Today on Abibi’s diary is Kehinde Ariyo popularly known as DJSOUPAMODEL, the 1st female DJ from the continent of Africa. She is the Founder & CEO of Emmy and Grammy Award Winning Music Blvd Group, one of the fastest growing independent production music library and publisher for film, television, radio, and commercials providing the most diverse, undiluted, and exceptional QUALITY of production music and composition.
Music Blvd’s film, TV and music productions has been used in projects for Viacom Networks, Disney, MTV, CBS, BET Networks, CNN Films, ESPN etc. Till date, her company has worked with artists like Wale, Day 26, MiMs, Wyclef, Jason Derulo, BeenieMan, Wizkid, and many more.
Tell us, who is Kehinde Ariyo?
Thanks for having me. Kehinde is a Wife to an amazing man, mother to two wonderful boys, and the Founder of Music Blvd Group.
Tell us about your journey to becoming Africa’s 1st female DJ.
Well, it wasn’t a bed of roses to say the least. At that time, the african culture was not so open or receptive to women in the entertainment industry. Deejaying was a craft on its own that was 100% male dominated at that time, and coming in as a female had its challenges. I must say I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Looking back now, those challenges did help shape who I am today, and who I was along the journey. It made me strive to become the best and give 110% at every single performance. I was expected to fail but I took that energy and made it beneficial to me. Practiced day and night, determined to be the best. Well, the rest is history now! See how the industry is so receptive to female DJs now and knowing I had a lot to do with it gives me nothing but joy. It’s exciting.
When and how did you start Music Blvd (Boulevard) Group?
I started Music Blvd Group in 2000. At that time, my thought process was to have a music production company, geared towards producing for main stream artists and their platforms.
Wow! What exactly is Music Blvd all about?
Music Blvd Group, with its primary location in Downtown Los Angeles California, is one of the fastest growing Music Licensing Company, and prominent go-to hub for Urban Music for use in film and TV. We are known in the industry as the provider of quality, up-to-date, and authentic Urban Music. Our clients vary from the top production companies such as 20th Century Fox, Viacom, LionsGate, Apple, and music more. Recently, we expanded from licensing music in the U.S to 44 other countries, making it 45 in total.
Congratulations! You’re really doing a great job with Music Blvd Group. Tell us, what drives you?
These are several things that should motivate and drive anyone to chase after a passion and dream.
The most important one for me is Self fulfillment. We all have talents, at least one. The worst thing you could ever do to yourself is going to the grave, not fulfilling that talent. Passion? That would always come, as it’s a given when you do what you love. I’ve had my own share of the cooperate world, working at giant companies like PWC as an Accountant. Regardless of how good my career was or how great my salary was, I didn’t feel fulfilled. I wanted to wake up everyday with excitement. I wanted to work 25 hours a day 8 days a week without complaining, because I was doing what I LOVE to do. The financial benefit is a given. When you do something wholeheartedly, with a strategic plan, and timeline to fulfill it, trust me, you would make it work!
What have you learned this year that you think every forward-looking young people should know?
Stay around “like minded” individuals as yourself. Your mind and aspirations are only as good as your environment. This sounds cliché’ but very true. You need passionate, driven, and motivated friends around you, and not the ones that want to party all the time. I used to think I was missing out in life, most especially in college when I didn’t go to all the parties. As a matter of fact, I was labelled an outcast. I guess been a successful outcast now, isn’t such a bad idea now
Starting young is the key to success. It takes a while to build a successful business as you would run into challenges and roadblocks along the way. The earlier you start, the better. How do you start? Just start! There’s no formula to starting. Wake up one day, and start. Research, study the craft, network, and have a good attitude always. That would take you far.
Lastly, get an internship or mentor in the field of business you plan to pursue. It would help shape you. You also learn from the experience or their experience. That’s the best possible way to learn.
What aspect of your background or education has been most helpful to your experience as a DJ and young CEO?
Education wise, I would say finances. I majored in Accounting and that has helped a great deal. You need to know your numbers, budgets, balances, expenses, etc. It’s a great deal to every successful company. You have to stay on top of your finances.
What would you describe as your secret formula for success as a DJ and an entrepreneur?
Be focused and know the end result you plan to achieve from the beginning. Have foresight. Know that all these fun you chase after now is really not going anywhere. Focus on building now, and aiming at having a great future. I see a lot of friends I had back in college now, still working a regular 9-5, and extremely unhappy. While there isn’t anything wrong with choosing a 9-5 career path, at some point in life, you find yourself asking this question. “Is this really all I was born to do in life”? Trust me, you don’t want to find yourself at the end of this yard stick.
What do you have to say about Nigeria music industry?
Nigerian Music and Nigerian Music Industry are two separate topics. Nigerian Music is definitely on the rise. Infact, it is at its peak, not only in Nigeria or Africa, but in the world as a whole. It’s finally crossing over and becoming mainstream.
Nigerian Music Industry is not quite there yet. Now if you’re talking about the economic value, yes it’s in a good place.
Administratively and structurally, it needs tons of work. The Rights Administrative Arm responsible for Copyright holders to earn royalties is not quite functional and proper documentation as required for any given creative is not up to par. This needs to change. See, the secret to any artist or music content maker’s longevity in music, is the foundation. Most of these people don’t have that. They are not collecting their royalties. That’s the retirement plan right there. That’s the security to making and earning now, and long after their careers are no longer at its peak. These things need to change. (Been on the other side of the turf and seeing how the structure is mind blowing.) I’ve spoken at several conferences on this topic and recently spoke at one, catered to the African Audience in Africa. I would love to do more of those. They need to be educated. Send me invites. Let’s make it happen.
Which living person do you admire the most and why?
I have several mentors. I have folks like Missy Elliott, who helped shape me as a producer, been a female producer as well, that goes a long way. I have mentors who are giants in the music licensing space that are still very much involved in my career path. Last but not the least would be my husband. He’s primarily in the IT space and runs his own company. He has helped shape my thinking and focus. He’s very fearless and driven. That has helped me a great deal.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I’ve had several milestones that I can’t even mention just one.
The most recent ones would be my appointment as a Grammy Governor for the Grammy DC Chapter, and the 5 Emmy Nominations for Music Blvd’s work in Better Call Saul. It’s pretty exciting. I was also chosen by Patti Labelle to represent Africa at the Soul Train Awards in 2014. Also been a BET and Grammy DJ is fulfilling.
How do you personally define success?
Doing what you love to do, what you’re talented at doing, and making a living off of it.
What kind of legacy do you want to leave?
I want to inspire. I want anyone out there reading this to know that anything is possible if you set your mind to it, and GIVE IT YOUR ALL. It’s not cliché, it’s very possible. I was once that girl who was told I wouldn’t amount to anything, or what I was trying to do was impossible, because it was/has never been done before. Your background and ethnicity should never define you. Yes you might have to work harder than others. Well guess what, all fingers are not equal. Do what you have to do. Wake up everyday and do it. Do it over and over and OVER again. That’s the key. I hope my story inspires you.
Do you have any advice for young/aspiring entrepreneurs?
Stay focused. Fun is not going anywhere. You would have all the fun in life once you’re made. Focus on the goal at hand for now. Even the bible says “your latter days shall be better than your former”. Choose your friends wisely. This can make or break you. Have a plan. Write it down. Secure a mentor and shadow them. Experience is the best teacher. Have a good attitude. No one likes to work with someone with a bad attitude. It’s a huge turn off. Most importantly, enjoy the journey so you can have a story to tell.