Ayeni Adekunle is a Nigerian entrepreneur, writer and published author.…
TWB: Would you like to take us through your professional journey so far and how you transitioned from getting a degree in Zoology from the University of Ibadan to PR and entertainment? What motivated your transition?
Adekunle: Actually, I studied Microbiology in UI. But I was already involved with music and events before I went to university. I had also written my first novel and published a couple of poems. I only ended up studying Microbiology because my parents wanted me to be a doctor. In fact, I spent five years at home, writing JAMB every year, because I just did not meet the cut-off mark for Medicine. Fortunately, all those years helped me hone my writing skills and build my network.
TWB: Traditionally, parents frown at their children’s choice of entertainment as a career path. Would you say that is changing?
Adekunle: Well, we can all see the glamour now and the perceived success of entertainers. Many families now welcome the idea more enthusiastically. I was in my late teens when I started doing events, promoting and managing artistes, and writing. So, I can understand my parents’ concern. They did not fully approve but they did not antagonize my interest in entertainment.
TWB: It is easy to understand when someone says, “I want to be an entertainer because of fame”, but can a person become wealthy by becoming an entertainer? Is there gold in this field?
Adekunle: You can achieve anything you want. In any career path, really. There are famous doctors. Gani Fawehinmi is one of the most famous Nigerians of all time. He was a lawyer. Look at Dora Akunyili or even Aliko Dangote. I think the goal should be to be so good at what you do, so the world is happy to pay you for the tremendous value you offer and so that people associate your name with the value you provide.
TWB: What aspects of entertainment value chain can outsiders explore? People who are not actors or entertainers?
Adekunle: The ecosystem is huge. Investment bankers, lawyers, designers, stylists, publicists, engineers, doctors are in the industry. Think about any field. It is one of the few industries where you all kinds of professionals you can think of are needed constantly.
TWB: What kind of relationship should exist between corporate organizations and the entertainment industry? How can corporate organizations leverage on entertainment for business performance?
Adekunle: Corporate organizations rely on entertainers to get their messages to their fans and audiences. It is a mutually rewarding relationship. The best companies and governments are those who understand how to positively use the influence music, sports, and film have on their stakeholders – especially citizens.
TWB: You would agree that entertainers have different shelf lives because you have experience managing celebrities. What are the secrets of the longevity of some celebrities?
Adekunle: Stay away from drugs. Plan for the long term. Invest wisely and build quality relationships. Understand that the formula that brought you here might not take you to the next step. Also, understand that not everyone will have longevity. Some careers only last for three years and that is fine – if those three years are used wisely. In fact, most entertainers make money and derive satisfaction from activities not relating to selling music or film.
TWB: There is a saying that the future is digital, and given the lockdown imposed recently because of the need to reduce the spread of Covid-19, we are beginning to see a massive migration to the digital space. What kind of digital opportunities exist in the entertainment industry?
Adekunle: The world is moving towards virtual entertainment and decentralized systems. It will get worse until it gets better, especially in markets like Nigeria where the industry was struggling even before the pandemic. We have an opportunity to leapfrog in a lot of ways and really create a system to helps practitioners earn.
TWB: What kind of industry trends should we anticipate in the coming years?
Adekunle: More people will take up influencing within the social media space; people’s social media handles will become their stage and cinema. Straight to Cable and OTT projects will become a norm; live shows will become smaller and more intimate, and so on.
TWB: Some people think that talent and passion are adequate ingredients for success as an entertainer. What is your view about the place of education in advancing one’s career as an entertainer?
Adekunle: Everyone should seek education. It is not just because of the credentials or the actual knowledge. Education expands your mind in a way that your actual career will be grateful for. And the most ambitious people actually never stop learning.
TWB: In recent times, there were public calls for help in support of veterans, particularly in the movie industry who are either sick or incapacitated. Are you worried about the future of musicians and their ability to support themselves when the spotlight is no longer on them?
Adekunle: We only get to hear of those people because they are popular. Nigeria does not prepare for how old people will live decently. Doctors, lawyers, civil servants, teachers, if you look around you, you will see many who spent their youth working hard now struggling to hold everything together in old age. Many rely on their children or even charity and we assume entertainers should not do that because of our perception that they are wealthy. Most of them are not.
TWB: What specific steps can entertainers take to ensure that their future earnings are protected, and they can live a decent life upon retirement?
Adekunle: Get professional investment advice; run your life and career like a Corporation, like an LLC. Live within your means, future proof your career, diversify, etc. But most importantly, do not do drugs, or abuse anything at all, including sex and alcohol.
TWB: What would you want the coming generations to remember you for?
Adekunle: Why should they?
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Ayeni Adekunle is a Nigerian entrepreneur, writer and published author. He is the founder of Black House Media Group, headquartered in Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria, with standalone brands in media publishing, public relations, digital commerce, music streaming, marketing, information technology and research