Interview By Joey Akan; multi-award winning writer and music journalist based in Lagos, Nigeria.
Niyi Osidipe has been responsible for a lot of greatness in the music industry, managing Adekunle Gold and Tolani, and working with brands. How does she fight for herself, her sanity and her people?
“Let me give you something better to wear,” Niyi offers, replacing my mask with a replica of her’s, an N95 mask, and then hands me a pair of latex gloves. We are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, so her concerns are valid. “People are dying, Joey,” she tells me, before inquiring about my personal safety measures.
Oluwagbeminiyi Osidipe typically isn’t one to be scared of anything. She’s the one that scares things and people. Warm, ambitious, and quirky, I have seen her walk into rooms and strong-arm people into having her way. She’s closed major deals in the music industry and executed mind-blowing brand strategy by sheer force of will and handled projects across the arts, media and marketing that require guts. Niyi knows a thing or two about winning. She ushers me onto a tennis court in Ikoyi, talking as she sets up two chairs—with enough distance to keep us safe from each other—playfully, she commands me to sit and retrieves my recording phone with a gloved hand.
It’s details like this that make her successful at managing the careers of Nigerian superstar Adekunle Gold for the past 4 years. In 2018, she took on management for Afro Pop singer Tolani. Since then she has set out to grow her music and visibility in a market that struggles to embrace women and the genre where Afrobeats is the norm. Alongside her management career, she runs Venn Creative Agency—a boutique creative agency that offers a plethora of services. Venn Creative has a track record for delivering industry-defining projects in advertising and marketing for a number of high profile brands. Altogether, she is a powerhouse creative professional with skills that range from filmmaking to writing, project management, branding and strategy.
Niyi returned to Nigeria in 2015 after scoring degrees in communications and Broadcast Journalism from Emerson College, and working for lifestyle firms from the US and from London. She signed up with Hans and Rene as a marketing manager and PR consultant, establishing the brand as the first Gelataria in Lagos, Nigeria. She developed the company’s digital visual aesthetic then groomed a cohesive print and online voice that she translated seamlessly to their digital platforms. From there, she spearheaded the company’s social media communications, as well as managed business development through retail partnerships and client acquisitions. If you weren’t in the music industry, people know her as the “Hans & Rene lady,”. Even in the early stages, her work spoke for itself. It was while she worked at a Victoria Island location of the store, that the music industry came to knock on her door.
“I just happened to be sitting at a gelato shop in V.I called Hans & Rene, and this guy walked in with an interviewer waiting to be interviewed,” she says about the day her journey in music began. “I was very new on the Nigerian scene. I was an IJGB as they call it, and he walked in and I saw everyone being really giddy ’cause I’ve never heard his music. And they said ‘oh it’s Adekunle Gold.’ I ended up taking a picture of him. I sent it to him via dm, that we were making him the Man Crush Monday for that store—Hans & Rene that I was working at.”
That conversation led to a close friendship. In 2016, after she blew his mind on creative strategy on his previous projects, it wasn’t long before he popped the magic question with a heartfelt speech that ended with: “Will you manage me?”
2016 was the beginning of my friendship with Niyi. We met in Lekki. She’d invited me to a personalized listening experience for About 30 in an imaginative music booth set up for fans of the singer to get an early taste of the project. A few weeks later we would find ourselves walking through the parking lot at Lagos’ Eko Hotels and Suites talking about everything-music, life, art. That was when our friendship was sealed.
A bonafide genius without airs, and a pure spirit, why would Niyi decide to work in music, an industry designed to frustrate and torture her kind?
“The reason that I do what I do is because of God. And the goal for me, the joy is that I obeyed God. So God is my reason and God is my reward,” she says.
Watching Niyi work has been a revelation. I have watched her execute groundbreaking projects including Adekunle Gold’s 2018 3-night residency in Lagos. More recently, she has shepherded him and his business from a local urban highlife artist, to a pop star with international in-roads, and International label deals. Industry insiders know she has chops well beyond management. She has A&R credits that she never publicly claims, set-design and costume inputs, video editing for talents working with her, music promotion and marketing wins, and her personal favourite—writing.
As we talk, she paces the tennis court. She occasionally dips her legs into puddles of water formed from the day’s rainfall. There is an ever-present air of wonder and joy about her. We discuss her work, how she navigates the music industry as a professional, growing artists and brands, and why scandals are not worth engineering for your artist.
Why did you agree to be interviewed?
Because you want me to. You’ve been dying to interview me. You think I have incredible insights about the industry. You think that I have a voice that matters, so therefore, here I am Joey. Use me.
How long have you been in the industry?
Been in the industry properly for about four years now. It’s about four years, yeah.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned?
Protect your energy! Everything in this industry is personal, people are petty but you can’t take everything personal. You have to decide you wont take what is given to you.
That’s pretty intense. So why did you come into the game?
It’s funny. Because I just happened to be sitting at a gelato shop in V.I called Hans & Rene, and this guy walked in with an interviewer waiting to be interviewed. I was very new on the Nigerian scene. I was an IJGB as they call it. He walked in and I saw everyone being really giddy. I was confused ’cause I’d never heard his music, and they said ‘oh it’s Adekunle Gold.’ I ended up taking a picture of him, sent it to him via dm. we were making him the “Man Crush Monday” for the following monday. Next thing you know, we grow a beautiful relationship, we become friends. He moved from the business dm to my personal dm and we just became really good friends. He told me he was launching Gold, he needed some insight, some marketing strategy conversation, whatever. We started talking about a lot of things and before the project came out, he played it to me and Bizzle.
I just thought it was the most incredible thing I’d heard. Not too long after that, he was like ‘you know what? I was told by someone that really matters to me—her name is Janet by the way, who’s Asa’s manager—that if I was going to ever have someone manage me, it better be my friend and I think that you’re a really good friend to me. And I think you’d be excellent at this job so what do you think?’ And I said I’d pray about it. He bugged and he bugged and eventually, I caved in and said yes. That’s how I ended up in this industry.
And so far, how’s the journey?
It’s been something. It’s been up, down, up, down. It’s been quite interesting. I want to call it a growing journey. I’ve discovered a lot of things about myself, I’ve discovered a lot of things about him. I’ve discovered a lot of things about people, so let’s just call it a school of life. It’s been quite interesting.
What’s the most important ingredient a successful artist should have?
I think the most important thing that an artist should possess to survive in this industry is resilience. And I say that because it’s an industry that’s damaging to your ego, damaging to your emotional stability, damaging to your personal life. It’s damaging to your finances. It’s damaging to a lot of things. And when I talk about all the things that it’s damaging to, I wonder why an artist still does it. I think that once you know your talent, and you know your gift, and you know the path that has been carved for you, you really just have to be resilient. Because the bright spots are more delicious and more reviving than the pain. Once the pain is gone, the bright spot is like ‘oh, but this happened.’ There’s a lot of positivity in winning and a lot of happiness in seeing your dreams actualize. So I think for you to be in this industry you just have to be resilient.
How about the people that it doesn’t work for?
You know, Adekunle asked me this question the other day. What happens when you do everything and nothing comes of it? I’m going to speak from my own personal experience and not the experience of an artist, right? My personal experience is, I’ve come to realise that the reason I do something is also the goal of me doing something. Let me explain. The reason that I do what I do is because of God. And the goal for me, the joy is that I obeyed God. So God is my reason and God is my reward. I also say to someone who has tried everything they have, and it doesn’t come out, they should ask themselves; what have they learnt about themselves through that journey and what have they achieved through that journey? How have you developed?
I think that sometimes that is enough reward. That tenacity to go after something even if it didn’t work. At least went after your dreams, you didn’t sit there waiting for a hand out. Maybe you should try something else? But don’t make the thing the reward or the Grammy, the glory or everybody knowing your name the award. The reward for me is that I listened in my quiet moments to what my creator said it was that I should do and I obeyed. Whatever success comes out of it, that’s wonderful. But the joy for me is that I obeyed in my calling. I don’t know if it’s the same for artists but that’s my thing.
Is it really interesting Joey?
It is. The industry is interesting.
Yes, it is. I think the industry is fascinating. I think you are fascinating.
Thank you. I think you are fascinating too.
Thank you Joey
I’m getting better, but I used to be very emotional about everything. Everything used to get on my nerves. Like I said in the very beginning, not to take things personal is the only way to survive in this industry. I used to take a lot of things personal and rightly so. Some of the things were aggravated by one, by the way I speak. Two, by the fact that I’m a woman, and I don’t know what other experiences women in the industry have had. Women who manage men, I don’t know about women who manage women. I don’t know what their experiences are. But it’s been quite difficult for me.
How have you grown?
How have I grown? I’ve grown to not take things too personal. I’ve grown to learn how to protect myself, so there are certain things I just don’t do anymore. So I don’t get myself into a position where I might have to get agbero-esque and brush somebody (laughs). There are some things I don’t even bother anymore, but it’s been quite challenging to say the least.
You’re managing a man and you being a woman. How has that dynamic played between you and the artist? You and the industry, also?
When it comes to Adekunle and me, it really doesn’t play a factor like that. Because Adekunle is considerate of the fact that I’m a woman, as he should. Road work is not difficult. I have my own space and they also know that I’m notorious for keeping away from things and hiding and staying away from everybody. So I am one of the guys, but not really one of the guys. I don’t know if that makes any sense? I think that being a woman brings a very unique perspective on how his business is run. I think women in general just have a better eye for detail. Period. I think women are excellent in spirit, and I think women are passionate and aggressive about whatever they’ve set their minds to. And so I think that it’s for his benefit that I am a woman. To be very honest, I think it’s for his benefit that I am a woman. So those are the positives.
The negatives are from the outside. A lot of times I’m handed phones. People go ‘oh I gave my phone to your assistant to take a photo.’ A lot of time, I’m handed things. Like people would walk in and just hand me things that I’m supposed to ‘hold that.’ It’s quite amusing sometimes as well because people tend to treat me badly because I’m not asserting my power or force or anything. And the moment they realise that I actually run the ship, their energy changes, and by then it’s too late, I’ve already judged you. So it’s interesting being a woman in the industry. Initially, it was really frustrating because anytime I got on a call with someone, I’ve had people walk up to me and say ‘you’re too American in your ways, you’re too professional’. Nigerians don’t like professionalism, they hate it. They want to pick up the phone and call you at stupid pm and say you should have answered properly. Sorry sir, I was sleeping. They don’t like to be professional. They get very upset when you ask them to send them an email. And email is just for record purposes. In the beginning days: ‘Adekunle I called your manager, she was so rude’—rude being professional—she was speaking plenty English. English being professional. Nigerians do not like professionalism and I find that that’s a challenge in itself. Coupled with the fact that you’re a woman who is not a respecter of that hierarchy. They get quite offended very quickly and it’s mostly Nigerian men.
Let’s talk about your first release with Adekunle Gold. What was your first release?
My first “official” release with Adekunle Gold was the “About 30” project.
How did that go? What did you do?
What didn’t I do? (laughs)
How did you release the “About 30” project?
Well, Adekunle and I sat down and kept talking about how we could do something that would be interesting, groundbreaking, intentional. How we could tell the story of what he was doing. He had made the decision that he didn’t want to do the same album like his debut “Gold.” He wanted something slightly different, slightly storyteller-ish, and so we came up with this idea of listening booths. The original idea was to create listening booths across Lagos. Put booths like telephone booths all around Lagos, so people could disappear from the hustle and bustle and listen to music with their own headphones and possibly with a refreshment in hand. We were looking for a lot of support to do that, but everybody wasn’t responding on time. I don’t know why, but they were just very standoffish to the idea. I gave up on the idea but AG was like “Niyi, you have to do it” So I said ‘you know what? Rather than doing multiple listening booths across Lagos, why don’t we do something in one space, give people a week to come and experience the album in a place that’s intimate.’ ‘Cause I had asked him ‘how would you want people to listen?’ He said, in the quiet of their homes, he didn’t want anything noisy or whatever. He wanted them to absorb the project in a very deep profound way. So we created the booths, and people came.
That’s where I met you.
That’s where I met you. So that’s how that happened. It was incredible. The conversation was incredible, the feedback was incredible. Dare I say that probably changed a little bit how listening parties are done in Nigeria. I think people kinda like took a note from that. I’ve seen interesting things happen after that, not before that. We realised we didn’t want to do a music industry type of night. We wanted something for the fans, where they could experience the music in advance. And then probably talk about it before the project was out. I don’t know, did you have fun? Did you like it?
Yeah, I did very much. So what’s your latest release with him?
The latest release is ‘Something Different’.
Over the past two years, we’ve seen all the changes Adekunle Gold has made from sound to his aesthetics. I’ll call it a transformation. Why did you guys go down this route?
Adekunle is his own person, you know. He’s a living, breathing growing human being. I’ve never met anyone who thirsts for progress as much as he does. He thirsts for knowledge, he thirsts for self-improvement. He really thirsts for being worldly. And by worldly, I mean a well-rounded artist. The visions and the plan he has for himself are beyond our borders. And not just America, I mean like the rest of the world. Because of that, it would have been a disservice to him if he didn’t explore all facets of himself. He had to explore all options of himself and exhaust it fearlessly.
I find that when you pay attention to the media, pay attention to people a lot, you end up pigeonholing yourself to something that you’re bigger than. Adekunle at the beginning of his career was compared a lot to King Sunny Ade who he adores and loves with his whole heart. But I thought and I also think that a lot of people would agree that it’s important that he outlives the legacy that was left for him. And he grows bigger than KSA. KSA has done incredible. There are people all over the world that know his name. But if Adekunle was trying to be KSA all his life? I don’t know where we would be today. He had to step into the shoes of Adekunle Gold. This is funny and we had a laugh about it. We found a picture the other day of him just a few months ago where he still had his 3(X) cap and a picture of him with long hair. Someone put them next to each other and goes, ‘Adekunle Silver’ on the picture that was six months ago and put ‘Adekunle Gold’ on the picture that was most recent. I thought that was very profound because the person who put that together probably thought that was from two or three years ago. The person didn’t realise that that change was literally six months apart. He is very silent about the way he does it, he’s very gradual and not aggressive. But after a while, you realize ‘oh he has changed. He’s not wearing an adire anymore. Oh my God, he’s changed, he’s not wearing hats anymore.’ And for the better, if you ask me. His inner hotness and how he views himself is showing outwardly.
How about the sound?
The sound has always been there. That annoys me when people say ‘oh he’s sounding different.’ It’s not highlife now, yes. But the sound has always been there. Adekunle’s instrument is his voice. His groundbreaking record was a cover of ‘Story of my Life’, ‘Sade’. That is Afropop. If you call it anything else, that’s exactly what it is. Just personally knowing him, the stuff he listens to. He listens to Kodaline and Coldplay. He introduces me to songwriters that I’ve never heard before. So I get really annoyed when people try to force him into highlife. Yes, we all love highlife, we all love a good party. But at the end of the day, I think it is again a disservice to him if he’s not who he is, and who he wants to be with the music that he likes. I think that no one should be limited to being a multi-genreist. Is that a word? I don’t know. But he’s Adekunle Gold. He’s allowed to do what the heck he wants.
Your second artist, Tolani.
She’s dynamite. Tolani is wonderful in every kind of way. It’s been quite of a challenge managing her and the challenge does not come from her. It actually comes from what the world thinks it is.
Of course, you manage an Otedola.
Yes, I manage an Otedola.
How does that influence…?
That means nothing to me, but it means something to everybody else. Because I manage Tolani, period. Yes, Tolani is Tolani Otedola, but that doesn’t mean anything to me because she’s a musician whose work is incredible, beautiful, important, poignant. But the world seems to care more about being an Otedola. So that makes it incredibly hard to do work. I can’t tell you how many back-and-forths I’ve had with producers and writers. And just working with people in general has been quite challenging. Because everybody’s expectation is that this is a serious cash cow thing, versus the talent. And you know what’s really beautiful about Tolani? And I really want to emphasise this. What’s beautiful about her is that resilience thing I was talking about. She knows what she wants. She just has a lot to say and I can’t wait for people to start to hear what she has to say once everything has been put together. Her work is a labour of love for me, and we get on quite well and she has incredible support from her family in general. So I’m excited for what’s coming up.
But damn, the Tolani project has been wooshhh stress! And she’s probably going to kill me for telling this story. We had this video director who was shooting a video of a song which is out, and did really well. We shot that video three times by the way. The first time we appeared on set, the director said we should arrive for 6am in a swamp in the middle of Igbo something in Epe. We arrived at the swamp at 6am and the director did not start shooting till 6pm when the sun was down. You know what happend? When he got to set, he found out who she was. He delayed because he felt that he had not negotiated a fair price because she was an Otedola.
Exactly. So he was so pissed and she’s so professional and patient. She sat down there and waited. I can’t tell how many times this has happened by the way. Where someone would produce a song and send the beat, you’d ask how much blah blah blah, you agree to terms and all that. The moment her vocals are in: ‘Who is this?’ ‘Oh it’s Tolani’, ‘arrrgh it’s Tolani who? DJ Cuppy sister, no oh’. And I think Cuppy has also faced a lot of challenges like that. That’s another resilient person. So yeah, Tolani is a very challenging artist to manage but a great one nonetheless.
Music is about money…
Music is a very capital intensive endeavour. It’s very expensive to do music. A lot of people judge you about how you market things or how you push things. But they don’t understand the business aspect of it. For example, if you want to get good traction on your music on YouTube, you’d have to spend an easy 10 grand. If you want to shoot a video…
10 grand in Naira?
10 grand dollars. If you want to shoot a video, like a nice decent video, you’ll spend between two to four million naira. And that’s just for a decent video. If you were hiring the likes of you know them, who do location videos and stuff like that, you have to blow a lot of money. Then in terms of marketing. If it’s a song that DJs would like for example, you’d have to go into the streets and do the street marketing thing as well. You’d have to do the online marketing. A lot of people think that a lot of the traction is organic. Luckily for me, on my end of things and Adekunle, his fans are stans. They mess with his music and do incredible things with his music, but you need to market the music to get traction.
Sometimes you still have to sort out influencers and things like that. By the time you’re done, even considering how much you’ve paid the producer. You’ve not even considered how much you’re paying the mixing and mastering engineer. And on top of that, the distributor will also take a certain percentage off of it. It’s very capital intensive and everybody expects this lifestyle from you because your song is playing on the radio. And everybody expects it because you’ve blown. But the truth is, not all music is hip-hop. Not every music needs bling and Dior clothes. And if you’re not careful, you’d start to live outside your means and before you know it, depression will hit. Before you know it, you’d suffer and all because you don’t have money. But you’ve put the perception out there that you’re balling out of the butt cheeks.
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Where’s the place of artistry, all of those things. People that don’t have money, how can they ever blow?
People that don’t have money will blow and that’s where the talent comes in. You asked me about the music industry in general right? There are people who are like freaks of nature. Who would do something in the little comfort of their room and it would get rave reviews, and it’d be excellent and it would happen. But to duplicate that kind of success on that level, you would now have to do more. For example; our darling ‘Old Town Road’ had a lot of virality to it. But when they saw that he had gained some traction, they pumped more money into it, right? Anything he releases after that has to be on the level that he is now. He can’t do it in the comfort of his room again. And that’s why people end up being one-hit wonders. Because what you expended in the beginning was nothing and you can’t match where you are now without the same support.
You’re forced to grow in public.
Yes, you’re forced to grow in public. Which is why ‘grow your talent, explore, increase your knowledge, do not peak too early,’ is the best advice I can ever give an artist. Your goal is to be here for a very long time. And if you are, you should be okay with climbing the mountain. But do not get to the top too early because if you do, how easy is it to come down a slide? Super fast. Don’t peak too early.
Mental health is a challenge in music. Recently, LVRN launched a mental health…
LVRN is incredible by the way. They launched a mental health arm of the business for the musicians.
And staff? Amazing. Oh I didn’t know about the staff. That’s wonderful. I think that it’s very important Joey, because we’re dying young. In this music industry, people are dying young. They are not coping. They are rising too fast and they are not coping. They don’t have people around them that would level them and keep them grounded. My artist will cut me down to size and I’d cut my artist down to size. I’d remind you and you too, you’d remind me. There are people who level you, that remind you of why you started this thing. You grow, you enlarge, you increase your team and you get a bigger team. And everybody is just there for ‘how much can I gain from you?’ They are not there for you. So the quicker we’re rising, the quicker we’re dying and I think that it’s very important that people do head checks.
I get my head checked quite often. I talk to counsellors, I have a group of friends that I adore with my whole soul. I have a group of friends that are my ride or die who would remind me who I am when I lose my way. And I hope to be that for my artists as well. So I think it’s important that Nigerian artists seek counselling. I won’t be surprised that there are Nigerian artists that are bipolar. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are Nigerian artists that suffer from severe anxiety attacks or manic depressive. Also to be in this industry is to be very paranoid. I won’t be surprised if there are people in the industry that suffer from extreme paranoia. I mean, you’ve interviewed a lot of people. I’m sure you would have seen a lot of weird ticks in people. I think that if you’re going to be in this industry, there better be somebody you can be completely naken with To tell everything that’s going through your head. That would level you, and remind you that your purposes are far and wide-reaching. That there are many things that you’re good at. And the fact that you have a surviving chance. So yes, that’s incredible that LVRN did that, and I think that it would be great for Nigerian artists as well, that they can have people to talk to.
Let’s say an artist breaks through and he gets some money from performances and all. From that stage, that first hit, how would you grow that artist?
First of all, I pray to God that before that first hit, he already had things he was working on. People always say ‘strike when the iron is hot.’ The iron, not the industry. The iron is you. Are you ready? An artist blows right, and they say ‘drop another one.’ But what if you’re not ready? Where is the time to soak it in and to take in whatever it is that you’ve done? Where’s the time to take stock? If you have it, by all means, drop it. But I think it’s time to also reevaluate and restrategize post-reception.
One of the people that I really love who did an incredible job is Joeboy. Joeboy dropped ‘Baby,’ and that was a song that was like traction, traction, traction, boom. And it was crazy and it was just mad. But Joeboy took his time with that song. He toured cities with that one song. He was in every East African country, he was everywhere. But I know that he actually milked that song. And while he was milking that song, he started to create other things quite similar to the formula of ‘Baby’ and he kinda allowed that to naturally grow. I don’t think he struck when the iron was hot. I think that he waited and waited. You know when things are lukewarm, but he puts something out after that. By the time he dropped his EP, there was maybe only one more new song in it. So he paced himself, and that for me makes a longer kind of strategy. It’s different for everybody. I think, take a pause, enjoy your win. And then think very clearly with good and sound advice, by checking the pulse of your fanbase you’ve created before dropping another one. But, I think it’s different for everyone, there’s no sure formulae, this is just my opinion.
You manage artists. What’s your take on controversies?
I don’t like controversies. I don’t like scandal.
I just don’t. Some people think that I’m playing it safe. ‘A good name is better than priced rubies,’ as the Bible says. I think the bible says that? but I don’t know. But I don’t like controversies. There’s no need for it. There’s just no need for it.
Some people say controversies can help advance the brand.
I don’t like controversies, I want to restate this. I don’t like them because I’m a risk-taker, but not in this way. I don’t believe in creating false drama. I don’t like false drama because I feel like one day, it’ll come back to bite you in the ass. If you create something false, real shit will happen to you. I don’t like false drama. However, I believe that if it happens and it’s not within your control, you should be intelligent about how you use it. And positively. But to create it? I don’t like that shit. I do think that it’s difficult to have a successful career without some form of controversy, there will always be slip-ups. Heck, I could have slipped up in this interview. These are the curses of being human, we are imperfect. What I hate is false drama, fake relationships and fake beef, fake tension and false outrage. It’s unfortunate that the times we live in dictate that controversy equals currency and outrage equals relevancy. But you look stupid my nigga and niggress. Talking does not look cute on you. Carry on singing till you have something important, fact-filled and helpful to say. By all mean scatter tables but for the right reasons. I hate that we reward stupidity with more views, more streams, more conversation but that’s the game. Is it ok if I sit that game out?
So what’s in this for you?
I don’t know Joey. The reason why I do it is because God says I can. I’m sorry, that is the most profound answer that I can give you because that is my truth. The truth is I can, so I do, till I can’t anymore, and then I don’t. That’s really it for me. It’s not even really about the artists. I love my artists to pieces. It’s not about the brands that I work with, because I also do a lot of brand work. It’s not that. It’s really about the test of my strength as a human being and my ability to grow and adapt. So yes, I just happen to be in the music industry. If I was in government, I think I’d be equally effective. I’m not trying to toot my own horn. But the thing is, I do it because I can, and even when it’s hard….and there are hard days. I just do because I can.
So apart from management, you do some A&R, marketing, you handle everything literally.
Yes, I’m a bit of a Jill of all Trades and a master of all.
Is it necessary that managers have these extra skills to fully optimize or maximize their artist?
No, it’s not necessary that managers have extra skills to maximize the artist. Management is one of the things I can do. It’s not the thing I do, but one of the things I can do. And I’m not trying to minimize it. I’m more or less trying to say that if there were an umbrella, and the umbrella has little points in it, management would hang on one of those points. But it’s not the umbrella, I am. Does that make sense?
Yes, it does. How can a manager protect themselves from ungrateful artists who fire them unjustly?
First of all, remember I said management is one of the things I do. You cannot root yourself into the identity of being validated through your artist right? If being a manager is what you do, you cannot wait for your artist to think that it’s important for you to get a better education or to learn more in the business. You cannot wait for your artist to help you grow. The same way your artist is growing, you better be aggressive about growing. You better be reading. You better be expanding yourself. I’m never the one to not ask questions. I’d always pick up the phone, ‘hey I don’t understand this.’ Can you break this down to me? I have this incredible support system. My lawyer, Yemisi, if I run into a bit of a challenge, she’s very ready to say, ‘hey let’s talk this through.’ Otherwise, you just end up being a booking agent.
If you cannot strategize how your artist is growing or what your artist is going to be doing in the next five years, there’s a problem. If you cannot strategize what kind of things your artist should say yes to and what kind of things to say no to. I mean there were times that were really tough. But had you made that compromise on that thing, would you have been here today? There are people who have talked themselves out of a Perrier Jouet deals because they did an ad with Andre. But in your heart, you know you are Perrier Jouet (laughs). God bless Andre, that was my thing in college. So I feel like there is a lot of growth you have to make as management and there’s a lot of growth that you have to give yourself without permission. If you need to go to school, tell your artist that ‘hey, there’s a course happening in Berkley School of Music that has to do with learning something about management in the digital age. I have to do that course’. See if your artist will pay for it, that’s how you know… (laughs) but don’t judge them if they don’t, It’s for your collective benefit. You can even say ‘let’s go take this course together,’ so they also can equip themselves too.
One thing that I think is really great about Adekunle and Tolani, they read their contracts. In fact, they catch things that I sometimes don’t catch. And they read their contracts to detail. Recently, Adekunle read a 70-page contract, page for page. We were drinking tea and coffee and everything for twelve hours. So if your artist is willing to go and learn, who are you to sit down and say, ‘I’m answering a call, there’s a show for 15 million, there’s a show for 20 million?’ You better grow but if they outgrow you, that’s ok too, you can go and grow somebody else, end of story.
Did you see the news about Katy Perry? Katy Perry’s manager who managed her in her era of ‘baby you’re a firework and all that stuff, they parted ways. But the testament of that manager is, she’s releasing a new project and part of what was trending was that her manager that managed that era is the one A&Ring this project. Do you know the kind of confidence your fans have if they trust that you’re with the right team?
Imagine that Joey, that’s what was trending. That her old manager who managed that era is the manager that’s managing this. So we’ve not even heard the music. You don’t even care about the music. All you care is that she’s got the right team, so you know Katy is good. That should be your testimony as a manager, even if your artist outgrows you.