He grew through the ranks and succeeded in carving a place for himself as an artiste manager of repute. Over the years, he has worked with several artistes including Harrysong, D’supremes, Ego, Foster Ebayy, Muma Gee, Ruby Gyang, Jammin Lyricist and Shank.
In this chat, Kaycee Oguejiofor, who also doubles as a newspaper columnist, opens up on the state of the music industry and other interesting issues.
How did you come into artiste management and what were your challenges when you started?
My being in the entertainment industry was no coincidence. Right from my childhood days, I have always been the guy with the latest entertainment gist, new music and all of that. But when I wanted to take up a career in entertainment, the first thing I wanted to do was become a deejay, but in those days, you dared not mention that to your parents. But I was silently looking for an outlet to express myself musically. I couldn’t sing, rap or even produce but my childhood friend could do all that and more. So, I started acting as his advisor, encouraging him and more. These ideas were instinctive. I started studying, making contacts and developing myself for artiste management, because I was passionate about music and the arts. Talking about challenges, I would say they are what make us. One of the first challenges I faced was getting people to believe in me, but God bless Kevin Oluwaseun Gabriel, who took me under his wings, and the rest they say is history. I will always be grateful for that.
Burma Boy got a Grammy nomination but lost to Angelique Kidjo. What is your take on that?
I have mixed feelings about it. I am happy because the Nigerian music industry deserves such accolades and recognitions, but sad because getting our artistes nominated in the World Music category is more of a marketing plan for the Grammy than the actual recognition, which we deserve. What is World Music if I may ask? I will like to see a more mainstream category for our musicians.
What would you say are the most urgent issues plaguing the industry and how can the industry overcome this?
I think the biggest issue affecting our industry is ignorance! A lot of us in the industry lack sound knowledge of how the industry should be structured and all. Everyone freestyles their way to relative success, but they could do more. People will say government this and government that but if you set your standards, government won’t have a choice.
Overcoming this challenge is not that difficult. It starts with having the right conversations. Let us use the piracy issue of the past as an instance. As an industry, we didn’t start to have the right conversation very early enough as per where the industry was tilting. We were engrossed with being heroes and we let piracy move from CDs to the blogs. But if there were periodic conventions to start having these types of conversations, we would have ignored Alaba Market and be ready for what was in the front.
Some people believe artiste managers are glorified errand boys. Do you think so?
Yes, and that is for a reason. First of all, 80 percent of the managers around are people who didn’t plan to be managers. Unemployment drove them in their numbers to the industry. Most people, on the other hand, don’t even know there are types or categories of managers. Your personal manager can be your errand boy; that is more like your personal assistant. But no manager who understands his importance and the value he brings to the table will stoop that low; that is not possible.
One issue that has been plaguing the industry is the total lack of structures. What is your take on this?
What are structures if I may ask? In journalism for instance, the practice in America might be different from what is obtainable here in Nigeria. Does that mean the entire system lacks structure? No! What I hope the conversation will be is how do we improve our structures. See, it is this simple, if labels don’t work with A&Rs, or if the songwriters don’t value themselves to sign split and source for publishing, then it is our structure. The question is could it be improved upon? Yes. We can build and be something more. It is very typical of Nigerians; we enjoy the ‘blame game’ and do absolutely nothing to change a thing.
What is your relationship with Harrysong and why did you part ways with him?
I absolutely do not have any relationship with him at the moment. The thing is, I have often opined that you can work with someone and not be close buddies? I wouldn’t say we parted ways; no, it was more like, what is your purpose in the lives of people you come across? And as a person, I fill very fulfilled knowing I impacted his career and life. I mean, that is my purpose in his life. So, rather than call it ‘part ways’ I would rather say I feel like a proud father whose son is making him proud even though, you are a bit disappointed because you know he could have been more.
Lately, you took to bashing OAPs for collecting money from artistes before their songs are played, why?
Again, it is the structure thing I talked about. Payola is part of our structure, so when I am making a budgeting plan for an artiste, ‘payola’ which I could also describe as bribes take the most of that budget. Is it right? Hell no! It robs the talent without that financial power the opportunity of a level playing field. But on the other hand, my outburst is usually with those who collect these bribes and still say the police are corrupt or the government is corrupt. The fact that you collect these bribes denies you the moral right to call anyone out. It is more of ‘he who is without sin let him cast the first stone’. I don’t have any issues with OAPs.
How would you describe the growth of Nigerian music and what are your expectations for 2020?
Am I surprised we are getting this level of recognition? No, if you know and understand Nigerians, we are never satisfied. We dominate any industry we set our eyes upon, that is how blessed we are. The growth and successes we are enjoying today is a 20-years journey. My only fear is that if we don’t capitalize on these opportunities to improve our structures, we might miss a cycle. In 2020, the growth will continue and it will soar. I expect more of our musicians to dominate Africa and the world.
Have you ever been sexually harassed by female wannabe artistes who want to make it at all cost and are ready to do anything, and how did you handle them?
Never! And I don’t think I ever will be. I feel sometimes the harassment is a two-way thing. If the one harassing is desperate then it is expected, and the other person should be professional enough to know how to handle situations like that. When I meet a new artiste, male or female, I draw the line from the get go, and sometimes people often consider that as arrogance or being snobbish. But no, music business is work. You don’t walk into a bank and try to sexually harass the cashier or whoever if he or she doesn’t set that standard.