By Yemisi Suleiman
Concert promoter extraordinaire and CEO of Upfront and Personal Global Management, Paul Okoye fondly referred to as Paul O by close associates, is credited with establishing the biggest Afro beats concerts in Nigeria and the United States of America. After discovering his career path at a very early stage in life, he incorporated his company, Upfront and Personal Global Management (UPGMC) in the UK in 2001, in Nigeria in 2008 and subsequently, in the US in 2016 with sole aim of offering world class business and consultancy.
With over 30 years in the media and entertainment business, UPGMC has made its mark as a leading global management consultancy with specialty in public relations, media buying, celebrity endorsement and event management and creation, offering holistic business and brand solutions for all sectors of business across Nigeria and Globally. As a PR mogul, Paul O, has made his mark by representing companies top companies in Telecommunications, airways, bottling companies.
As he clocks 50 today, Paul O in this encounter, talks about life, business, journey to the top, family and more.
Congratulations on turning 50. How does it feel to be 50?
I never felt younger, I guess 50 is the new 30.
Would you say you have achieved your dreams in life?
I am content with my accomplishments, but dreaming is an everyday cycle. As long as I live, I hope to continue to dream, conceive and achieve.
How did you get into the entertainment industry? How did the journey to Upfront and Personal begin?
It began with a dream and a soft loan from my mother, an amount so small, but has yielded so much. What helped me was my imagination, my determination and the trust and support of my mother.
How long have you been in the business?
Anyone who knows me, knows I have been in business from the day I was born, my hard work started from day one and saw many failures before success.
Describe your first experience in the concert promotion business?
It was an extremely difficult task, with so many moving pieces. I have to extend the credit to my incredible team. It’s amazing how spectacular each show turns out, considering all the issues that are overcome behind the scene. I’d like to thank my team for this.
You have been holding the annual Black Tie event since 2006. What exactly is it about and what inspired it?
From a very early stage, I realized that gratitude is the surest way to secure sincere loyalty. Corporate Elite was created as a platform for the various corporate sponsors to say thank you to their friends, families, patrons and employees for the successes of the past year.
Would you say the aim for which it was set up has been fulfilled?
My aims are tied into my never ending dreams, and no one knows what tomorrow holds. However, I think one can say the original aim has definitely been fulfilled.
Recently, you launched the One Africa Music Fest (OAMF) which has held in the US, UK, are you looking to replicate the concert here in Nigeria anytime soon?
Well, the UK is yet to come and I can tell you now that if you enjoyed the US events, OAMF London, is going to be mind blowing. The line up is phenomenal. Even I, am counting down to see the show. I told my staff that this one, I’m going to be sitting in the front row enjoying the show. I will not go back stage this time. By the way, get your tickets now. I heard that we have already sold out most sections. But to answer the question, the OAMF platform, was created to export the diverse african cultures to foreign markets. I think we already have similar events to OAMF here in Nigeria. Just know that if OAMF comes to the motherland, just look forward to the biggest show of all times. It would have to be an Epic performance. “ONE AFRICA”, will bring an end to entertainment as you now know and bring in a new era of entertaiment. Please stop putting ideas in my head.
Your company does handle some top brands in Nigeria. How did you get them to endorse you?
Relationship, understanding of the brands and returns. All these elements are key to engaging brands. Learn about your brand investors and their goals, tailor your services to be in line with their targets and make sure you secure the necessary returns. Never get too comfortable, there is always someone waiting to take your spot.
Can you describe your best moment (s) of your career so far?
My career is tied in very closely to my personal life. As such, my greatest moments in life has to be the birth of my daughter and son and watching them grow every single day. They are truly my inspiration.
What does it take to be a successful concert promoter?
Success as a promoter can be measured from so many different angles. For me, my goal is to go places where no one else has gone before; to do something new, create a new market, a new audience, to change the trend and breakdown barriers: like convincing the Barclays to hold an Afrobeats event, or like getting a top US radio station to play and include Afrobeats in their regular mainstream play rotation for the first time.
If you had to do it over again, would you choose this career again?
I have to finish this life first, before I think about what I would do next time around, as I still have so much to do in this life. It’s too premature to make that determination.
You’ve dealt with so many established artists. Do you have any advice for musicians on the rise?
Be humble and respectful on your way up. It’s the only way to guarantee longevity in this industry.
What makes bands and solo artists easy to work with?
The relationship with every artist or band is different, just like our sponsors, I study every artist, every band. I always try my best to learn about the people I am working with and that way, we can have a meaningful relationship. We are upfront and personal in everything we do and that approach has helped us with our day to day relationships with the various artists.
What is the worst thing a band has done to you (as a promoter that is)?
One thing about being upfront and personal, we earn the trust of our artists and bands, part of that is not putting out their dirty laundry. So let’s just say everyone we have worked with over the years, have assisted in one way or the other in making Upfront & Personal who we are today.
What is your top tip for an artist?
Humility and respect, there is no reinvention of the wheel, just different ways of spinning it. You will learn a lot from your predecessors if you humble yourself and show some respect. You may even learn how to avoid some of their mistakes and traps that line this industry.
Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
My mother, she believed in me, when no one else did. She never doubted or faltered.
Tell us about your growing up years, where you were born, educational background and fun memories of your childhood?
I was born and, spent my early years in Nigeria before relocating to London. I came from a very loving and hard-working family. I remain very close with my siblings and my family and as you may be aware, most of my siblings are either full time or part time employees or consultants for Upfront and Personal. Most of my education comes directly from my many life experiences, plus I have too many memories, so that would have to be an entirely different interview.
How do you take time off to relax?
I enjoy my work, I am fortunate to have the ability to relax as I’m working. I also like to hand out with friends for a good time.
What would you say life has thought you at 50?
Life has taught me that I have so much more to learn. You think you know everything, but everyday, you learn something new.
Where is your best holiday destination?
It would be New York at Christmas. The Christmas tree and lights at the Rockefeller Center is truly amazing.
At 50, what would you say is the best advice you have received that has so far worked for you?
Be humble, show respect and be grateful for every little blessing that comes your way.
What are the plans for Upfront & Personal this year?
As you know, we are a global event/PR / Media buying company and, we look forward to replicate more of our services to distant parts of the world. Build stronger relationships between clients/brands while maintaining our goal- which is to offer world-class business and consultancy.