Student’s label teams up with Warner Music to connect Haiti’s music scene to the world

Serge Turnier is a student like every other student at Full Sail.

But he’s also a music diplomat of sorts for his country (Haiti) and a producer/project manager for Haitian label, Baoli Records. The Recording Arts student recently represented his label and his country in talks with Warner Music in France.

As Head Producer for Baoli Records, Turnier works with the label’s artists, including world music/pop musician, J. Perry. Perry’s song, “Dekole” (“Take Off”), is one of the most popular songs in Haiti, and “Dekole” was the theme of this year’s Carnival celebrations in Haiti.Turnier first connected with Warner Music when representatives came to Haiti in December for a fundraising project they were working on with MTV. They were looking for young, emerging talent from small countries.

“What they want to do is bring in major acts – like right now we’re talking with Linkin Park – that want to come to Haiti,” said Turnier. “And they’re going to do shows there in Haiti, and they’re going to stream it online and on MTV and on different networks for pay-per-view, and the money that they generate from that is going to go toward constructing schools in Haiti and these countries and promoting young talent.”

After hitting it off in Haiti, Turnier and J. Perry were invited to Cannes, France to meet with Warner executives while the MIDEM Festival (Marché International du Disque et de l’Edition Musicale) was taking place. The MIDEM Festival is considered the world’s biggest trade fair for the music industry. From a student perspective, this was an opportunity to observe the inner circle of one of the world’s largest record companies, and Turnier and Perry engaged in discussions with Warner executives, including Warner Chairman and CEO Lyor Cohen, owner Len Blavatnik, and Vice President Seymour Stein (who signed the Ramones, the Talking Heads, the Pretenders, and Madonna to his Sire Records label, a subsidiary of Warner).

“It was a small room with just 30 people, but it was 30 executives from Warner Music, and it was at the end of the all-day conference that they had. And they were talking licensing in different countries, which is what we’re doing now due to that trip. Now we’re negotiating a licensing deal with Warner to represent Warner Music in Haiti.”

There are two sides to the licensing proposition. One is to make Baoli Records the official licensee for Warner Music in Haiti. “They do that in more than 75 countries. The label would basically own the whole catalog of Warner,” said Turnier.

The other is a licensing deal for the artists of the label. In this scenario, “We give them our music to be a part of their catalog, and our songs are going to be licensed in all of these countries by Warner. So it becomes a part of their catalog, basically,” said Turnier. “For us, it’s definitely access to different markets that we cannot access on our own and leverage.”

Turnier said Baoli just succeeded in signing a licensing deal with Israel as a result of the meeting in France. “So that’s a market that I definitely would not have had access to on my own. And they loved us. That was out of that meeting,” he said.

Turnier believes that Baoli Records and the artists they represent have the right ingredients for success on a larger scale. “When the song came out, ‘Dekole,’ we did a survey; for the first week it got played 678 times [on the radio],” said Turnier. “It’s a very, very popular song right now.”

Ultimately, they want to bring about positive change in Haiti, said Turnier.

“We’re going to be the first people doing publishing and licensing in Haiti. That is huge; that is big,” said Turnier. “It’s going to change lives; it’s going to change kids’ lives, artists’ lives. Now in Haiti, an artist will not die poor.”