Feature

#BehindTheNoise: We shine a spotlight on Jade Leaf, the new Head of Tunecore Southern & East Africa

In 2019 we launched #BehindTheNoise, a #WomensMonth campaign designed to spotlight the girls who run the (entertainment) world.

What we very quickly realised was that it couldn’t be limited to a month-long campaign, and that it was better-suited as an ongoing conversation in honour of our heroines doing the most.

The next superwoman on our radar is Jade Leaf, the new Head of TuneCore for Southern & East Africa.

Having been appointed just three months ago, I congratulate her on her new, very brag-worthy position and she reluctantly accepts my praise. “I’m used to working behind the scenes but at the same time I also realise that there are other black and brown girls like me out there, who can be whatever they want to be, they just need to see [that it’s possible],” she reasons about owning due credit.

Hailing from KwaZulu-Natal, Leaf tells me about her upbringing in Wentworth, a community in the South Basin of Durban. While her mother is a teacher in the Wentworth community for 35 years, and her grandmother a teacher before that, she attended school outside of their area, somewhere she could get a better education, but somewhere she had to work hard to fit in. “I wanted to be from the ‘burbs and I wanted to conceal the fact that I was from “Wenties” where drugs and violence are a big deal, she explains of her childhood.

What was once something to hide, she now wears her Wentworth origins as a badge of honour, “As I get older I am so grateful to reference that and to say proudly that that’s where I’m from because I wouldn’t be Jade and I wouldn’t be in the position that I am if it wasn’t for the place and the community that raised me,” she explains.

After attending architecture school, her first small step in a new direction was as a copywriter/social media manager for a small marketing agency, a necessary leg-up into securing a position with the award-winning King James Group (advertising agency) in Cape Town. “This was really defining for me because I started writing for all kinds of brands and eventually moved on to working on 360 marketing campaigns for youth brands,” she elaborates.

At ANDPEOPLE, she had the opportunity to work on brands like Adidas, Ray-ban, and Levi’s – whether a pop-up store or social media campaign, she’d found her niche in taking global brands, giving them a local voice, and making them relevant in a South African context, ultimately contributing to local youth culture, “And what better way to speak to the youth than through music,” she reasons. “I was like okay, here’s another piece of the puzzle: youth brands, youth culture, all things marketing, all things music – these are the things that make me happy,” she explains of the journey she embarked on all the way to her previous positions in international marketing at Sony Music Africa and youth marketing for Channel O.

Leaf pauses after the very thorough catch-up when she realises the journey she’s taken to get to her current position as Head of TuneCore for Southern & East Africa and all I can say is, “Damn girl, you been busy!” She laughs because three months into the new position, she knows the work is just beginning.

TuneCore is the world’s leading DIY Digital Distributor. In 2006, they changed the game by partnering with digital stores to allow any musician to sell their songs worldwide. TuneCore helps artists across the world get their music distributed everywhere from Apple Music to Spotify, YouTube to Instagram – with the release of a single starting at $9.99 (R146.50, exchange rate-dependent). And whether 100 or 1 million consumers stream your music, they don’t take a red cent from your earnings. “TuneCore has been around for 15 years. It’s a distribution & technology company but it’s also about music and best serving artists globally, the natural step is to localise our services so that it makes sense for the challenges that Southern and East African artists face,” she explains, making small of a massive task.

“My passion is the commercialization of music (building an ecosystem where artists actually make money from the distribution of their music) and the ability for our music to travel overseas. The arts have the ability to take us to the rest of the world – it’s the content, it’s the distinct sounds, it’s the stories that are inherent to us,” she gets excited as she talks about the untapped potential.

“I know artists just want to be artists, but I think in 2021 we all need to educate ourselves on the different aspects of the business of releasing music,” she says almost scoldingly. I confess my guilt as an ill-informed (read: lazy) artist myself and she points me in the direction of their global TuneCore blog which covers everything from “Pitching for Spotify Playlisting” to “Press Release Writing 101”.

Leaf’s job now, whether it’s helping upcoming artists to get onto the world map, making them understand the importance of monetizing every aspect of their music, or making the decision to translate articles into a local language, is to educate the artists and creators about the power of online distribution. Our job, creators and consumers, is to clue ourselves up.