Elaine joins Columbia Records: Here’s everything we know about the deal

Major recording labels have their eyes set on Africa as the future destination of a traditional model that’s proving difficult to sustain in the First World. That is our overall take on the news that Elaine has signed a lucrative deal with Columbia Records.

Elaine drops Risky with label announcement

Of course, for the 21-year-old, what a time to be alive. Her enigmatic aura matched with her vocal range has launched her music career on a trajectory not witnessed often in South Africa’s entertainment scene.

Soon after releasing her debut EP Elements, in September 2019, Elaine was on the radar and first to scoop her under their wing, was Sony Music Entertainment.

The major label, a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America, had to find a suitable home for the singer and none made more sense than Columbia Records, a stable that houses Beyonce and Adele, role models that inspired the Elaine we enjoy today.

“Elaine is unquestionably deserving of the recognition she’s getting for her music. It’s not chance that got her to where she is, it’s talent and hard work. We love that about her and we can’t wait to work alongside her to help share her incredible music around the globe,” Sony Music Entertainment Africa managing director Sean Watson said.

The announcement of her deal coincided with the release of visuals to Risky, the closing song on the EP. You can watch the video below:

‘I’m not anti-label. It’s about the fine print’

Until the announcement of the deal, on Wednesday, Elaine’s meteoric rise was achieved independently. It was only a week ago when we lauded her for being the most streamed female artist on Apple Music South Africa in 2020.

Moreover, for the month of July — as reported by Music in Africa — she and Ami Faku were the most streamed local female artists on Spotify.

Apart from her music scene, Elaine is still on the grind for a law degree at the University of Witwatersrand. It’s this legal knowledge that has helped her in waiting for the right music label to partner with.

This is apparent in an interview she had with Red Bull in April 2020, at a time, we believe, when the Columbia deal was still in the works.

About working with major labels, Elaine said:

“A lot of record labels have approached me but I haven’t taken any offers. I’m not anti-record label; it’s really about the fine print and the one thing that I value is my creative freedom.

“So as long as that isn’t compromised then there definitely could be an opportunity to actually work with one. I’m not totally against the idea; I’m a very open-minded person.”

Is there an album coming soon?

While the intricacies of her partnership with Columbia Records are likely to remain between her legal team and the label’s, it can be assumed that her conditions on creative freedom were accepted.

No word of an album has been announced by either party but the unveiling of her record deal is a clear indication that a debut studio LP is in the works.

Here are 10 Columbia Records signees she could have access to for her upcoming project:

  • Chloe x Halle
  • John Legend
  • Labrinth
  • Lil Nas X
  • Noah Cyrus
  • Pharrell Williams
  • Raphael Saadiq
  • Solange Knowles
  • The Internet
  • Tyler, The Creator