• Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

How Victor Okpala of Nabsolute Media is adopting digital innovation to power Africa’s music industry

Victor Okpala 1

A little over two years ago, Victor Okpala had the vision to cause a transformative change in the music industry. His job at the time as a music journalist meant he occasionally interfaced with actors within the African music space and, at other times, turned a critical lens on what was happening within the scene.

More often than not, Okpala was not pleased with what he saw. “I particularly reckoned that there was a gaping hole between the production stage of music, and distribution of it,” Okpala explains about his misgivings, kept him nitpicking and documenting the gaps through album reviews and video breakdowns until he realized that maybe, “I should rise to the occasion.”

At that time, he had scribbled a word down to help document what he thought would be his proposed panacea. “I wrote the word “Solution” on my wall. It was the first thing I would see when I woke up and last before I went to bed. I wanted to make sure that my approach to the apparent problem of communication within the music space would be one that solves the problem without question.”

According to Okpala, the goal was to develop communication strategies that will translate the vision of the artistes to the consumers and advance or amplify the reach of the art. By 2019, after the core idea around how Nabsolute media will deploy communications value was formed, And, at this point the phrase “Not A Basic Solution” came to mind and it was from it that the company name, NABSolute was born.

Starting out in the Nigerian music industry meant that NABSolute was going to have to give a display of their capabilities, and one Seyi Shay project, Electric Package, offered the chance to ascertain market fit.

“I approached Seyi Shay’s manager at the time, Kamal Ajiboye, and said: ‘I’ll like to help advance what you guys already have going on.’ He was open-minded but we only had about a week or less before the project dropped. We quickly developed and executed a strategy around storytelling to magnify the vision of the project.

“As we began to track performance, conversations around the release had tripled, off the back of our involvement and press interest was heightened. Also, the vision of the project became publicly documented and this shaped the idea of the consumers about what to expect. The results from that campaign validated the NABSolute idea and approach. I knew it was time to extend the solution to the larger ecosystem,” said Okpala.

Since then, NABSolute has grown to become one of the leading communications and marketing firms in Nigeria and Africa, working with a variety of digital platforms to bring ideas to life for their clientele. The work they have done mirrors the experiential ethos that Okpala laid out at the firm’s beginning, working on non-linear rollouts for the likes of Runtown and YCee.

“I love what we did with Ycee’s album, YCee vs Zaheeer. Musically, the artiste put two sides of his talent on display so we had to interpret that from a communications point of view. We set up an interactive Instagram page for the album that walked his fans through the concept and vision of the project and offered a window into what they can expect. At the launch of that interactive page, conversations around the album erupted and it became a top trending topic on Twitter for over 24 hours.”

With Runtown, the team heavily depended on tech mediums to amplify its campaign: an interactive website was set up to cut out the middlemen and collect the data of Runtown’s fans as well as provide the fans with key details and timelines for the project.

Still, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on the music scene with budgets shrinking and more sustainable communication options being sought-out. Okpala talks about Reekado Banks’ Off the Record E.P as one project where he and his team had to work with constraints for the best effect.

“It was particularly challenging because thanks to COVID-19, there has been a huge challenge of money circulation within the music industry and this ultimately would affect our working budget. We had to deploy strategies that were both cost and reach effective. We adopted a tech product called Christopher. It is an AI-powered conversation/social interactive tool franchised in Nigeria by Emblue.

With this, we were able to automatically connect Reekado Banks’ EP to relevant conversations and allow new fans to discover his music. We also adopted storytelling at epic proportions. For the first half of 2020, Reekado Banks was stuck in Gabon due to the COVID-19 lockdown so we integrated that story into the EP rollout through an emotive video that also communicated key timelines and the vision of the project.”

Despite all these successes, Okpala believes that the future of communication and marketing will continue to depend on adapting to newer realities and providing solutions to complex challenges. “The future, at least for us at NABSolute, is finding ways to solve the problem of music discovery,” he says.

“The internet has become one big decentralized village. Although this is great, it also breaks down the process of music discovery into several fragments and as players in communications, it means we have several pockets of audiences to fill. We are working to make the process of discovery seamless.”