We sit down with talented, young and ambitious entrepreneurs. Read about them before the rest of the world does!
A quick look at the artist management section on the Disturbing London website informs us that:
‘Tinie Tempah has played every major festival across the globe, from America’s Coachella to England’s Glastonbury and Wireless and even performed at the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, which was viewed live by over 23 million people.
Tinie has supported the likes of Jay Z, Usher and Rihanna on various dates and went on to sell out every show on his UK headlining arena tour. He wrote his own book, entitled ‘My Story So Far’, designed and launched a clothing line in association with Disturbing London, invested in a record label, rubbed shoulders with royalty, bonded with pop hierarchy and raised the bar by appearing on the front pages of The Times and GQ magazine.
The hitmaker recently returned to his old school and was overwhelmed to find out that a new studio had been built in his name to honour his talent, ambition and success. Last year, his immaculate sense of style earned him an invitation to an exclusive dinner to help promote the British Fashion Council, which was attended by Prince Charles and iconic designer Sir Paul Smith.’
To those new to the Disturbing London brand, this is likely to be viewed as business as usual. However, those of us who remember Tinies ‘Hood Economics’ mixtape nearly a decade ago will form an entirely different view altogether. This has been a meteoric rise, for both artist and Management Company.
Surely, someone incredibly smart and foreward thinking must have had a plan of just how far this incredibly talented, yet raw artist could go over the next 10 years. After all, Tinie has categorically overtaken his peers who started from the UK underground scene.
Is this a case of accident or design? Fast forward to 2015 and we’re getting closer to that answer…
Tinie’s business partner and manager Dumi is perhaps less heralded but no less important to the commercial success and marketability of one of the UK’s finest acts. Through music, fashion and philanthropy the dynamic duo have developed a winning formula, setting the platform for global domination. The bad news for the competition: it seems they are only getting started.
Getting to know the Music Mogul
Describe your business in one line
Millennial entertainment/management/ fashion/ lifestyle company.
What is your greatest business achievement to date?
The management arm of the business – representing two of the UK’s largest pop stars, Jessie J and Tinie Tempah.
What numbers do you look at every day in your business?
The dates in the calendar! Time is the most important thing to me. If you prepare well, have a great idea and execute, the financial numbers will come.
Describe your growth funding path
I started this journey as an artist manager first and foremost managing Tinie Tempah. I was a student at the time and would treat any spare cash from student loans and part time work as an investment in dreams.
When Tinie was paid small fees for shows, I would turn my earnings into T-shirts, physical CD’s etc. The return from products I sold would then be reinvested. As I continued my journey I began to build platforms around me that would benefit my aspiration as an entertainment mogul. I established companies around things I loved and was passionate about.
Where would you like your business to be in three years?
I aim to recruit more great minded individuals with a passion for this new age. I would like to continue to represent some of the major talents in the world and to expand my office to LA.
I would like Disturbing London to be one of the industry leaders in bespoke, innovative intellectual property management.
What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?
Objectives become blurred and they forget why they are doing it [running a business]. This is a recipe of disaster and a breeding ground for indecisiveness.
How will your market look in three years?
The market will be much more digitally driven by digital to consumer (D2C) products.
What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?
Keeping focused when the times were hard. The broke days with a dream…
What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?
Keep your objectives clear, don’t listen to the words ‘no’ or ‘can’t’ and work your ass off!
Tinie has always been a great performer but as his manager I needed to boost his profile, such as him being seen in all the best clubs, and meeting all the right people.
Music manager Dumi Oburota remembers with a smile just how short of money he and rapper Tinie Tempah often were before they hit the big time.
Tinie, today a multi award-winning singer, with two best-selling albums and two UK number one singles under his belt, was back in 2003 an unknown 14-year-old Londoner just beginning to try to make it as a performer. Dumi, the son of a family friend, and then 20, was at the time starting out in music management.
He says that after first hearing Tinie rap he immediately tried to persuade the singer to sign with him. Tinie, agreed, and the two started out together on the road to stardom.
“We’d go together to nightclubs, and only have £20 between us. We’d stand there together, not being able to afford to buy a drink, and hoping that no-one would ask us to buy them one, because we just couldn’t afford it.”
Dumi, who like Tinie hails from south east London, was at the time also continuing a degree in sports science.
While finishing his degree, to make sure he had a different career to fall back on if he needed to, he says he started to study all he could about music management, via the internet and by buying books.
After Tinie signed with him, Dumi invested his student loans in getting his friend studio time, and made extra money to invest in his act by buying old cars, doing them up, and then selling them on at a profit.
An eye for talent
“It was obvious that Tinie had massive talent, he looked good… he was great at rapping but he was young and needed to live a little, so I took him under my wing for a few years,” says Dumi.
“He had all the ingredients to be a star, I just needed to polish him. I always knew he had commercial potential”
So working together, Dumi helped Tinie get his songs played by influential DJs, and create a strong image to stand behind the singer’s songwriting and rapping skills.
Dumi adds: “It is the same in music as in any other industry. You have to do the public relations, you have to build a buzz. But you can only do this successfully if the person or product is honest.”
In late 2009, and after six of years of hard work and little money, Tinie signed a lucrative record deal with Parlophone, once the home of the Beatles, and today part of global giant, Warner Music.
Hit singles and best-selling albums soon followed for Tinie, who is now 26.
The man with the plan
Today Dumi continues to manage Tinie as part of running a wider business called Disturbing London, of which his friend is a shareholder.
Tinie and Dumi refer to themselves as cousins. Their families are originally from the same place in Nigeria.
The east London-based business now manages seven acts in total, including singer Jessie J and Wiz Kid.
Well known for songs such as Price Tag and Bang Bang, Jessie J used to be signed to a much larger management company, but Dumi says that she switched to him after being impressed with how well he looked after Tinie.
Explaining his management approach and how he earns the industry standard 20% cut of his artists’ earnings, Dumi says he writes out a five-year plan for each of his acts.
“I work out what we need to be doing in each of the five years,” he says.
“And at the start of each [calendar] year I will email each artist a list of bullet points, of what we need to do, such as singles, albums, tours, videos, relationships, perceptions,” he says.
“And I do this from the position of being a fan of each act, I think, what would I want as a fan?”
Although Dumi has had no formal business training, he says he is good at learning as he goes along and thanks his accountant and businessman father and social worker mother, for giving him the confidence and drive to succeed.
But how does he cope with the rough and tumble of the record industry?
“You can’t run a business like mine if you are an idiot. I can be assertive if needed. I do friendly business…I’m doing what I love. ”
“I do everything with a smile. But if people think they can take advantage of my kindness and smile, then more fool them.”