Hammond: Nigeria’s Entertainment Industry Will Dominate GDP With Adequate Funding
CECIL Hammond is the founder/Chief Executive Officer of Flytime Promotions, one of the foremost names in live entertainment and music promotion in Nigeria, and promoters of Rhythm Unplugged. In this chat with CHIJOKE NELSON, he speaks on the journey so far with the music-comedy show in last 10 years, the contribution of the Nigerian entertainment industry in the recently rebased Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and what the industry needs to compete globally.
THE Capital Market extended its support to the Nigerian entertainment industry in terms of funding opportunity, but it appears players in the sector have refused the opportunity. What do you is responsible?
I’m not aware of any funding opportunity in the capital market available for the entertainment industry and I don’t think there is one as well. As I speak, the capital market authorities are yet to understand exactly how we operate. So, how can they make funds available for the industry on the other hand?
From your perspective, how big is the industry today in relation to GDP?
We have always known the entertainment industry to be sizeable in terms of economic activity, but now we have statistics. According to the recent rebasing of Nigeria’s GDP, the entire Nigerian entertainment industry — Nollywood, music, comedy, and theatre, contributes about N9 trillion to the country’s GDP. This is not surprising at all, given the way the industry, particularly Nollywood and music production, have exploded in the last 10 years. Surely, I see the Nigerian entertainment industry becoming as globally competitive as the United States and our content will be fully global by then.
In what way can this funding problem be solved?
This can’t be solved until the capital market actually decides to understand how our sector and the businesses work. The problem they are facing now is that they don’t understand how we operate and make profit. They know we make money and they see money coming in and out, but just don’t understand it. Most of them also complain that over 90 per cent of our businesses are one-man model, with no full structure in place and if they invest funds into the businesses, what happens to it if something happens to us. The truth is that quite a few of us have structure, but once again, they haven’t taken the time to sit down with us and learn how we run our businesses and how they can help us grow. Once the capital market understands how we operate, I believe there would be a big change in the entertainment industry.
What about the recently set up fund for the sector by the government?
Nollywood, as a sub-sector of the entertainment industry, has benefitted to a degree from this fund, but of course, much more need to be done. The music sub-sector operates slightly differently. Thanks to corporate organisations such as the banks, Fast Moving Consumer Goods companies and the telecommunications companies, as music artistes now get endorsements, which they use to develop their art. These organisations are also the major sponsors of shows and live entertainment events. They are the ones who fund the music industry.
How did you get involved in the industry?
My uncles (Ben Murray Bruce, Guy Murray Bruce and Roy Murray Bruce) run an entertainment company called Silverbird and I watched them build their empire since I was a little kid. When I moved back to Nigeria in 2003 from the United Kingdom, I started working with Silverbird, enjoyed it all and believed the entertainment business is what I was meant to do. Fascinated by the work my uncles were doing with Silverbird Communications, I joined the company, working directly with Silverbird for a year and a half. It was during that period that I started putting together plans for Flytime, registering the company, while still under employment at Silverbird. I also organised the first Rhythm Unplugged concert in 2004, while I was still a staff of Silverbird.
Why the focus on Nigerian entertainment industry?
The Nigerian entertainment industry has enormous potential both in terms of creativity and opportunity. Just look at the evolution of our music over the last decade. It’s been phenomenal! I focused on Nigerian entertainment because there was and still is a huge gap in the industry that has to be filled and so much to be done. It’s also all bringing Nigerian entertainment closer and more accessible to the people and making them happy.
What values define your work ethics?
Focus and innovation are very important to the business that the fans are happy about. To make them happy, I have to put myself in their shoes, and think about all the different elements that matter to Nigerian fans, from ticket pricing to seating arrangement. For example, we were the first concert organizers to introduce the concept of tables at concerts. We understood the need for certain individuals and corporate organizations to have their own ‘party’ within the concert. It worked for us and has now become an industry standard. Understanding the needs of our fans is what helps us innovate. We are not afraid to take risks and happy to learn from our mistakes.
What is your vision for Flytime?
Flytime is a proudly Nigerian entertainment company. My vision for the company is to be the most respected media and entertainment house in Africa. I want to see Nigerian content on the global stage, competing at par with Western content. Our goal is to provide a platform for the best Nigerian content, helping to showcase it to the world. That is actually the motivation for Rhythm Unplugged, to create a platform for up and coming musicians and entertainers to thrive and be discovered.
Who have you worked with in the industry?
As a company, Flytime has worked with the biggest brands in the music and comedy business. We have been organising shows since Rhythm Unplugged debut show in 2004. Over the years we have produced concerts and album launches for stars like D’banj, Wande Coal, P-Square, Wizkid, Davido, TuFacen Idibia, P-Square, Omawumi, Bez, 9ice, Sound Sultan to name a few. We have also produced comedy shows for Bovi (Bovi Man on Fire). Flytime also owns a music label, and Tiwa Savage and Seyi Shay were the first artistes signed under Flytime Music. Flytime also helped to launch Davido’s music career. Flytime now owns a booking and talent agency that provides all types of talent for all events. We have also produced television shows Three Live Chicks and the Pepsi Top Ten Countdown; worked with renowned director, Wole Oguntokun, to produce the highly acclaimed stage play for Coloured Girls: The Nigerian Adaptation.
What are Flytime’s greatest achievements?
Believing, building and sustaining the Rhythm Unplugged brand for 10 years. It’s easy to create, but sustaining the brand is the hardest part. I have nurtured the Rhythm Unplugged brand and watched it evolve from our first show at Fantasy Land in 2004. Back then, the infrastructure was basic, elements such as the set and lighting were basic. These days, we invest a lot of time, effort and technical expertise into delivering a highly experiential event for the crowd. Everything from the lighting to the sound, to the set and the routines is designed to create a sensory experience for our fans.