi Terri, could you please tell us about yourself?
Hi, well my name is Terri-Lea better known as EmpressTerri and I am an executive producer as well as the founder of laDUPONT Media based in South Africa. Over the years I have specialized in artist management, PR consulting, events coordinating and audiovisual productions.
You’re a woman in a fiercely competitive, male dominated field. What does this feel like?
It has its advantages as well as its disadvantages. Women can do anything a man can do and maybe even better however it is a little harder to prove. At all times I have to strive for excellence, there are times I have failed but you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keeping moving forward. It is hard indeed to be heard or picked out of a crowd of men however sometimes it’s the very reason and thing that God uses to favour me in the industry.
So when someone comes with a budget that’s not really big how do you still manage to bring out the best?
The truth is that after years of feeling about in the entertainment industry I have finally found what I am passionate about. After years of trying to prove that I am as capable as any other producer of bringing a production together to create a beautiful video I no longer feel I have to struggle with low budgets. However at minimum amounts I tend to make budgets work because I have good working relationships with a lot of people which helps in the future, I also have an amazingly creative team so we improvise well, without compromising on quality (winks).
Are you in a relationship?
LOL I thought this was an interview on the business aspect of EmpressTerri??.... Yes I am in a relationship
You’ve been shooting videos for how long?
The first music video I ever produced was Izandhla Phezulu by Buffalo Souljah back in 2009 when I was still with HotWax productions managing DJ Waxxy and Buffalo Souljah. After that Igho (the director of that video) recommended me for videos from early 2010 when I went solo…so it has been 6 awesome years if we count from 2009. But officially 5 from 2010 as the first was an impromptu, guerilla style lol, they just threw me in the lake and said SWIM!
What is the biggest difference in the African music industry between then and now? What has changed?
Hmmm so many things…The industry is growing at an alarming rate, some amazingly talented artists and some merely lucky. Genres have emerged from the usual afropop to afrobeats, dancehall, ragga, afrornb even a different afrodance genre. Music has truly expanded and individuals across the continent have started appreciated local music more. The culture of African music is also being supported so much more across borders now than when I started out….MAN if I tell you the struggle it was to get African music played and well received on some platforms…it was a struggle.
Where do you see the African music scene going?
I wish I was a fortuneteller lol but I hope that there will be an increase in the number of dominant artists across Africa. There are quite a few right now however Africa needs more competition in order for the number of new entries to up their game. Everyday a new artist is releasing debut singles but a whole lot of it in my opinion is just noise. We need to keep the talent up, the quality up and the passion. Music is not just for anybody. It truly is an art consisting of so many things. I would like to see an Africa with good managers, good image consultants and more great PR agencies. I think that’s what African music and artistes need more than anything.
And do you think we can be well received on a global scale?
We already are well received on a global scale, the spread is happening fast. We need to remember originality, they love African music for its difference not when we try to sound American or try to sound European. If we stick to proudly African trust me soon artists like Phyno, Patoranking, Olamide and more will pack out venues like Madison Square and more overseas with millions of fans. Just as the world loved French songs like “Alors on Danse”, they world will love African music. It is all a matter of time.
Who would you say are Africa’s biggest music superstars [female] and why?
Africa’s biggest superstars…WOW this is a hard one. Well looking at the word superstar it would entail fame, lifestyle, wealth and more. I think currently African male superstars are definitely Wizkid, Psquare, Mafikizolo, Davido, Fally Ipupa, Don Jazzy and Tiwa Savage. Tiwa is definitely Africa’s diva. They be singing her songs from Cape to Cairo. Unfortunately we can’t say that for many female artists out of Africa but hey…it’s not the end of the world, let’s keep our eyes and ears open. There are talented females who will get that 1 opportunity to blow.
What would you tell a young girl with her sights set on the business end of music in Africa today?
I always say this….RUNNNNN! Lol and don’t look back hahaha. Ok no I am joking. It is a tough industry, I spent nights in tears the whole of 2013 trying to get my formula right. And I had friends and mentors in the industry tell me “If you are going to cry over an industry built on opinions and give up or break down every time you get the shorter end of the stick then this industry is NOT for you” and sadly it was true. You have to be tougher than your average and smarter than the rest. If you are a female use it wisely. I have a small voice and get teased about it all the time but guess what, it gets me so far lol. Use what you have ladies but please?!...with class and sticking to your good morals.
Challenges in the entertainment industry?
Unfortunately the entertainment industry has become one where time is hardly ever kept and it has become accepted as a norm however it is a great challenge as it affects quality and perfection. It is a great challenge. Dealing with artists and egos is never an easy thing and neither is it dealing with the masses. The entertainment industry is about dealing with human emotions, preferences, characters and opinions on a daily basis. That is something that will never be easy.
Experience in Nigeria?
In my own experience working in Nigeria has been honestly amazing. Challenges like getting people to stick to time, and traffic can be frustrating but I find the people to be the most focused and hard working people I have met in the industry so far. Especially in film, if I need something done, we can achieve it quick and with no complaints. I love working there.
Like and dislikes?
Hmmm I love music especially African music, I can’t function without music. I also love what I do so apart from the sporty me, if I am not shooting something I get withdrawal symptoms LOL! I dislike disrespectful people…it drives me nuts! I also dislike laziness. Other than that I am a pretty friendly person that doesn’t easily, or hardly ever, gets angry
Will you stop shooting musical videos if you had more brand videos and Ads to shoot?
No I will not. I started off as a manager in this industry and so I have a passion to fulfill dreams. I will always shoot music videos. I am currently already lined up for a number of commercials however that will never affect my choice to do music videos. I AM LOYAL TO THAT GAME haha!
When you wake up in the morning what are the first three things that come to your head?
LOOOOL that’s easy! Music, God (my time with Him) and chocolate
What was your first major music video?
Hmmm I don’t know how to answer a question like that I would rather say my first major artist to shoot for as an independent was Kcee the Limpopo master. It was and always is a pleasure working with him, his creativity is amazing. Our first projects together were Kcee – Fine face https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnFWP67sP3Qand Mr Songz – Story https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0iTEiZ2J8k
How big is your production crew?
It would absolutely depend on the size of the production and what we are trying to achieve but I have a permanent crew of 5 and the rest are selected and rotated based on the project.
There are a lot of music video awards right now. What is your take on the situation?
I am not too sure I am in a position to comment lol, before they start snubbing me haha. The truth is though that I wish there was an award for producers as we truly make the entire production come together, without us the director wouldn’t be able to do much however I do understand that only recently have some African directors started finding producers. In the past they have had to do everything themselves. All else is about quality, have your awards, just deliver the best entertainment and quality.
Don’t you think that there should be a joint venture seeing that there are two intellectual properties that should review the audios that you hear and see the video that you do?
Production companies do get their credit provided they fill in release forms correctly however we live in Africa and all of that is part of our growth. One day everybody will fairly get the credit due to him or her for his or her work.
Where do you see yourself in the next 4 years?
4 years….hmmm…I am still young but have a lot I want to achieve on a personal level and business level. I need to make it to the Forbes list of most influential African women before I turn 30, I want to be the first African production company to shoot an international music video (NOT a song featuring an international artist), I see laDUPONT taking territories across Africa and setting a trend for other female driven production companies to come out of Africa. It is still early days…females will take over and SOON! (wink)
Okay finally what are your hopes and dreams for Africa as a continent?
My dream for Africa is for us to live in a developed continent that utilizes all its resources, both natural and human. We are a people of colourful character. I hope to see Africans supporting and carrying each other like other nations do. I hope to see our music create change in the attitudes of our people. I hope to see our youth achieve so much more and take their place in the world. Africa is the heartbeat of the world, they just don’t know it YET! (giggles)