As part of CP-Africa’s African Entrepreneur Series, they recently interviewed Obi Asika, Chairman/C.E.O., Storm 360, a leading entertainment company on the continent.
Over the years, Obi Asika has accumulated a wealth of experience in the banking, oil & gas, music, TV production, marketing and private equity sectors among others. He sits on the board of several companies across a wide spectrum of industries ranging from marketing and media to ICT and has worked as an executive producer of high profile and widely viewed shows on the continent such as Big Brother Nigeria, The Apprentice Africa, Naija Sings and the Etisalat One Million Dollar Show. In the past, he has served as Director at Innovision Nigeria, Director at the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), as Vice Chairman of Kwara United Football Club and in executive level positions either as a Managing Director or Founder at numerous organizations.
Obi Asika has an LL.B from the University o
f Warwick where as a student he participated in the Nigerian Society, the Afro Caribbean Society and the Soul Society. Over the years, artistes on his music label, Storm Records have been nominated for or won awards in the U.K., U.S., Nigeria and South Africa and have been nominated over 100 times in the past years at major music awards including MTV Africa, Channel O, Africa Music Awards, Soundcity Awards among others.
In 2008, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame for his services to the Nigerian music industry by Hiphop World Awards.
Young African entrepreneurs in the house, please read the interview below, get inspired and learn one or two valuable life/professional lessons from the media mogul. Please don’t forget to share with your friends on Facebook and Twitter!
CP-AFRICA.COM’S INTERVIEW WITH OBI ASIKA, C.E.O., STORM 360
Interview conducted by Nmachi Jidenma
CP-AFRICA.COM: You started Storm Productions at age 22. Where did you get that level of drive and focus from? In your opinion what factors are responsible for your success from then till now?
Obi Asika: I started promoting parties and events at age 14 or 15 in London while in school. In that context, I had already promoted and organized scores of events and shows before I even graduated and so at 22, I was a veteran of over 5 years. I brought Public Enemy, De La Soul, 3rd Bass, Russell Simmons, Lyor Cohen all to the U.K. before I was 20. (All of this was done with other partners). When I returned to Nigeria 20 years ago, I came home to attend law school but there was nothing for us young Nigerians at the time, and the social scene was dominated by clubs and bars owned by the Lebanese and one had to negotiate to play our music. We kicked off with a now legendary club night called Enter The Dragon, with DJ Howie Tee (who later discovered P-Square), GMG, (who later co-founded the AMAA awards) and of course my brother, the legendary cool DJ Jimmy Jatt who with Olisa Adibua and JAJ are they key guys who helped to unlock all this music everyone is now enjoying.
In 1991, we launched Enter the Dragon and in 1992, we produced a series of music driven shows for the first private TV production company in Nigeria, Clapperboard TV. These shows were Clapperboard Raps, Soul with Sprite, Sounds of Urban Lagos and other specials, and then in 1992, we launched Storm Records with the release of the smash hit album, “Fufu Flavour” by Junior and Pretty which remains the seminal turning point for Nigerian urban music and also Nodeen who had an album called True Blackman.
We laid Storm to rest for almost a decade from about 1994 – 2004, but Olisa always remained 100% in the game and kept encouraging me to look at it again… Thus in 2004 we did the Young Man Video for Dare with Eldee and never stopped since then. It has been a long way from then to now and the industry has grown massively.
In terms of success, it all depends on what you are looking at. Collectively, we know we have built a huge brand; we have activated literally hundreds of talents and driven our pop-culture to the global stage. Our focus has always been 360 in perspective from day one, so TV, events and sports have been part of our DNA from the onset and that is why our approach has always been comprehensive. In the real sense we perhaps have not seen the financial rewards we should have seen because we are pioneers and the challenge sometimes is those that follow you make the real money but we are happy doing what we love and that is great.
CP-AFRICA.COM: Looking at the portfolio of companies that comprise Storm 360, it is obvious that the skill set needed (though media related) is highly multidimensional but Storm is able to move from one media role to another very seamlessly. For instance, Big Brother Nigeria was well executed, and so was the Apprentice Africa. At the same time, you are able to deliver great content in audio and video music productions. How have you been able to switch from one form of media role to another with the same level of quality project after project?
Obi Asika: We have been blessed to work with world-class partners and also to have world-class talent in-house. As show developers/producers, we have global level expertise in these areas, and we learn on every project and bring that perspective to the table, whether we are producing original formats we created, such as Glo Naija Sings or Calabar Rocks, or international formats such as those you mentioned or Dragons Den Nigeria. If people are looking for engaging content and formats across drama, comedy, music, sports, or digital, then they need to talk to Storm. We know this market; we know our people and we have strong formats that will connect.
CP-AFRICA.COM: Can you touch on some of Storm Production’s international relationships/collaborations?
We have many international relationships…Storm supports a local company called The Talent Agency, which represents leading Nigerian and International talent, and we also book and manage talent directly through Storm as well. In terms of the US we have multiple relationships with people who work in TV, Fashion, Music, Events and Production all the way through BET, MTV, HBO, Fox, ESPN, major Sports and of course numerous smaller companies. Over the next 5 years we hope to push more and more of the Nigerian and African Urban pop culture into the US mainstream.
CP-AFRICA.COM: What do you look out for in artistes that you sign?
First is artistic integrity; they have to be original, they cannot be copies of anyone. Others of course are talent, loyalty and hard work. Essentially, to be a Storm Artist you need to be talented, focused, professional, articulate, ready to work, and most importantly, you need to have a positive mindset. Our job is to find those talents, nurture them, push them to bigger platforms and of course help them achieve their career goals. Initially we were really a Hip Hop Label and my sole intent was to break Hip Hop here and to ensure that rappers could compete. Fortunately, that has been achieved; there are more Nigerian rappers than anywhere else. Some of Nigeria’s rap talents; Naeto C, Sauce Kid, Sasha, MI, etc are world-class.
Storm has now expanded to all genres and we are also representing producers so watch out for some announcements in that area soon. We have long term relationships with talent and have consulted for free for many of the leading Nigerian talents. I believe that our line up is the most diverse and with Tosin Martins, Jay Martins, Naeto C, YQ, General Pype, Sauce Kid, Sasha, and more we have a very diverse line-up with each talent being individually strong. Over here we work as a team so we have no time for those who are selfish or not prepared to sacrifice for the common good.
CP-AFRICA.COM: What does the “360 degree” character of Storm bring to the table for artists you sign to the label?
Storm 360 is not about the music but more about the philosophy of the company and the thought process that we bring to all that we do, in the sense that our approach to all our work is always to look for all the ways to multi-purpose the content, the activation, TV program, marketing platform, event or whatever it is we are doing. Of course in terms of artists on the label, they benefit from the strategic level engagement, planning and management that the brand puts behind them and the significant investments in marketing and promoting them, their music and their brands to the various publics that we engage on a regular basis.
CP-AFRICA.COM: Naeto C’s Super C Season is set to drop soon. What kind of sound/artistry should we expect from the rapper on his upcoming album?
The album will change the perception of what people think is possible from an African artist. Naeto C is much more than a rapper. He is a youth icon followed by millions. He is a fashion icon as well and as you know, he is focused on all aspects of his career. He is a rapper, songwriter, producer, and businessman… In many ways, he represents the best of what young Africans can aspire to become. Without bragging or overstating facts, the truth is that Naeto C is as good as it gets anywhere. We don’t need a Grammy to tell us so. We already know, so with that all being said and done, to quote Sauce Kid “Expect Greatness”. There will be great music, great production, great songs, and some surprise features. Naeto C is honing his craft and has recorded close to 30 songs for the album, and now, we are picking the right ones, so get ready. The season is about to change.
CP-AFRICA.COM: Where do you see the African music industry in the next decade?
All over Africa the music is pumping, out of Angola and Mozambique, out of Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, and of course from South Africa and Nigeria. The new sounds of Africa are urban, infused with local sounds from Makossa, Zouk, Kwaito, Afrobeat, juju, fuji, highlife, hiplife, and so much more. I think we are already in the century when African music will dominate and if the global media players ever let us in on the same stage, we will take over. It is that simple, really. I want to see African artists who are on stage at the Grammys, the BET Awards and the MTV awards. Not just nominated, but part of the main broadcast and telecast. At the end of the day, so many of us are pushing the same agenda in so many ways and in so many places that eventually, the walls will come tumbling down.
CP-AFRICA.COM: What is a typical workday like for Obi Asika?
Obi Asika: I don’t have typical workdays. I never really stop working, I deal with people and companies in all time zones, and I deal with executives, talent, promoters and the press, at all levels… I like to have personal involvement in all I do. However I do not start so early in the morning unless I have specific meetings because I typically stay working late into the night…
CP-AFRICA.COM: Last words for young African media entrepreneurs who want to build a successful media company like Storm 360?
It is important to follow your dreams and your passion, also use technology. Everyone wants to work in the lifestyle industry but not everyone is supposed to be the star of the show. One of the most important things is to know your position and how to play it. That’s a sports metaphor, but it is very apt. I believe there are no limits and actually, the obstacles we encounter, as Africans, are also opportunities, so at the end of the day you have nobody to blame but yourself if you do not take advantage of them. I am Nigerian. I represent it all day. Embrace yourself, your country, your culture, and your identity and do not let others tell you that you are less. If you know your history then you know what it is to be African and we are the source, especially for all those in the creative industries. I have huge hopes for my country and for the potential that the creative industries have to transform Nigeria and indeed Africa and all I can say is get involved, and best of luck.
CP-Africa’s African Entrepreneur Series is sponsored by Leading Edge Consulting (LEC). LEC is a Nigerian based human resources consulting firm that provides executive search and selection services to companies in West Africa. LEC also provides manpower assessments and human capital training for their corporate clients. Visit LEC at lecnigeria.com for more information.