• Recounts His Losses
Ayo Animashaun is the HIPTV Boss. He is also the CEO of Smooth Promotions, an entertainment firm that organises “The Headies Award.” He is also the publisher of Hip-hop World Magazine and the CEO of HipTV which is arguably one of the most watched music stations on DSTV. Ayo Animashaun hails from Lagos State, though he was born and bred in Kwara State. He completed both his elementary and secondary school in Kwara State. Ayo Animashaun may have been one of the youngest in his time to have gained admission into higher institution as he was only 16 years old when he began studying Business Administration at Kwara State Polytechnic. Ayo discovered his love for music quite early in life and took advantage of his passion to make a brand for himself. His biggest challenge was lack of fund as “his rags to riches” story wasn’t a tale of bed of roses, but he refused to give up as he knew that his day would break soon. Ayo Animashaun would stay with his classmates after class at a record store to record tunes and lyrics as that became his passion.
His dream was Music and was ready to become a music personality even after school. He was so young when he started writing lyrics for his friends and even banking lyrics for future purposes. He had to do all kinds of odd jobs to make ends meet in school while feeding his passion. Even though he saw that things were tough from the beginning, he didn’t relent one bit. At some point, he needed money to publish his book of lyrics and found someone who lent him N1000. At the venue of the book launch people were already waiting, but the books were still with the printers. Ayo almost suffered a heart break thinking he wouldn’t be able to sell any of his books within the time schedule, but he resolved to be resilient. He picked himself up and 300 copies of the book were sold out that day. Later he had to hawk his book of lyrics with a wheelbarrow after completion of his O.N.D. Ayo eventually went back for his HND. After youth service, he was advised against writing just a book of lyrics. He decided to publish a magazine for youths which will centre on music and entertainment. He named his magazine Hip-Hop World magazine, but he couldn’t sustain it for lack of fund. To be able to survive, he got a job as an Entertainment Reporter with Fame Magazine where he was paid N1200 per month and later worked for Encomium Magazine. While working with Encomium, he was able to raise money to continue his Hip-Hop World Magazine that birthed “The Headies” and today HipTV on DSTV.
Ayo Animashaun recently clocked 50, and he was our Guest on our CityPeople TV Instagram Live Chat, during which he talked about his life and many things that have changed about him at 50. Below are the excerpt of the interview.
What have you been up to in the last 3 months?
Before President Buhari announced the lockdown, I told my staff to go home. I realized that going home will not stop us from working; we can explore working from home and it was a good time to start. We needed to work, so we re-invented because we run a 24hrs television program and we can’t shut down. So I told them to go home with their systems then we provided high speed internet for them and we make sure they have power to be able to work from home. Then for those celebrities we interview, we first send them a post on how to place their camera, tell them what to do and everything, then we will now send the questions to them. They will send back to us and we will send it to the guy that edits and that’s all. So we were able to work. First few days I was trying to figure out how we will do it but by the time everybody went on lockdown we were good to go; we went on our own partial lockdown before anybody. We also have loads of events that we’ve covered in the past; we have many comedy shows and concerts that we covered last year, so we have so many contents. My territory is very interesting; it’s a space where you need to take advantage of technology and executive.
What are the lessons you’ve learnt in this lockdown so far?
I think all of us must have learnt one or two things, that at the end of the day what is most important is our family. Also all those shoes, all those cars, all those wristwatches at this period means nothing. It has shown us that the essence of life is more than all these material things. It has also shown that those who do business should not leave by the day. People that don’t have a dime in their savings, people that don’t reserve anything for the rainy day already have a lot of problem now. In my industry people are not really making money for now; no shows, no wedding, from the make-up artist to the fashion designer, everybody even to the Event owners, no one is making money. For entrepreneurs, I know that a lot of us that understand what we do, do not keep trailer load of cash in the bank because we invest in our craft. When you succeed in one you take part of the money to invest in things that will get you going. Before now a lot of people make mistake spending the money they are supposed to use to develop their business in buying house and now the house is not generating money. If you invest that money in business you probably will be making 10x more in couple of years. Because you wanted an immediate security, you went and buy house and your business dies. Yes, you are not paying rent but if you had waited a little bit for that business and you invested more you would have built more than what you have and still keep your businesses running. Other business owners will tell you that I’m on a journey let me continue growing this and keep putting money back in the business, which is why one-man business demands wisdom.
Let me also balance it, that it’s dicey because some business owners will put all their money in business and something will happen at the long run, so it’s dicey. One just needs to strike the balance.
How did you feel on your 50th birthday with the fact that you couldn’t celebrate it as expected?
For me I like to concentrate on the business and the art first. My staff know that I’m not the product I sell; I don’t like showing myself on TV, I like to be behind the scene. But for my birthday I told myself I wanted to enjoy myself and celebrate it. I had a plan; I booked lounge, Eko Hotel for a Dinner which the IV couldn’t go round and we were not even sure whether to have it or not because the Corona Virus was getting serious. Then next week was to be a Concert at Eko Hotel Convention Centre, and then I was to have the final one in Istanbul, Turkey. I planned to spend like 4/5 days in Istanbul because I’ve never been there. We planned to leave Nigeria on Thursday, get there on Friday, have the party on Saturday, on Sunday we’ll go for boat cruise then Monday we’ll come back. It was a well thought out plan. I got an Event Planner in Istanbul who has already done the background work, got the best hotel. In Nigeria here, I struck a deal with Turkey Airline for all those that want to go with us and they agreed. But when the issue of corona started at one point we said we are not going to cancel it but we have no choice. I’ve already paid the event planner there, paid for hotel rooms and all that. I’ve so many people who already said they were going to come. Some had already paid for their ticket. I still have loads of the invite. The only one that happened was the dinner at Skyland, Eko Hotel. It wasn’t a good time, the pandemic destabilized so many of our plans, but the beauty is that it’s only the dead man that cannot celebrate.
What are the lessons you’ve learnt from that; Planning big event but you couldn’t achieve it?
It shows that as human beings we can only propose but God disposes. I realized there some of those things we take for granted because we are humans. I’ve never experience this in my life. It is okay to think that I can buy what I like; I can fly anytime I like but it didn’t happen like that. My son is in the U.S. He couldn’t come and I can’t go and see him though we speak on video calls every day. This has really taught us a lot. Another thing is that even though I’m not in America, I’m not really worried about him because I’ve taught him well. This is why it’s good for all the parents to invest more of the good work they are doing on their children now, because you don’t know when you will reap it. Also, it’s not good to take things for granted, don’t just think everything is going to be fine all the time. We just really need to be careful.
What has changed about Ayo Animashaun at 50? And what has not changed?
Let me start with what has changed. I let some things go now that I am 50. I have realised that there is some stubbornness that is not necessary. You are not going to get anything from it. So just let it go. I also realized that you can’t offend me for so long, nobody can. If I’m angry at someone I’m just giving myself unnecessary headache. I probably will not let it get to the level of you hurting me. These are the things that don’t bother me anymore at this age. Talking about the things that have not changed; I really don’t know how to calm down. I always think I need and have so much to achieve. At some point I couldn’t hit the target the way I wanted. But for now, every day presents new opportunity for people who don’t relent, for people who are still hungry. I still have the hunger I had when Hip-Hop World Magazine was a script for proper magazine, before I did the typesetting. May be the hunger is not placed on the proper magazine now. It’s placed on Television and some other projects. I wake up every day hungry, because when the hunger is gone the drive is gone. There are so many things, many distractions that are ready to stop you, you just won’t stop yourself.
What has been your experience with the HIP TV project? Are you where you plan to be?
I would like to say I’m happy with where we are. However, we are not where we should be according to the plan. I’m very happy with where we are because a lot of people, who I even met in the business, who have been in existence 10 years before me, even 15 years before me are actually not where we are. So I would say thank God. I would not be ungrateful. We too we put in lots of hard work and innovation. I’m happy with where He has taken us. I’m happy with our viewership, it’s quite massive, I’m happy with the fact that we were able to do a lot of contents and lots of concepts. Our channels are in 44 countries in Africa. Why will I not be strong in half of the countries in Africa, why will I not have CEOS in 10 or 15 of the countries in Africa and create a business modem for each country and make the channel look after them? Why am I still the CEO of Hiptv here? Why am I not the Group CEO of the 15 CEOs, having board meetings all over the continent? I still have a project that will take the channel across the world. One thing I do not like about the industry and where we are is the fact that I don’t like our revenue model. I don’t want to be at the beck and call of anybody at this stage before I make money. If you check the biggest guys all over the world and you check what they are doing, you will see that they are doing little business and making big money. Look at MTN, look at Brewery, Indomie. In our own industry you will have to wait for adverts, 80% of our revenue coming from just 20% of audience. My own modem or where I want us to get to is when we will not need anybody to survive. I’m not looking at somebody giving me 5 million, but I’m looking for what I will do that millions of people will subscribe to, selling things of 200 or 300 for millions of people every day, that’s where the money is. We can have our own form of digital monetization strategy that we are going to execute. As long as I wait for any agency to pay me and yet won’t pay me on time, who gets to the next level like that? That’s what I’m spending the next couple of years working on and strategizing. I don’t want to be at the mercy of anybody.
How old is Hiptv now?
HipTV started as a 30mins programme on terrestrial channels in 2007. HipTv was not a full blown channel until 2011 on hitv. When the Hitv packed up, 2 years later went on Dstv in 2013. So, this year Nov will make it 7years that we’ve been on Dstv.
What has been your experience with Headies Award?
Headies Award is a thankless job. If I wasn’t doing Headies I would be richer. We had years that we made money from other things and we sink all the money on Headies even with sponsors. It’s an award show that we want to sustain up there but there is nothing cheap about it, from the venue itself; booking over a hundred and fifty rooms to taking the venue for 3 days, you pay 10s of millions, not 10 million not 20 million not 30 million. For the headies alone, where you now have to make the trophy itself, which is 21karat pure gold, then 20 other call centres, they are not cheap. If you check the history of award shows in the world, once an artiste does not win it’s a problem except they don’t respect the award but then can’t give it to everybody. At one point we had to make the vote transparent. I’m not one of the judges and I would never be. All these judges will work for 2 weeks, putting everything together. But I’m glad we were able to pull through an award as big as that every year.
How many years now?
This year will be the 14th headies. This year by the grace of God we still hold, whether people are at home or not we would use technology to hold Headies Award. We would do it and people are going to watch it whether they are forced to sit at home or not.