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Deji Obasaposted an audio, Fri, 28 Jun, 2024

Ife Ajagbe - We're Looking At Value- Ife Ajagbe, Symphonic West Africa, Head of Operations

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Born on the 24th of June in the mid-80s, the radio presenter, publicist, media consultant and Head of Operations at Symphonic; West Africa is the first female major distro head from Nigeria- but 11 years ago, she was just another face in the crowd of Nigerian presenters. Ife in her usual jovial disposition, shares with Deji Obasa of GODSPOWERPROJECT, highlights about her journey from radio girl to music queen. 
Start reading Deji Obasa's interview with Ife Ajagbe.
Deji Obasa (GPP): What's a typical day like for you? 
Ife Ajagbe: (IA) My typical day starts off as a broadcaster, actually, yes, cos I'm on the Breakfast show on Kennis104.1FM on Monday till Friday, so, l start off as a broadcaster in the morning and then at some point, l become the Head of Operations for Symphonic in West Africa. In between all of that, I'm a mom, a wife, a human being that needs to be well taken care of.
My typical day is basically, work, chilling when I can, and, that's it really.
DO: How do you feel recognized among women influencing music globally?
IA: In regards to influencing music globally, that seems like a big description of what I do. It's interesting, l feel good. I feel excited that I'm able to impact the industry quite well. I don't exactly feel special because I'm a woman really, l think its something that, primarily a service that a human being is rendering, so I'm not exactly sure that it becomes super special because I am a woman. I've seen a lot of women in the music industry, even in Nigeria, actually do very well. And I don't notice the fact that they have the kind of challenges that come with 'oh because I'm a woman'. I haven't personally had conversations with people that say 'oh because I'm a woman I'm not able to be an artiste manager or head of distro, or something in Nigeria'. I haven't seen people like that. I feel good as a human being, actually influencing music. The fact that I am a woman may be a plus, maybe some level of inspiration to some young girl out there that really wants to do things for herself, and might be in places or regions where she feels there might be some level of marginalization. No please just reach for it. Nothing is stopping you. Nothing at all.
D O: Growing up through education and career, did you envisage these heights?
IA: Growing up through education and career, no l don't think people actually, or maybe people envisage some particular heights, and I think for me specifically, I wasn't trying to get to specific heights. I was just trying to be useful, to be impactful. I just did what I loved, basically, I love music so much, that even though sometimes, artistes are not the nicest people, sometimes they are not, I really do not care. So even if you're not nice to me and your music is amazing, l will play your song on radio. That's how much I love music. I've at an early stage in my broadcast career decided that the artiste is one entity, the music is something else, so if you have true love for music, you just know that the artiste is only a creator of an art, so you could love the art and not like Van Gogh, or you know any of the biggest painters out there, but you could absolutely love the painting. So, you know, that's the thing, the moment you are able to do that, it doesn't get personal, you love the music, and you do a lot of things for the sake of the culture, for the sake of the music. For me, l wasn't trying to get to particular heights, l just followed what I loved to do and here I am.
DO: What is the secret to your career success?
IA: Well, I'm not exactly sure there's a particular secret to my career success, yes, thank you for calling it a success, but I'm not sure there's a particular secret to it. Because if you ask me, 'Ife how did you get here', I will tell you, I might not be able to tell you on radio or TV, but if you come to me personally and ask me, l will tell you, like oh, this was what I did to get to where I am now, so for me, I would just say, just go for whatever it is you want. That's what I do. So if I'm at a career level and I feel, 'ah you know what, it's time for a change, or time for a move, I simply move, I simply start doing things, taking little steps to move, or change where I am, or ask for more where I am, honestly, l know it sounds ridiculous, but it's as simple as that, so if you actually want more, go for more, so if for instance you are at a point in your life and you feel, 'oh, l should be heading a distro, just look out for the distro you want to head and reach out. Its just as easy as that. Yes, it could take time, of course, you need to prove your worth and all of that, but it is just wanting more. I think that's the secret to career success. You just get as much as you want. So if you want just a little, you get just a little, if you want more you get more. So you just go for it. That's what I would say for anyone that's looking at 'how do I scale up or get bigger', or go for more  challenges. Or how do I earn more, just go for it, that's the secret, there's no big secret well kept somewhere, no, no.
DO: What do you consider most challenging project and how were you able to overcome?
IA: Well, l can't actually remember a most challenging project right now, because maybe I already did those things so they don't feel like a challenge anymore, but I know that one of the biggest challenge usually for broadcasters is so 'say you want to interview an artiste that is you know, like a million miles away from you in the world, and you're wondering, how do I go about this, you know contact this person, and I think that I have typically been able to hack that. I don't know how I got to that point, but you know, l then realized that people came to me to say 'oh, Ife we need the contact of this particular artiste, can you get it for us, I then became that person at some point in my career. So I think that's something I've been able to hack. What I basically do is make a list of priorities or artistes that I really want to interview, anybody at all, from Beyonce to whether it's JayZ, or anybody, any artiste at all in the world, and then, send emails to them. You know, look for them on socials, look for their managers or PR persons, it takes time. Send emails to them. So, say you have a list of 10/15 people, and you shoot out emails to them, at least 3/4 will respond, and you will not feel so bad because you actually shot into a pool, you didn't just say 'I just want Beyonce, and if its not Beyonce, I'm not doing this' so you then just shoot into a pool, and then you realize that you would actually catch some fish, and very good ones too at that. So I think, for me over the years, that's being one way that I've been able to connect with artistes, and been able to get as many quality interviews as possible. Also, basically I think you could just check any artist's social media, you would see their management contact there. Sometimes you could get a telephone number, it could be an email address, but for some regions, yes, they are not so email oriented. It means it takes a while, some people can respond to you after like a year, and say sorry, we were on tour or something. So you need to know how people behave in different regions also. That of course will take time, you will learn as you grow
How do you balance personal and professional life?
Ah well, so far so good, yes, I've not had situations where there's been major clashes, or maybe I've been working with amazing bosses, at least since maybe I got married, my boss Kenny Ogungbe is one of the most considerate people I know, and I do not take his 'consideration' for granted. He's amazing and also very professional. So he makes it easy to balance things, and then for my boss, Jorge, who is in the US, he also makes work quite easy. So for me, it's been a win-win. I do have very supportive family if I'm being fair, very supportive family that makes everything a walk in the park for me, so that makes the personal and professional life balanced and easier
DO: What's up with you and Celeb Stopover
IA: Hmm, Celeb Stopover, okay, Celeb Stopover has been rested, for now, Celeb Stopover is still my baby, and it's that show that the vision was for it to be syndicated, in practically all the radio stations in Nigeria, but that required money, requires a level of sponsorship, and while it was running on a number of radio stations actually, the production was solely funded by me. Then I thought, 'haa, you know what, let's rest this, and until we're able to get sponsors to actually invest in it'. So for now, it's still an idea that hasn't gone to die but it's been rested for now. For now.
DO: Discuss the highlights of Symphonic activities in Africa
IA: Symphonic is a digital music distribution service, that already had an office in South Africa, yes, and me being in Symphonic, is to serve the West African region, and we had very big existing clients, and we are also looking at getting onboard more clients, so far, we have actually made quite an impact. At least, if you do music, you cannot say that you have not heard about Symphonic, from one person or the other. And it's because I think that artistes have been able to sense that we truly truly care about their music, beyond the fact that we're definitely running a profitable business, but, it is primarily about the artiste, we're looking at value, it's not just that you're paying us to distribute your music, it's also what are we giving to you? Are we sure that the artist's professional health is wholesome, so that's why for instance, if you visit our website, you'll get resources on practically everything you need; I mean your starter pack as an artist. Say you wake up today and say I really don't know what to do as an artist, if you go to our website, you would know what to do. So that's how much information, resources we put into A&R, into artiste development. Things that will benefit the artist. Also we know that artistes that are just starting out might be low on funds, in regards to music promotion, so that's why we've designed the radio show 'HotSounds' so that as an artiste, you can get your song on radio and get airplay on 5 radio stations in West Africa, 4 in Nigeria, 1 in Sierra Leone. And of course we are excited about our amazing partners that have made this very possible. Its amazing, and also, we have been actually able to bring onboard more clients. I joined Symphonic in July 2023, and by now we do actually have a lot more people onboard
I've had people come to me and say 'oh, I noticed that you're with Symphonic and I'm definitely joining', and big shout-out to all of those people out there, that say 'because it's you Ife I can believe that Symphonic is a good thing for me', and we've also had partnerships with music business masterclass organized by TeepSoul, that was quite impactful, also, we have a particular event coming up in Abuja. We'll keep you updated about that with more details. And there are a lot of activities going on, and a lot of partnerships going on, that we are working on. They are very beneficial partnerships. We've had partnerships with HitSound, Raw Vibes, different small creators from different parts of the country. Music producers, and all of that, so it's been a beehive of activities actually.
DO: What advice would you give your younger self?
IA: My advice to my younger self, wow, okay, i really don't have any fresh ideas for my younger self. I think I would look at my younger self and say you did well, so I don't think I'm going to give fresh advice out. I'll just say weldone you did well. I dont have anything to say to you but you did amazing, yea, I wouldn't change anything, about my childhood, about anything. I just love my journey. I take one step at a time. I'm not looking at the crowd and saying 'oh what are people saying or think'. Of course I'm a social being so what people think is important. But I just take one step at a time. Life is not that hard, really it's not.



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