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Friday, August 3, 2007

Ladybrille Exclusive:Interview with Storm Records' Music Mogul, Obi Asika--Part II



This is Part 2 of a two part interview with Storm Records' Executive Chairman, Obi Asika. Read Part I here. In Part II, Obi & we discuss the music business in Nigeria, Entrepreneuralship in Africa, piracy, artists abuse, technology/new media, Nollywood and international expansion and collaborations.

ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN AFRICA
LADYBRILLE.com: Let's really roll our sleeves and get into the business of making music.
LADYBRILLE.com: How difficult is it to be an entrepreneur in Africa and specifically Nigeria, especially with constant power outages and fuel [problems], among many issues?
Obi:
It is extremely difficult because of the lack of support from the state and of course from the banks. There are all sorts of SME schemes but many are designed to keep the money moving around in circles. The key thing is to hold on to your dream and look for those who have been or are being successful. Also we need to look at how we measure success. I measure success in terms of the bottom line, in terms of the quality of our work and then how it affects the audience. Therefore, we believe the impact of our work goes beyond just the monetary rewards even though those are important because you must be able to oil the machine. In truth, there are other things I could be doing to make money but none of them gives me [as much] pleasure. We are privileged in that our work is our passion so even when we work for weeks without rest it does not seem like work.
MUSIC INDUSTRY ISSUES
LADYBRILLE.com: [Okay. Let’s get more into it] First, many issues threaten the industry even on the global international market, piracy being one of them. What are the challenges a major record label like yours experiences in Nigeria?
Obi:
The first thing is education, then distribution, then piracy, also respect. Nigerians are a funny lot. Because of their insecurities about themselves, they have tended to undervalue their own work, which is why they pay ridiculous premiums to foreign talent when local talent will actually serve better, fill the venues etc. We were a big part of the push to get Nigerian music accepted by Nigerians. Now that has happened, there are so many generic songs and rip offs that it is painful to the ear but I guess people have to make their money. In Nigeria, another major issue is pricing.We need to address this urgently because at this point in time the music needs to be showing much better returns, there is some show money out there but only for a very few premium artists.
LADYBRILLE.com: [Staying on the pricing issue for a minute] How do you recoup your losses when an artist's album tanks?
Obi:
You don’t. That is the nature of the game but album sales are not really the issue. Music is a branding and marketing business and we have the strongest brand. We are also about to put out overwhelming content to drive that brand and give our brand ambassadors [the artists] and ourselves the platforms to really earn from their talents.

ARTIST v RECORD LABEL / MUSIC PUBLISHER

LADYBRILLE.com: In the music industry, it is undisputed that talents get screwed: from caps on contract lengths to unpaid royalties, the list is endless. How does Storm Records balance the artists' interests with its own?
Obi:
We are artist friendly and all our relationships are familial. I think that we do all we can to support the artists and to give them the platform to blow up as major as possible. In fact I pride myself on excellent relationships with all our artists and while there are many shortcomings and we are learning everyday I do not think any one of them is thinking there is a better deal somewhere waiting for them.

LADYBRILLE.com: [Revisiting] the piracy issue again, pirated songs on Nollywood films are way too common. Has Storm thought about collaborating with Nollywood producers/directors to create original sound tracks for their movies?
Obi:
People like Kingsley Ogoro, Segun Arinze and Peace Anyiam are old friends and these are some of the issues that we have been discussing. It is very disheartening to see songs in films without proper compensation to the rights owners and not only does it cheat them it also does not allow the song writer to get the right credits. Emeka Mba at the Nigerian Film andVideo Censorship board and Bambo Awomolo at the Nigerian IP Commission are two of the most important people who are making it easier for rights owners to have protection and earn from their works.

EXPANSION & COLLABORATION WITH INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS

LADYBRILLE.com: Okay Obi [let me shift your attention]. I noticed Storm Media Group is the parent company with subsidiaries such as Storm Records, Storm Production, Storm Gear and Storm Vision. Share with us some of your vision and plans for expansion.

Obi: I think you already know about those companies, Storm Productions is the original company. We did Dakova’s first fashion show in 1991. We produced all the live events for Big Brother Nigeria. We delivered live events and productions and this year we activated all the audiences for West African Idol--they have worked in club promotions. We developed the World Cup Village in 1999at the U20 World Cup in Nigeria and held the very first concerts at the Polo club with Dede Mabiaku, Daddy Showkey, Blacky and Lagbaja. Storm interactive does SMS, IVR and websites. We do all the interactive work for our shows and are also developing a major Nigerian content portal.

LADYBRILLE.com: Let's talk about expanding into the USA and European markets.One of the artists you manage and collaborate with is Engineer turned hip-hop artist Eldee. Actually explain that relationship, it's a bit confusing.
Obi:
Eldee is family. He has been with Storm since 2001. We have been supporting him and his movement since back then, we just pushed out his album in Nigeria and of course it is already available everywhere. The relationship on a business level is that Storm Records is the label putting out his album and will also be issuing his catalogue which is extensive. Watch out for the return of tribesmen. In a nutshell, Eldee is a monster artist like most of his Storm family and we are here to ensure that the world gets to know that.

LADYBRILLE.com: Back to expansion, do you plan to expand into the USA and International markets?
Obi:
Yes. We have strong relationships in the USA, UK and SA [South Africa] and before long you will see Storm Records’ materials available worldwide and in those markets. We are working with people who want to work with us, major players in their own markets and not people who are looking to ride us for their own needs.

LADYBRILLE.com: Obi, there are so many Africans, Nigerians included, in the"diaspora" doing big things. Up and coming Jai Izuagbe, for example, made
the beats for Diddy for his song "Come to me."
Mike Ajakwe is a veteran
writer and producer of numerous shows and movies. What about collaborating with people like that to push Nigerian and African music on an international front?
Obi:
We are up for collaborations once it hits that level. It can’t be wack or we are not doing it. We are in discussions with several people who are not all Nigerians from DJ Kofi who is a former UK DJ Champion who has made mixtapes.

TECHNOLOGY

LADYBRILLE.com: A recent Rolling Stone Article by Brian Hiatt & Evan Serpick discuss plummeting record sales in the music industry-USA and Europe alike. One of the factors they point to include technology and the internet which has really changed the way people listen to music and blurred geographical lines. How is Storm record positioning itself through technology to prepare for the future?
Obi:
We are content aggregrators and we have signed a couple of deals which will mean we will be bringing Storm music and music and other content fromthe world of Nigerian entertainment to you directly; to your device wherever you are worldwide. Watch out for it. That is something that will be major. We are already technology leaders in Nigeria in terms of what we have done with Nigerian music through shows like Big Brother and we are working with the major players across Africa such as SonyBMG to deliver this content globally. The music industry has changed and we are abreast of this and you will find us wherever there are platforms from social networking sites to pure music vendor sites.

We are in the process of going live and I always say that Storm Records is in the business of building brands and in that regard,the music and the videos serve as marketing tools. We pride ourselves on our artists being articulate and well presented and this enables them to be able to better represent themselves and our brand and in this way engage with the many corporat[ions] who are trying to tie in with the huge youth demographic in Nigeria.

LADYBRILLE.com: [laughs] Obi, na you o! [It’s all you!] Thanks menh for the interview. One last thing, tell our audience how to support some of your artists and where they can reach you with sample music and for collabos.
Obi: Before I say that, I want to say thanks for the time and for the interview, I never spoke about my partner Remi Ogunpitan without whom none of this would be possible and Olisa Adibua who is a director of Storm MediaGroup. We are going live with several shows in the last quarter, we have several albums out and about to be out and we have some major events as well. We are producing the tenth anniversary celebration of Fela’s death. We have also just been commissioned to produce an 8 part series called “100%Naija” for Channel O which is the first show commissioned on Nigerian musicfor an international broadcaster.


If you want to find us check out Storm Nigeria and welcome to our world, you can also find us on myspace.com/stormnigeria and through our various artist pages. I just want to say thanks to anyone who ever supported our artists, our shows, and our work and for the haters, keep hating it provides us with inspiration to do better. Finally to quote Naeto C, the P is too heavy and Storm is definitely in the Ladybrille building. I just also want to say well done to all those Nigerian women who are out there doing their thing with the fashion and the blogs. We are paying attention. From Bella Naija to Toni Payne, it is amazing what our women are doing, maybe one day the men will catch up too.
LADYBRILLE.com: Thanks again and keep us posted on the Storm progress.
Obi:
It was a pleasure chatting with you. Please stay in touch and we will keep reading your stuff. In terms of what we do and who we do it with I want everyone to just keep supporting the movement, our agenda is the Nigerian and African agenda, we are tired of the West pontificating about Africa, let Africans push Africa, there are enough of us, so Storm says stop waiting to be recognized stand up and take yours. The time is now!

2 comments:

Lady A said...

Girl, you know you got it going on! Didn't you say you needed an assistant *wink, wink*, I'll be happy for a career change. Oh, what was that Lady B? You want Latte extra foam?
*Smile*

Ladybrille said...

@Lady A, you got jokes for days. lol! Sense of humor is a critical component in my book for working with Ladybrille. Will keep you on my list. I might come knocking soon. No Latte extra foam. Just some ice cold bottled water. lol!

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