At the Women In Music Awards 2023, we celebrated the achievements of 13 game-changing executives and artists as the industry came together to honour their work. Music Week has spoken to all 13 winners to tell their stories.
Words: Adenike Adenitire
Women In Music’s Rising Star for 2023, Ginelle Appau joined Apple Music via the company's Emerging Talent programme just three years ago. Since then, her passion for music and natural flair for curation has seen her swiftly gain additional editorial responsibilities within the UK music team. She now oversees the UK Black music curation and editorial strategy for key playlists such as The Agenda, UK R&B, UK Rap, WXVED and High Maintenance.
As part of her editorial role, Appau works closely with lead Black music curator and presenter Dotty (pictured with Ginelle Appau) to help programme The Dotty Show. Her key achievements include booking talent for Windrush Day, a UK garage series and Origin Stories, as well as overseeing strategy for key moments such as British Black History Month.
Ginelle Appau has also been a key driver in supporting the DJ community in the Black Music space. In 2022 she launched The Agenda DJ Mixes series. Incredibly proud of her Ghanaian roots, Ginelle works with colleagues on the African continent to promote Afrobeats and African artists. She was recently voted Industry Professional of The Year at the first ever GUAP Gala Awards in 2022.
Here, Ginelle Appau shares her industry experience so far and discusses Apple Music’s support for Black artists and her focus on Afrobeats…
How does it feel to be recognised as a rising star? And what would you highlight as your biggest achievements while you've been at Apple?
“Excited! I think the work we do as a team, we do because we love music. We're just big fans of music and championing artists. So, I think for me, it stops there. Like, that's fulfilment enough, but to have recognition from peers and people who are outside of the Apple building means the world. And even though it's me getting the award, there's an army of people behind me that I work with, so it feels like a win for all of us in a way.
“In terms of my achievements, I've been working here for just over three years now and there have been so many projects that I've been able to work across that have been really fun. My core day-to-day is playlisting, programming and curation. We've been able to launch a couple of new playlists in my time here, including a UK R&B playlist, which was a big one in terms of championing R&B artists. We're trying to do a lot more with the dancehall, reggae and soca community in general, so we've launched a couple of new soca playlists, and other playlists in the Caribbean space. So, it's just been nice to, I guess, elevate in that way. And then I’ve been working on some live events as well. It’s been a whirlwind three years, but it’s been very good.”
How did you get your first break into the industry? Did you have a mentor when you were starting out?
“Apple Services hosts an annual year-long emerging talent development programme in the UK, and I started on that in June 2020. The programme is entry level and is across the different services streams across Apple [including Apple Music, Apple TV+ and the App Store]. Prior to that, I'd worked in marketing for quite a few years, but I always knew I wanted to work in music. I think for me the hardest part of trying to break into the music industry is someone giving you a chance to get your foot in the door. It's a super competitive industry, and a lot of it is networking well and building relationships.”
Did you have a mentor when you started out?
“Internally, there are two people that I would definitely have to shout out in terms of my career journey at Apple. The first one is John Klein, who does our pop editorial. He was my first boss here and he did the hand-holding when I started, because I came onboard in the middle of the pandemic. So, he was just the best boss to guide me through that. The second is my current boss, Ryan Newman, who though I wasn't reporting directly to him in that first year, after the first three months he was very much there in terms of mentorship, steering me into what I wanted to do next and helping me define what that looked like.”
How important do you think schemes like the Emerging Talent Development Program are for people entering the industry?
“It is really good at demystifying the entry point, as you can apply whatever your background. What they [Apple] care about is you being passionate about music, your transferable skills, your knowledge, and what you're able to deliver, but it doesn't have to be that you've worked in this field for 10 years. I think it's good for two types of people; those who are at entry level, and then those straight out of university or college who want to get into the music industry and don't know where to start. But then, it's also good for people like me that wanted to hit reset on their career. I'm very passionate about sharing my journey of getting into this space.”
We do a lot to support R&B talent, especially talent that's homegrown
When you spoke to Music Week in 2022, you said that your favourite part of your job was “supporting emerging talent and being part of their journey from the start”. Is there one artist’s journey that you were involved in and are most proud about?
“We do a lot to support R&B talent, especially talent that's homegrown. So, we have a programme called Up Next, and Up Next Global, and there have been two R&B artists that have been part of that global programme in the last few years. First is Jvck James and the second is girl group FLO. For FlO specifically, at Apple, we've all been super-excited about them and their journey from the beginning. They did their first TV performance in the US with Jimmy Kimmel, which is massive for a new girl group. So to have been a part of that whole journey and watch them grow and be able to build a global campaign for them, as well as for Jvck James, has been great.”
As part of your editorial role, you work closely with lead Black music curator and presenter Dotty with her programme, The Dotty Show. What is your relationship like and how do you work together?
“I think Dotty is a visionary, and yeah, we have a really good relationship. She’s been in the industry for a while, is respected, and has built great relationships. She also does storytelling for artists really well, so it's really nice to have her as part of the team, and leading what a lot of our strategy is when it comes to Black music. She's very good with people, words and has very big ideas. I'm an ideas girl also, so I love having someone that has some skin in the game to work on those ideas with.”
Do you think the music business has done enough to nurture Black talent, in your opinion?
“If I speak on what we're doing here at Apple I would say, through the development scheme there's a really good crop of Black talent across Apple. In addition, we have a DNA group which celebrates Black talent within Apple globally. During Black History Month, in particular, it was just so nice to see them come together and champion different Black people from across the business. But then when it's not October it doesn't feel like it’s silent, as there's always things being put in place to engage Black talent and their development. So, it does feel like there's an effort being put in to nurture Black talent and make them feel welcome within Apple.”
Your work also involves promoting Afrobeats and African artists on a global scale. What do you think is the key to the Afrobeats boom in recent years?
“So, I’m an Afrobeats lover. I think over the last 15-20 years, within our community, and within the diaspora, the genre has been big. And I think as the diaspora has grown up and embedded those sounds into the music they're creating, they’ve created a bridge in terms of our sound and the relationship between artists from the UK and from back home on the continent. Over the past few years, I think we’ve been able to tell a story in a way that's not been told before in terms of us uniquely shaping that into our own Black British sound as well, whether that's afro swing, Afro trap or Afro wave. Then there has been the partnering with sounds from the African continent, which is not just Afrobeats, but Highlife, Fuji music and Amapiano. In addition, there are a lot more platforms as well, from our own music festivals, media outlets, podcasts, hosting events, so I think it was naturally going to happen because the music is just so incredible.”
Do you think the UK music business has done enough to support Afrobeats?
“So, I’ll speak for Apple Music and what we do and say, it's really nice when we talk to African artists, as Apple Music is a key platform and partner for them territory-wise for so many reasons. This is because what our team is good at doing is bringing artists from wherever they're from to a global audience. We have US anchors, UK anchors, French, German, South African, like we've got talent from across the world in terms of radio talent, and then we've got editors from across the world as well. And we're good at joining hands.
“We obviously have our charts on Apple Music as well, especially our Top 100 Nigeria chart, which a lot of artists now look to in terms of their positioning and stuff. So, I think it's nice that people see the value of Apple Music as a partner and the suite of things we're able to offer. Also, personally across the team, everyone is super-excited about African talent, African artists, and we're all passionate about what we can do to grow and expand that, and that's been evident in loads of other ways as well. For example, we launched Tems’ Leading Vibe radio show last year, we’ve done two Apple Music Lives with big Afrobeats artists – Burna Boy this year, and Wizkid last year. We also did an event in Ghana in December, so we've got a lot of curators and mix providers on platforms that spotlight African artists and Afrobeats.”
Click here for more from Women In Music 2023.