AYENI ADEKUNLE comes across as a regular guy but he carries unusual ideas that are set to change so many things in the entertainment industry says FUNKE OSAE-BROWN.
He had just finished having lunch when I arrived his Ikeja office. His foray into communications wasn’t by chance. He was a journalist with Encomium before he left to start his own communications company out of nothing. A couple of days ago he posted on his Facebook wall:
“To think I was born a stammerer. Now my entire career requires speaking and presenting. Received N250k for a one hour speaking engagement last month and almost wept. Imagine if I was never able to express myself? If I never conquered stammering? If I never found confidence? Miracle, my life. What’s stopping you again?”
He was a born a stammerer. He was a failed microbiologist. He was a failed musician. He was a failed author. He grew up in Okokomaiko, on the outskirts of Lagos where he attended a public primary school where he was taught English in Yoruba Language. He was a terribly shy and quiet boy. He was born without a silver spoon but now he sits atop a multi-million naira communication company, BlackHouse Media (BHM) Group.
From a small, no-capital start up eight years ago, Adekunle has pushed the BHM brand to world’s attention by creating different arms of the business which have culminated into the BHM Group, an organisation that has been building businesses in media, entertainment and marketing, with more 50 employees.
That is the story of Ayeni Adekunle, the CEO of BHM who has been vocal with how he started his company from nothing. He has been able to build a successful career in journalism, public speaking, Public Relations, writing, social media marketing and advertising. Each year, he comes up with creative ways to change the game in the way Nigerian entertainment is perceived especially how Nigerian music is consumed.
Through an email he announced a new addition to the BHM family a couple of months ago, Orin (www.orin.ng), an online music streaming platform. With Orin, Ayeni hopes to change the way Nigerian music is perceived, categorised and consumed globally.
“We want to create a platform where people can enjoy what they find,” he tells me. “It is great we just want to keep archiving them there. Create that place where if you want any Nigerian song that you love you can go there and enjoy it or any song that has been created ever you can go there and search for it. If you are a creator of such work, you can go there and connect with your fans.”
One of the questions on Adekunle’s mind while developing the concept is: How can to create an experience for consumers that will enable them determine how they want to enjoy music?
“If you listen to the radio, it is full of advertising. Then the OAPs assume this is what you want to listen to. A lot of times they are right; a lot of times they are also wrong. You call in and you request for this song and they tell you: ‘oh, we don’t have that can we play you this?’”
On Orin, fans can create their own playlist as there is a section named Mood that enables consumers create the songs they want to listen to at a particular time. “If is a Sunday and you are a Christian you can go to that Mood you won’t find anything that is non-gospel there. If you are bored, or you are trying to jog in the morning you have a particular mood to suit that. Or if you want to create your own playlist when I am with my children this is what I want to play with them. My friends or when I am partying. You can customise your own experience based on your lifestyle.”
In addition, the website enables consumers share their playlist with friends anywhere in the world. “If you have friends in China, you can go there create your own playlist and share it with them. If you check the playlist now you will see what we call Throwback Thursday you will see 62 of the songs there.”
“We want foreigners to experience our music. If you check the categorisation, in the past 48 hours, Alicia Keys and her husband have danced to Wizkid music, Skales they played it on their own and shared the video on social media. They called it Afrobeat and it isn’t but it is Pop music. We also need to be careful about the categorisation of the music. The way the world perceives the music that we made it isn’t inferior to the music in Europe or America. Pop music is Pop anywhere in the world.”
More importantly, Adekunle is seeking to create a data base on the consumption habits of Nigerians when it comes to music. A database that is currently non-existent. Such a database will surely enable musicians and record label owners make informed decisions on who, how, when their products are consumed.
“The label cannot take decisions based on the habits of their consumers. For instance they can’t say my most passionate fans are in Ebonyi. You saw that when you tried to register it asked you where are you, you chose Lagos. When you are playing there is the location part. We say, great songs in the month of July is Woju, the highest number of people who listened to it are in the South East. If you are making your plan as a label for the release of the next single, you already have an idea of who consume your music. As we speak, you can’t take decision based on consumer habit we don’t have any information. How are these guys engaging with our contents? What are they doing with it? These are some of the questions label companies should ask and find answers to.
“How can COSON begin to monetize online consumption? For me, that is one thing we are trying to do. Trying to gather data that we can share with the industry that see this is what happened in the month of May or June. These are the bulk of people who listened to your music. Music of Fuji is loved in this part. These are how many hours consumers spend listening to this kind of music. This is what they are sharing. This is what they are saying. You keep asking me and I say the industry is not doing well. They are just getting the scrums from telecommunications, FMCGs and banks. Some music brands should be as big as some banks. If you take the entire Mavin Record, their subscriber base is bigger than that of some banks.
Take Wizkid and Davido put them together; their subscriber base is bigger than some products on the MTN platform. But look at what MTN does to push their products. You will see all the thinking that goes into the making of these products. But in the music industry we don’t have data that can help us take the right decisions that will put us where you talk about banking, oil and gas, FMCGs.”
In addition, Ayeni says he hopes to break the barrier between musicians and radio stations who often wants their music aired on radio.
“For the people who creates the music, we want to break that barrier to get your music played on radio is extremely difficult. You can’t if access the OAPS. Right now, you drop your music at the gate. If you are an independent artiste, if you come out with a song in a country where there are no record labels but he is struggling. It is only possible if you know anyone who knows the station and can get your music on. You can decide on how to engage with your fans right there on Orin. If you see that Mr A from Yenogoa is already following you, you can interact with them one-on-one it is a platform where fans and the creator of the works engage better with no barrier. No advertising, no registration fee. Most importantly to also protect the rights of the owners, you cannot take the music away. So when you share it you bring people back to the platform.”
For Ayeni, Orin is more than a music streaming site as he wants to establish a platform that can help people who like a particular music experience it in the most flexible and interesting way possible.
“But also want to keep it so that in the next 15 years, a lot of the sites we have now that claims to be music sites are dedicated to Pop music. We want to provide access to every Nigerian music possible across different generations. We want consumers to access it as easily as possible. And then because we know that we have internet issues in Nigeria, the data consumption is extremely low, almost nil. For me that is the concept behind Orin.
“We have not even launched. What we have done is we have tested from April up to now to see what will the artiste say about this? What will young consumers think about this? What will the regulatory bodies and the media think about this? Is there a space for this kind of platform in our industry? Everyone I have spoken with has been like how come we didn’t know this all this time? Our target is to launch in a few months from now. And to make sure that by the time we launch we have contents representative of every genre of music. We don’t want to launch with 1, 000 songs. We want to launch with a huge data base of Nigerian music.”