Ogun State-born Sunday Are is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of List Entertainment Records. In this interview with Seyi Sokoya and Segun Adebayo, he speaks about his passion for artistes management, growing up, challenges and future ambition. Excerpts:
How did you find your way into List Entertainment Records?
MY journey into the music industry did not start with List Entertainment. I started very early in the music industry, the journey started in 1980, in 1984 after I had garnered enough experience, I became a professional, having worked under several bosses in the industry that have become legends today, some are still living and some have died. After a couple of years, I joined a band called October band, where I met with the likes of Jimmy Adams, Friday Jumbo and others. I could remember vividly in 1983 to 1984, we produced one of the popular album of Olando Julius 'Adara Adara, Adara fe gbe wa o a yewa kale', we launched it in 1984, at Kabanbanbu, Bobby Benson’s hotel and National Theatre. We chose National Theatre then because it was the only known place and if you are a star and you have not performed there, you are not yet regarded as a celebrity, so, after the lunching, Orlando Julius took my brother along with him to abroad, because he was staying abroad, but he had to come to Nigeria for his album. I was left behind, I moved on and joined KK band owned by Tunde Shole, so along the line I met Drastic band where I had the opportunity to work with Majek Fashek, George Howell and others, Majek and I became friends and he promised to work with me.
Why were you left behind?
I was new in the group and I did not feel like following them abroad as at that time because I was confident of what I wanted to do and I knew that with God by my side, I will become a celebrated personality.
So what happened afterwards?
Initially, I started as technical personnel and I was very comfortable and good at it. This feat no doubt brought me to the limelight in the entertainment industry. I met another wonderful woman, Mrs. Nelson Igbokwe, we both had to set up a new band because we were still very fresh then, I did my best and I was rewarded accordingly because they were impressed, I hold her in high esteem because she was very good to me and had a very great impact on my life. I have worked with many artists and my production then was from demo to album project. I worked with so many guys that have become most sought after in the industry today.
Who are the notable ones you can remember?
They are many and I won’t like a situation where by I miss out some names, the list is endless when it comes who and who I have worked with, but to answer your question, I have worked with Majek Fashek, Lagbaja, Obesere, Laolu Akins, Onyeka Owenu, Orlando Julius and a host of others. I was actually the one that set up Lagbaja’s band in the 1980’s
What brought about List Entertainment Records?
After working with several artists in the industry, I saw the need for me to establish my own record label. It has to do with every individual that I have worked with and the dues that I have paid, coupled with the experience I garnered since I joined the industry. I was able to raise some cash for myself and one fact that you can’t take away was the passion I had for artistes’ management. It was my passion that gave birth to establishing List Entertainment.
When did you make your first million?
(Laughs)….. My first million. Honestly, I can’t remember. I can’t tell you how I made my first million, because the kind of job we do, money comes in and you also spend a lot. This profession has been very rewarding a lot and I thank God for everything. I have done projects with Shell in Port Harcourt; I gave them artists and provided sounds for them at one of their shows. I could be offer ten million or twenty million for a particular project, but that doesn’t mean the whole amount of money comes into my pocket directly, I have to pay my artists, management and every other person that work for the success of the show. So, if I make a million naira from a project, I think I have actually paid the dues.
In fact I don’t know when exactly I made my first million, but the truth of the matter is that the blessings of God have been sufficient for me, and the fact that I have found happiness in the job I am doing is a fulfilled heart most desires.
Do you agree that landing Don Jazzy and D’banj in List Entertainment records made Sunday Are a known name in the industry?
I have made my name before I met any of these guys. It is not a hidden fact that there emergence was also a booster but you cannot tell me that they brought me into lime light.
So, how did you meet D’banj?
I met him in late 2004 and it was in two ways. I saw the D’banj on stage, he came to the venue with Ruggedman. I was actually anchoring an event for Nigeran Brewery in my neighborhood in Surulere. D’ banj performed that day, he had just released his Tongolo singles then. I can remember that I paid Ruggedman for the show that day and other artists that day, it was a love garden Christmas carnival that event. D’banj performed that day and I liked his performance, after the show that day, we met and he came to my office in Surulere with Don’Jazzy. He was full of life and I noticed that D’banj has a very different torch the moment I met him that day. They both told me in my office that day that they wanted me to work with them; I told them I love their zealousness and the spirit to succeed and I will be ready to work with them. They both live in London then. They gave me their numbers and we communicated, when I got a show, I invited them and the relationship started from there. But initially I had my reservations, I didn’t say yes.
Why didn’t you say yes?
Because I had to take my time. I wanted to be sure of working with them before saying yes. In 2005, we were in Abuja and I told D’banj how we can work together. I am a disciplined person and I spelt everything out to D’banj that day and to my surprise, he was so clam and never raised any objection. I advised him to do more of live band music.
Since 2005 till date, have you ever had any reason to stop working with him?
If I must be honest with you, I love these guys because they are very humble and ready to learn. Whatever I tell them that I don’t like, they adhere strictly to it. They know that I am working for the success of everybody under the record label, so whatever misunderstanding that ensues, it is for the good of everybody. There has never been a time I felt like parting ways with D’banj, it has been a nice experience working with him. But sometimes we do have argument and eventually we sort it amicably, I think we work in oneness, we do things together as a family and I thank God things have been working together for us as a family.
Has there ever been a time they felt like quitting your label for any reason?
No, such has never occurred and I don’t think I will ever experience such because these guys are responsible, no one among has ever raised his or her voice against me, we operate like a family; sometimes they call me daddy, we do argue a lot. Especially when the issue borders on the progress of everybody, we are all human and no one is perfect, we correct each other, none of them has ever been rude to me because they are stars, most times we argue on issues.
How have you been able to manage D’Banj’s ego as some have said that he his arrogant?
I will never take that, D’banj is a responsible and humble gentle man. We have been together for quite a while and I can tell you authoritatively that he is a fantastic guy. Despite the fact that he is one of the richest musicians in the country presently, that is enough for him to misbehave. I am telling you on a very serious note that if you meet him one on one, you will never want to leave his presence because of his great sense of humour.
How did you discover the likes of Wande Coal, Dr Sid, Prince and others?
Wande Coal was discovered in UNILAG when I was trying to put things in right perspective during a show. Don Jazzy and D’banj met with Wande and four others at the back stage, trying to do some rehearsals. Don Jazzy was impressed with Wande’s performance and it was right there Don Jazzy gave him his card. That was how he found his way into Mo’hits, and was brought to me for necessary assessment and trainings. The major thing I’m looking for in whoever wants to work with me is hard work and trust. Inasmuch as you are not the lazy type, you are okay by me. I have discovered so many artistes it does not matter maybe you are a Yoruba or English artist. I took Obesere to Sony Music that was when he did his first album Asakasa, and the album sold massively.
As the boss, in terms of attitudes, character, which among your artistes do you think has attitude problem?
If you are too dull I will not work with you, if you check the whole Mo’Hits crew, you will find out that none of them is dull. Don Jazzy and D’banj are great guys with never a dull moment. Omawumi is also another great artist under my label that is doing well. I also have Samini from Ghana; he won the best performance of the year over D’banj and 2face at the last MAMA Award.
Why do you have only Omawumi under your record label, does that mean you don’t believe in female artists?
No, that is not true, we have a lot of them in the entertainment industry that are doing well, in the case of Omawumi, I think she is still the only female in Mo’Hits, but I believe with time, I will get more. I have a Jazz artist, Ayodele, I love jazz music a lot because I relax with cool jazz music, I also have F Shaw, and he has been in the fold for like three years now.
Some have argued that D’banj’s video that featured Snoop was a ruse, what is your take?
Many did not know that D’banj did not feature Snoop, what they had was collaboration. We know people have been spreading the rumours around but we are not bothered. The video has been released and they have seen it. I want to advise those rumour mongers to check MTV on net and see Snoop’s comment on the video
How did you manage to scoop the deal?
You are yet to see the best of Mo’Hits crew, we have just started unfolding our plans for the year and they have started saying all sorts, as I’m talking to you now, we are also planning to have another thing with Kanye West. Just keep your fingers crossed as we roll out new things from our stable. I have always tell God to raise my artistes and made them known all over the world then I would he happy.
How do you settle their differences and who do you think is the most difficult among them?
That is why I am the boss and I believe they want the best that was why they want me to be their boss and to my perspective none of them are difficult, because I am also tough, I know how I manage them and it has been a good one family. Sometimes I shout on them during rehearsals or on stage until I get what I want.
How have you been able to manage the job and marriage?
I have been used to it, I don’t think I have ever experience any clash, my wife knows the nature of my job and has never disturbed me when I doing my job, I respect her a lot and she does too, she is been wonderful whenever I am away.
Don’t you think this entertainment job is strenuous, that made you have gray hair?
Not at all, I think I noticed the gray since I was young, in fact my younger brother has a gray hair, I think we were born with it.
Somebody who manages millionaires must be successful, how successful are you?
I am happy and very comfortable. Their happiness is my utmost concern, so if God bless me through my hard work and commitment, I want to believe that I deserve it.