by Wilfred Okiche
For our interview series this week, we sat down with newly wedded On Air Personality, voice over artiste and hypeman Dotun Ojuolape of Cool FM and we got him to dish on his industry’s dirtier dealings, the COSON wars and his love affair with the radio.
Tell let us in on your journey to radio
Dancing is my first love and I started as a dancer but dancers work so hard, as hard as the musicians and they never get any recognition. In fact they are the least properly treated. So I felt it wasn’t working out for me. I decided to try something brand new and I started as an intern on Cool fm. My friends laughed me off but good enough, Mass Communication was what I studied in school. I worked with the likes of Dan Foster, Olisa. I started with a night show, about 5hrs of ‘Sleep talk’ and I listened to all kinds of people with different kinds of problems and helped them unburden their minds.
Radio is quite competitive, how did you score the plum time slot ?
I was just minding my business, doing my job to the best of my ability when my bosses at Cool fm decided to prop me up. After about two and a half years they brought me on to the weekend show. I remember I was the only guy on radio that used to bring superstars on radio at the weekend because their schedules would never allow it. My first was Banky W and I wanted to bring every A-lister on; the old and the young. My boses noticed my hard work and moved me up to the weekday show where I replaced the person who used to be on the Mid day Oasis. I wanted a co-anchor and that is how I found Stephanie Coker who is right now on MTV Base. Because of the Nigerian mentality, people do not put money on a time belt but when we came on, we revamped it; great music, great content, diversified the content and the ratings improved. It is now one of the most listened to misd day shows on Nigeria. After Wazobia fm , it is the Mid day Oasis.
Your parents must have approved
My dad did not initially, was always complaining when I leave the house but funny enough he was the one that gave me that love for radio because for every birthdays, he would buy me a transistor radio. I did not understand it at that time but I loved the music and could recite all the jingles on the different AM stations. Everytime I broke one, he would buy another one for me so it was all his fault really. Thankfully, before long, he was my biggest fan.
How long have you been on the radio?
8 years now. And in that time I have done tons of voice-overs and jingles. Someone once told me Dotun your voice is everywhere and I said yes, it is a good thing.
You interned with the big guys; radio veterans like Dan Foster, Olisa Adibua. Did you feel any presssure stepping into their very big shoes and what is the most important thing you learnt from them?
They were good and if you know Olisa once you walk into a room where he is holding court, it is electric. He has this aura that drives everybody and sucks you in and that is where I learnt that if you are a broadcaster you need to attack the microphone. Dan was witty, funny, spontaneous and everything else and it was hard taking over from them but I learnt. A particular top OAP once switched off a live show I was doing because I was wack and I cried but all of this made me better because I will go back and I will try and try. Listen to Angie Martinez, other foreign deejays and coin my own sound, my own persona. I would record myself and play it over and over again, call my siblings and we would take it apart, start all over again. There was always this quest to be better. And when Dan left, I moved in big time. When I leave, someone else would probably take my spot.
We have heard from the artistes, I would like to hear from your side of the divide. What has been your experience with payola. Do you demand for payola before putting an artiste on?
For me I have promoted a lot of upcoming artistes. I want to put this to people who say they do PR. When you do PR, do you get paid for it? If I did not support Olamide, Burna Boy, I doubt they will be this huge. But the truth is you cannot play everybody. If you bring good music to me I will play but still, you cannot play everybody. The station gets like 150 cds everyday and you have to audition all of them. Where is the time? It is not everybody that is up to the task of singing but everyone wants to sing. Honestly, if you give me gifts, I’ll take it.
But do you ask for it?
There is no price tag for it. I have turned stuff down, returned some back but because people assume a lot, they keep offering you stuff and if you offer me stuff, then I’m going to take it. I have helped tons of new artistes, even without pay. When you even tell artistes, go through the normal process, drop your cds, nobody wants to do that. They think you are rejecting them. But payola or not I have helped in growing lot of people’s careers. Vector, Tillaman, Da Grin, it wasn’t about the money, how much of it did they even have? The content is very important. We need good material on radio.
What is your take on the copyright wars being waged by COSON against the BON/IBAN?
For me if you talk about royalties and you do some research, there is no host, and there is no parasite. But in Nigeria we see it as I bring out music, you must pay for it. People like us who work in putting these guys out there, what do we gain from it? But thatis aside. If COSON needs to take money for some people, first of all let there be an agreement with these artistes and a law backing it. Where I work, I can tell you categorically that we pay money, we pay a lot of money. Now the quetsion is this bulk money, are they being remitted to the artistes?
So you think that COSON should clean up it’s act first?
Whichever way you want to see it is fine. IBAN will tell you that there are flaws in the system, some people are doing their duty, some arent. Let us talk about PMAN as well, and NBC. If NBC says do not play this then we don’t because there is a law backing it up. If COSON tells us there is a law, then we should do things the proper way. Cool fm pays a lot of money and when the truth comes out, we’ll see how much gets to the artistes. I am not saying radio stations should be let off the hook but we play these songs, get the artiste known and he makes money from other avenues. They give us content, the relationship is mutual. Let us do things properly and back it up with a law because it seems now that everybody is in it for their pockets. Cool FM adheres to laws strictly. Visit our stations and you will be presented with evidence.
How has the ban affected your listenership?
Honestly it has taken a lot of energy from both sides. I am employed to play the songs. We need to be educated. Baba sometimes you want these artistes to just acknowledge you or respect you because if I do not play you, you will not collect money. If I play your song 10 times, then you will smile to the bank or wherever it is you smile to. If I decide not to play, what can you do about it?
Has there been a song you have slept on that went on to become a mega hit?
No. I hate to say this but when you have been on radio for a while and you are good at what you do, no good song passes you by. That is why someone like Vector will put my name on a track. It is not about friendship but the value I have added to his career. I was on Olamide’s album recently. I do not think that of recent, there is any new music I havent been a part of. Remember Adol? I heard him and called him up and said look, I’ll be the first guy to play you. And I always like being the first, I am jealous like that.