May. 3, 2018

Sam Onyemelukwe


Sam Onyemelukwe

Managing Director, Trace TV and Venator Partners Ltd.

TBY talks to Sam Onyemelukwe, Managing Director of Trace TV and Venator Partners Ltd., on creating crosscutting content, developing supportive industry frameworks, and harnessing local music ingenuity.


Sam Onyemelukwe comes from a creative background and began his career at Walt Disney in Burbank, California. He has been working in media and entertainment in Nigeria and across the African continent since 2008 and was most recently Business Development Manager, Nigeria for MTV Networks. Venator Partners is Trace’s biggest partner in Africa, and Onyemelukwe operates under the title Managing Director, Trace Anglophone West Africa. He holds an MBA and master’s in ICT/information systems from Boston University and a BA in Fine Arts from University of Southern California.

What is the evolution of Trace TV and Venator?

Venator Partners is a media and entertainment business focused on the West African regional market. We sell advertising, manage celebrity talents for brands, and produce events, television shows, and trendy short-form clips. We also have a content business focused on the newer wave of audio-visual content in the region. When I started Venator in 2010-2011, one of the first clients I brought in was Trace TV, and we were representing them as an advertisement platform. Since then, we have become one of Trace's most important partners in Africa, and now, we hold a master license agreement (MLA) with Trace and work within the group on a Pan-African basis. Trace TV is a completely separate entity from Venator, but there is, in fact, an overlap in what both companies do. Because of our MLA, we report all our revenue to Trace TV, while for television advertising, there is a portion that goes on Trace channels and a portion that does not. For the rest of the business, we do revenue shares on predetermined percentages. We have been fortunate that Trace TV has grown into one of the most influential music and entertainment brands in the region.

How can Trace TV help the music industry grow?

We have a major part to play in that. Nigerian music is highly exportable, and we have 11 channels that are broadcast in over 180 countries with hundreds of millions of viewers. More than a third of our viewership is outside Africa. Our channels are broadcast in Europe, Asia, the US, and the Caribbean. When we promote a video, artist, or a song, we can open ears and influence listening habits much more so than other music platforms. We are in a unique position to do this with Trace TV because the other channel brand that has this global reach is MTV; however, MTV is regionalized in its content. For example, we put a great deal of effort into bringing Caribbean vibes to Africa that people here do not normally have access to. Conversely, we take Nigerian, Kenyan, and South African content to the Caribbean. We cut across multiple markets.

How can Nigeria harness the potential of its talent and passion for music and make a business out of the entertainment sector?

Some of the fundamental infrastructures of the music industry are not in place here in terms of publishing and music rights. The government is doing a few things, though it has not truly given that much attention to these issues to enable the industry to thrive. There is a royalty collecting society, however, it is unable to enforce its mandate because they have a limited repertoire, in addition is not supported by the government. Approximately 80-90% of the value of artists and songs is being played into the air and disappears. Beyond that, there is a great deal that could be gained by the general promotion of music here, for example by developing music tourism, whereby people come to Nigeria to check out the clubs and the live music scene. Then, there is the issue of live performances, as there are not enough venues. There should be 500 bars and clubs in Lagos where there is a live performance every weekend, but this is not the case. Lagos State is doing something about this; it has opened a second Terra Kulture in partnership with Bolanle Austen-Peters on Victoria Island. By the end of 2018, there will be six Terra Kulture centers in each of the major areas of Lagos. This means we can start to tour artists, music, plays, and more around Lagos. Given our love for music and enjoyment, a live music culture could easily thrive here. ✖