‘Demystifying Artiste Management’ with Fela Oke-Henri Yire
On Saturday the 23rd of November, Boxx Culture, a brand and marketing agency hosted senior talent manager and super agent, Fela Oke in an exclusive chat on talent representation in the Nigerian industry.
If you had to describe Fela Oke in one word, it would have to be ‘unassuming’. There was no way you could articulate his pedigree from his looks. Braided hair, gold-laced high-top sneakers and skin-tight slacks wasn’t the typical way talent managers looked. And so because he wasn’t adorned in the typical designer suit, you would assume little of him, and that would be your first mistake.
Fela Oke is a cross between a high-priced lawyer ( he actually studied law) and a professional wall street lobbyist, with the visage of a street fighter.
He simply describes himself as a fixer.
He summarily took his seat and instantly ended all the expected audience to speaker decorum. No 50 paged, PowerPoint presentation slide or a well-rehearsed, stitched-together nugget sequence.
He proceeded to speak from the heart.
With a famous client profile that includes Damilola Adegbite, Thin Tall Tony, WizKid, Toke Makinwa, and global talents like John Boyega and Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje, Fela Oke definitely plays in the big leagues.
He is currently with LA-based talent agency CK Talent Management’s division CK FLU3NT, a boutique agency, with offices in China and Australia and interests in music, sports and entertainment.
“Very few people understand the inner workings of representation. In Nigeria, representation is usually first developed from close friendship & most agents and even the clients don’t really know the business or what they want,” he revealed.
He explained in detail the trajectory that led him to the talent management business.
“I entered the industry as a computer sales man on a commission basis. My dad had cut me my last cheque. It was how he had structured our lives. Once the educational training was done, no more money was coming in.”
Fela isn’t known to pamper or be unrealistically diplomatic and so when asked what kind of talent interests him, he replies:
“A lot of people have a blanket view on how to get where they want to go but at my level, I wouldn’t sign an artist that doesn’t have an idea of their direction.The industry as a whole is subjective though, so people see different things in different people.”
Fela addressed the constant penchant for western validation by Nigerians, which has coloured our storytelling to always include western narratives and in the same breath warned writers to get their acts right because westerners are beginning to tell our stories for us because of the dearth of professionally-written scripts.
“Everything I do is to build my network so my talent can have an easy ride. The previous generation worked hard, but today’s creative talents are born online and with a mindset to do practically anything to get ahead.”
“Nigeria is hard. It’s a tricky place to live. Everybody is trying to survive and people take advantage of you in the worst possible way,” he replied when asked about his experience since returning to Nigeria.
He attributed the failure of the Spinlet brand, which he was a part of, to the fact that the idea was way ahead of its time, the technology myopic and erroneously focused on only blackberry devices.
“The Government’s existence is to create an enabling environment for me as a talent manager to function. People think that the government owes them something, they don’t,” he replied to a question on government intervention in entertainment.
Fela postulated that the biggest issue with the creative industry is actionable collaboration which has led to the excessive fragmentation in the industry today.
His advice to the industry?
Build pockets of creative collaboration with friends & family, get protective of our own indigenous creations, instead of bashing the creators.”
Fela also advised aspiring talent managers and creatives in general to learn to build their networks, acquire knowledge, always be ready and hone their talents while they dream.
Fela’s parting words were, “To be successful today, find something that sets you apart. The little nuances that separate you. As for me, I am building a lean, mean talent machine on the continent.”
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Boxx Culture is an innovative media agency dedicated to creating iconic opportunities for talents and brands in entertainment, fashion, sports, politics, corporate, literature, art, advocacy and creativity.