Monday, 14 November 2016

The KSA memoir: How I run 20 other companies with Music + Untold story of KSA the CEO


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KSA during a board meeting with some of his directors 
“Even at 60, quitting music is not something I have considered.  It is unimaginable, as I believe it is in my genes.  Without it, I will be nothing, so I have decided to continue until my body stops carrying me or my fans say they have had enough of me.  That is not happening yet because I still get invited to play at very big parties; and regularly too.  Many of the people I now play for were children, at whose christening ceremonies I performed.  Now, they invite me to play at their wedding ceremonies or christening of their own children.  Can I turn them down?  That is inconceivable because music is my business, at least that for which I am readily associated.

Nearly all my businesses are woven around the name King Sunny Ade and His African Beats.  I avoid dabbling into businesses I know little about unless there are good people to run them for me.  Such people are needed because I am always on the road.  That is why my best known investments are in music.  I ran a club, Ariya Night Club, for 20 years before I wound it up in 2003.  I closed it because it had become too small for the crowd I attracted when I played there.  Patrons had difficulties parking their cars in safe places.  And because a lot of miscreants were streaming in, they started vandalizing cars and committing all kinds of theft.  When I was playing there, I usually spent almost half the money I made lighting up the area and providing security so that patrons’ cars could be protected.  It was just no longer profitable to continue entertaining my fans there. After I stopped, other bands started using the place, but each time they played, they left blood on the walls from all manners of brawls.  Yet, those to whom I entrusted the running of the place hid the truth from me by diligently cleaning up the place before my arrival. It was when I employed someone to report to me that I realized that armed policemen were coming to arrest people inside the club and they once shot a man in the leg.
KSA with President Olusegun Obasanjo (GCON)

KSA the CEO…
Aside from the club, I also run a recording company, SIGMA Disc, and I am involved in record distribution.  Under KSA Holdings, I own a musical equipment leasing concern.  Outside music, I am into a few other things.  One of these is construction.  I have handled road and house building contracts, using qualified firms to execute the jobs for me.  During the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida, I won contracts to build some of the political party offices.  Recently, I have won building jobs in Ogun and Kebbi States. As a matter of fact, I am currently handling one for Lagos State at Oko-Oba Housing Estate Phase III. Ados Nig. Ltd is into contracting works, supplies and maintenance.  It is also into distribution of GLO products.

Distinct Associates Ltd, where I have a lion share deals with contracts and mainly into broadcasting equipment installations, supplies of recording studios and maintenance.
KSA now runs a radio station (With him is Dr. Yemi Farounbi & Dr. Seye Kehinde)
I also install masts, transmitters and street lights.  At the moment, my firm is working in five or six villages in Ondo State.  We have built masts in Ondo State and we are also doing so in Osun.  We hope to build in Oyo State soon.  In addition, I have handled contracts awarded by banks.  Aside from these, I have interest in oil exploration. Dr. Dokpesi, an expert in marine matters, is my partner in this venture.  But all these have no chance of luring me away from music.  Retirement does not feature in my plans because there are more important things like my grandchildren and my mother, who is still strong at 110 (In 2006)

All along I had seen that musicians rely mainly on their works which depend on the companies they recorded for.  This means if your record company says your record did not sell, you don’t make any money.  This also means you do not earn royalties to supplement your live shows. It is for this reason that many musicians hardly make money in spite of their popularity.  As I became more experienced in music, I felt there could be a way to marry music and business.  That I could still play my music and at the same time engage in profitable business.  At the time, I did not know I was sowing the seed of a big company which King Sunny Ade Organization eventually became.
KSA with ex-IG, Sunday Ehindero
KSA the business man…
I started with a real organizational structure.  I had a booking manager, a Public Relations Officer (PRO), a secretary and a cashier.  And I was the chairman/Managing Director and leader of the band.  I now moved the leader of the band to the band.  The business of the band is under me as the Managing Director. And then I went to the professionals.  I took Chief Gani Fawehinmi to be my lawyer on the legal side.  I took Dr. Ajayi, may God rest his soul, the proprietor of the now Ajayi Memorial Hospital to take care of health.  I asked one friend of mine, he is my Godfather, to be my management consultant.

Then for the office, I rented a house which I converted to offices.  It starts from the receptionist who will direct you to who to see.  From the reception, you move to the waiting room.  The music side of it is on the band which has a band manager, drivers, sound engineers, maintenance officers, music co-coordinators and artiste managers.  On the band itself, King Sunny Ade and the African Beats is a company which manages the band, because what is coming from the band is not the music alone: you have the live shows, the recordings, concerts, TV shows, etc.  The company manages their works but the band itself manages its own interests.
KSA with  National leader of APC, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu 
In the organization, I believe that the band should manage its affairs.  The business side of it has recordings, royalties and performance fees.  For international tours, the band cannot handle it alone.  I am fully represented in the band as the band leader and King Sunny Ade and the African Beats is a member of King Sunny Ade Organization.

In the organization, we have so many companies – Atom Plant; even Atom Plant has Atom Farms, Atom Palm oil, Atom Park; then we have Master Disc and Sigma Disc.  Why we have Master Disc and Sigma Disc is because one handles local while anything foreign goes to Master Disc.  Every recording we make here; we record here, print here and market here.  But if it is foreign, like the ones we record abroad, they would record it there and we will import it here.  We can also make an exchange; we will export what we have to Master Disc while they import ours at Sigma Disc.
KSA...The Musician who is a CEO
In doing these, I circled KSA where we have an arrow coming out from that circle, which is Ariya Night Club where we play every Friday.  And the management of Ariya Night Club is separate but fully represented in the organization.  There are different companies that invested in the night club. Then I added another arrow where the recording company can record King Sunny Ade and other artistes.  It is not the business of King Sunny Ade but that of King Sunny Ade organization through a company that is doing that—Atom Records. Then, another arrow came, King Sunny Ade Farms which has nothing to do with music or recordings but has to stand on its own as a company.  Then we have other companies with distinct associates.  They have nothing to do with King Sunny Ade Organization but have much to do with the Managing Director of King Sunny Ade Organization.  The Managing Director of King Sunny Ade Organization is an investor in the organization and King Sunny Ade now invested in Distinct Associates as a lion shareholder with the money of the organization.  So we must see where the money goes.
KSA during a board meeting with some of his directors 
Another one is ADOS Nigeria Ltd.  This is into contracting works, supplies and maintenance.  Also, broadcasting equipment supplies and installations.  Then it has a recording studio not a recording label.  Within that, they have distributorship on Glo network.  So when they don’t have contract, the Glo transaction will sustain it.  If this one doesn’t have, the studio will have.

When I am sitting on the board of directors, I am not a musician; I am a businessman.  Each company has its own structure. Like Ados Company, it has the carpentry section, the plumbing section, painting section, etc.  Most of these have field offices – with foremen and supervisors.  The office itself has a managing director, general manager, secretary, etc.  They have to see that the company pays its way.  All I want to see is how my investment grows.
KSA....A Greatness foretold
How I run my music band…
Then we have small companies that take care of special needs.  When the band is going out, for instance, it does not have instruments on its own – because the staffs are co-operative members.  They are not investors.  When they finish a show, they are given their dues.  But we provide them with uniforms, transportation, welfare etc.  A company takes care of the instruments, the maintenance and replacement to ensure smooth operation.  It is called Studio Solution.  And King Sunny Ade and his African Beats is just one of its clients.

The band also needs a generator which has to have people for maintenance and servicing among others.  For this, we have MIGs, Music and Instrument Generators.  So anytime the generator is going to be used for a show we have to pay for it.  The moment you pay the band for a show, we pay deposit for the instruments, deposit for generators, deposit for trucks and deposit for the buses.  That is the business side of it.
“I also install masts, transmitters and street lights.  At the moment, my firm is working in five or six villages in Ondo State.  We have built masts in Ondo State and we are also doing so in Osun.  We hope to build in Oyo State soon.  In addition, I have handled contracts awarded by banks”.
Now linking the business and the band, they are not friends.  Anything to do with money between them must be sorted out.  For instance, if royalty is due us from Sigma Disc, it will be given to the band which in turn will give my own share to me.  In our own office also, we manage all the companies.  So a percentage is received from the profits of each company to King Sunny Ade Organization.  The point is I am not the all in all.  The registration of KSA Holdings is quite different from that of Distinct, and different from Sigma Disc.  They have their directors, management and staff separately.
KSA...From Chief Guitarist to Chief Executive Officer
Setting up the entire companies was not a day’s job.  We did it gradually. We had the band first.  Initially, I wanted to make it big so that my fans can appreciate what they have been doing for me.  I soon found out that I was only harming myself and also the companies.  I had my head office in Ebute Metta, my recording company in Ikeja; my label company in Apapa; Ados in Mushin and my night club on Ikorodu Road (Yaba).

There were others in about seven or eight places.  Every day, I must give one hour to each company.  I had no time to rest.  And one hour is not even enough for each company.  I saw myself as somebody dancing in circles. If I have to run to Ikeja, run to this, run to that, what use is it?  Today, apart from getting old, I look at it as worthless.  For I had to ask my friends who are in big business and businessmen and I found they can run everything from one place.
KSA; The Musician, CEO & Family man 
Why I closed down Ariya Night Club…
The band was playing at Ariya Night Club every Friday.  People kept coming but we realized that it really affected the kind of shows or outing where the band could get more money on a daily basis. We were stuck in one spot.  In the night club, apart from the gate fee which 80 percent of the patrons don’t pay, the management of the night club itself hardly made money.  If the club is to make money then people must pay at the gate.  People must buy drink.  But in my own case I was using the night club to keep my fans.  That’s where we meet at close range.  But the place kept getting smaller and smaller for the fans.  Again, the environment around the night club, no matter how bright the light we put in every part, some hoodlums would go and block my fans under the bridge, or they would go to another side by the railway crossing to molest them or dispossess them of their money.  I saw that it was not secure for my fans anymore – the security of human beings, the fans, their cars, could no longer be guaranteed.

At a point, I said I would not play in the night club called Ariya again. But occasionally other musicians like Atawewe used to play there.  And when they play on a Sunday, by Monday morning, you would see blood on the floor. But one day police started shooting in that garden and I closed it down.

Now the night club was there for two years.  If I travel abroad, people will just come and do something there – rent it out for marriage or whatever.  They won’t tell me and that’s no business.  I said what we need to do is put offices inside so it doesn’t look like a club anymore.  Gradually, the management of the night club went into investments. They are the ones in charge of the whole building now.  Each company that has an office there pays rent to the management.
KSA; The Musician, CEO & Family man 
The Q CLUB before Ariya…
Before Ariya, it was Q Club in Ebute Metta on Wakeman Street.  Q Club was more or less like a meeting point.  I have respectable fans all over the world.  If I’m playing at a party they feel reluctant to attend especially if they were not invited.  And they do not gate crash because they want to see Sunny Ade.  So it was at Q Club, which I called a meeting point where they could see me.  Once they get their ticket, they are free to sit anywhere.  They were invited by me and not somebody I came to play for.  In Q Club every ticket holder is a king.  Some people will come in the night and go from there to their office.  It was when the space was becoming too small that I moved to Ariya Night Club

(Excerpts from the book; KSA: My Life, My Music by King Sunny Ade. Read ‘My bitter wars with Ebenezer Obey’ tomorrow on this blog)

Gbenga Dan Asabe

Africa's Number One Celebrity Encounter Blog

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