Asa Asika is that artiste manager who is more popular than many Nigerian artistes. Unarguably famous even in homes in Imo State and other parts of Nigeria, he is well-known for single-handedly taking our superstar, Davido to stardom and success. Unabashed to criticism, Asika has continued to impress and also cultivated envy in the lives of many young people who vehemently feel he’s an opportunist, without having to know about the hard-work and smart moves he’s put in to be able to position himself where he is at the moment.
It’s a Tuesday evening and I’m seated at the balcony of the dingy guesthouse in Lagos where I am lodged, when Asa Asika is driven into the premises by his driver. I look down from the balcony and find him busy, with his laptop open. He gets out of the car and makes his way upstairs, where I am seated. He looks tired, but he says he has been sleeping enough these days, unlike those days when he dedicated almost all his life in pursuit of the happiness of others. He’s one of those people believed to be working behind the scene, but Asika has gradually become a household name, not because he is nephew to Obi Asika or cousin to Naeto C, but because he has worked to get to where he is.
Over drinks, we spend time, talking about his company, StarGaze (after getting my branded shirt), Nigerian music and the way forward in life.
When did you start StarGaze?
Well, basically I officially registered Stargaze in 2013 and spent most of 2013 doing the background work. I will say we officially started running in the last quarter of 2013. We are in 2014 now and trust me it’s about to go down!
What motivates you?
My passion for this, above everything and wanting to succeed. How does that quote go again? “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. ” I love everything about my job from running around distributing music to pitching clients for shows to developing ideas that will eventually be developed into marketing plans, PR Strategies or even music video scripts.
Can you tell us what kind of things you did before StarGaze?
Before I started Stargaze I worked at Storm 360 under my uncle Obi Asika for a while; that is where I learnt a lot and decided I really wanted to do this. I did loads of jobs outside Storm also. People like Banky W, Dr Sid, etc gave me the opportunity to do stuff for them. My first project that let me put all I had learnt to work was the Davido project, that’s what a lot of people know me for today.
What kind of historical context of your country influenced what you are doing today? Or did you just start out of the fact that you needed to create business or didn’t want to work for anyone?
Have you ever listened to all the old music from Nigeria’s past? So much content just left fallow. I have listened to some, I say some as there is such a lot, and one day we shall really appreciate what we have and send it out to the world. The same goes for our traditional dances, dance troupes, festivals. All very entertaining and with great potential. One day I hope to be able to do something with all this great content, material, history!
Who do you admire? Is there someone who influences you so much?
There are a lot of people I admire and look up to first on that list is Bu, you guys probably know him as Akon’s younger brother. He has done so much behind the scenes in the music business worldwide. He signed T-Pain, he was A&R for big albums like Rihanna’s Loud & Watch, The Throne by Kanye West & Jay Z. I really look up to him seeing as he has done so much at a young age and he’s African. He has been nice enough to advise me a lot and has always supported me since I met him. Of course there are the normal suspects like Jay-Z, Russell Simmons & L.A Reid. Rick Rubin is definitely one of them. He has been involved in so many major labels. It’s amazing. He co-founded Def Jam and is the former president of Columbia Records. Along with producing major records for loads of major artistes.
Did you receive some kind of economic support to start StarGaze?
No, I didn’t, Stargaze is all me.
You have had the chance to travel around many countries in the world. What kind of things have you learnt during the trips?
The same things that drive good business relationships worldwide.
What lessons have you acquired to help grow your business?
Be very upfront about what you can do. Make sure information flows between all parties. Discuss things, seek advice and the input of others.
What kind of support have you gotten so far from young people in Nigeria towards your business?
I have gotten a lot of support from younger people, way more than older people. From little things like phone calls saying, “I like what you’re doing,” to asking if they can work for me, etc. Stuff like that pushes me to even do more.
In your own assessment, would you say business is booming?
It’s starting to grow. Good products need to be tended carefully.
In layman’s language, what exactly does StarGaze do?
We grow artists, brands, concepts, lifestyles.
What are your plans in the foreseeable future?
To ensure that Stargaze reaches its full potential.
Let’s talk about you as a person. What kind of person are you?
Focused and driven to succeed. I have one particular saying I keep in mind. “Money is the collateral damage of doing it well!” What this means is that we do not do it solely for the money, we focus on getting it right. Do that and the money will follow. The best thing to have is a strong brand, product, artiste, etc.
How can you define yourself and how do you think people consider you as an entrepreneur?
(Laughs) I am an entertainment farmer. I aim to grow what people want to be entertained by, with!
As for how people consider me you will have to ask them.
What kind of legacy would you like to leave in Nigeria?
As someone who did his bit to develop the entertainment industry and did so fairly to all he came in contact with. Equity is very important. Too many people have a nasty, cheating nature. It does not help creativity.
So far, what is your biggest success or goal you have reached in your career?
Taking an artiste from zero to hero as part of a team. That’s definitely it.
Onyeka Nwelue who is a founding member of The Trent Voices lives in Paris, where he runs La Cave Musik, a record label, specialising in quality music from Africa and the Caribbean.