Nobody cares, work harder — this speaks to how your deliverables are YOUR deliverables and if you have agreed to do something or deliver something, save the excuses, just get the job done. It is nobody else’s responsibility to worry about mitigating factors or extenuating circumstances, you are the head of the business and the buck stops with you, so don’t bring excuses to the table.
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ayo Adepoju.
Ayo Adepoju is the founder of We Plug Good Music, a London-based music PR and media company that believes in the power of good music. Starting as a music blog in 2009 before launching its music PR and publicity company in 2012, We Plug Good Music is an innovation borne out of Ayo’s passion for the best new and emerging music. His goal is to revolutionize and democratize the way new music is discovered and consumed to favour new and emerging artists. We Plug Good Music provides a relevant platform, via digital PR and publicity, media and publishing and live events, to promote and raise awareness for the best new music and artists that mainstream spaces often overlook.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria and I’ve always had a passion for music, writing and media, but growing up in Nigeria, there was always this notion that you couldn’t make a living as a creative and an “unwritten rule” not to pursue careers in those spaces, so I went down an academic route to study business at university and international finance for my Master’s in a bid to pursue a career in investment banking. It was during my Master’s Degree that my initial passion for music and writing came back to the forefront and I started We Plug Good Music as a music blog, just to be able to share all the amazing music being released that I wasn’t hearing on the radio or reading in music magazines, and it took on a life of its own from there.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
In 2011, I had been working on We Plug Good Music as a passion project and hobby for two years and it was growing a life of its own as I mentioned earlier. We started curating live concerts and hosting radio shows while publishing two music and culture publications, however I was still headstrong about pursuing a career in investment banking but that just wasn’t happening.
I had probably applied for over 100 graduate and entry roles in banking, I had a few interviews, but nothing was forthcoming, and at the time, I was working in retail to pay the bills and fund the We Plug Good Music projects, while continuing to apply for investment banking jobs. I then lost that retail job and enrolled back in school to get a chartered qualification to improve my chances of getting an investment banking job even further, while still keeping We Plug Good Music in that hobby/passion project/side-hustle box.
And then all of a sudden, some of the artists that we had been featuring on our publications and booking to perform at our live gigs started asking me to help them send their songs and videos to other music publications and media outlets, so I started helping some artists pitch their music to media outlets and magazines to some success.
We did this for about six months, and we were doing it well, getting these artists press coverage and features in magazines and music blogs they probably wouldn’t otherwise have been able to get at the time, essentially being a music publicist / music PR company for them. Then at the start of 2012, I was praying to God and I just said I was going to start charging for this music PR service and go into doing it full time, and if it was God’s will, He should make it good, and He did. That’s how I launched our music PR business full time.
There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
I believe for me, those first few months where I was providing music PR services for artists for free and getting them real tangible press coverage and results turned out to be my proof of concept, but when I put a fee onto the service, it didn’t automatically mean that artists and musician would want to pay us for this service. We just had to be persistent and persevere because that first year was tough.
We knew we were providing an essential and valuable service that artists needed for their career and there were artists out there ready and willing to pay for this service, so we had to find them (we did) and get our message out there, but we definitely also had to stay the course. By God’s grace, after the first year of us providing this new PR service we were charging for, we started getting referrals and word of mouth built around the business.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
My suggestion here leans more conservative but I believe that if you’re currently in a job but you have a hobby/pastime that you love, I always say you should do it for a “part-time” living for example putting in 2–3 hours in the evenings consistently to turn that hobby into an income-generator, alongside your day job until doing both as a living is just not sustainable anymore. One way I would gauge this is if and when the hobby/pastime starts generating enough income for you to quit your day job, or at least comparable income to what you’re making in your day job, this would be a good time to consider going all in with your hobby/pastime.
But then again, even if you don’t have a day job consuming eight hours of your day, perhaps you’re a student or currently not working for any reason but still feel reluctant, I would suggest starting by turning your pastime into a “part-time” business first to test whether or not there is a viable business there, and whether or not you are even cut out for it. Maybe your hobby is just meant to be a hobby, and not a business. I would 100% advise taking the plunge and finding out though.
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
If I’m being honest, there is no getting around this from my experience. Some days it’s just not going to feel fun and I don’t believe there is anything wrong with that. You’re still doing what you love and what you are passionate about, but the stakes are higher and there’s more riding on it now, and I don’t think we should shy away from that, but if the stale and unenjoyable days are piling on, it’s OK to take a break.
It may be burn-out and you just need a reset or a refresh. You also need boundaries to make sure this thing you love that is now your business does not take over your entire life, you should be able to switch off from it and it is not always easy to do so, you may need to hold yourself accountable to other people to make sure you’re keeping those boundaries in place.
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
The thing I enjoy most is the freedom that it provides but, on the flipside, to whom much is given, much is required, and there is a greater responsibility that comes with running your own business, and greater risk. For example, there’s no paycheck waiting for you at the end of the month and the buck stops with you on everything, whether it is your clients’ expectations not being met or your employees not being motivated enough, it lands at your doorstep and there’s no shirking responsibilities.
However, what I like to say is you are in control of it, you get out of it what you put in, and that has helped me in terms of how I’ve overcome these drawbacks. For example, if a client is not happy that certain deliverables are not being met, we can address that straight away, there’s no going up a chain of command, no red tape, no bureaucracy, there’s none of that, we can just get to work.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I grew up with a stammer and for much of my life, I couldn’t say what I wanted to say when I wanted to say it. One of the things that I was afraid of about starting a PR business was having to speak, whether it was speaking to journalists on the phone, in client meetings, group situations or networking events, and whether this would hinder my business from even getting off the ground.
Thanks to God and speech therapy with a brilliant company called Starfish, I don’t have that fear of speaking anymore but the reality is I haven’t needed to speak to that many journalists on the phone. Now just imagine if I had let that fear of what I thought the job would require of me stop me from even starting, what a disaster that would have been. The added bonus is that today I still have a stammer, but I will never let it stop me from saying exactly what I want to say when I want to say it, because of the excellent techniques I’ve learnt from the Starfish course and support group.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so, how did you overcome it?
In that first year, there were probably a lot of those moments purely because of the perceived “security” of a job and that month-to-month paycheck but I quickly snapped out of it each time. We loved what we were doing and yes, some days and months were tough, but we had that freedom I was talking about before. We were getting strong PR results for the clients we did have, and God was blessing our work, so we kept going.
I also believe it’s all about perspective for me. In speech therapy we learnt about ‘negative automatic thoughts’ and how, if left to develop, they can lead to negative speech behaviour and also affect your physiology and emotion. I think for me in business, I tried to not let these negative thoughts fester or develop, I talked to myself, I challenged those thoughts, and I changed my perspective.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made, although it wasn’t funny at the time, was getting the release date for a client’s record wrong. I don’t know what it was, but I had a mental freeze and for some reason, I had it in my head all week long that their record was coming out the next week, when it was actually being released in that week, and it wasn’t until the actual release day that I realized I had my dates all wrong.
We ended up working through the night on the release day and into the weekend to make sure all our press targets knew the record was out on that day and not the next week. We did salvage the press campaign and delivered a strong outreach for the client but that was such a blunder on my part. The main lessons I learnt were I had to start writing everything down, everyone on the team had to know all the release dates going forward, and I had to make sure we had better processes in place to make sure this never happened again.
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
I think great leadership is all about service — service to your family, service to your community, service to your organization and service to society. To that end, the people that continue to inspire me are the likes of GaryVee, Craig Groeschel of Life Church in Texas and Joseph Nwani of Jesus House in London, because of how they serve the people around them selflessly.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I was thinking about this question a lot and I think for me right now, I am making the world a better place by serving the community I have been put here to serve. That community is new and emerging artists and musicians, and the service is making sure, to the best of my ability, that they get the recognition and visibility that they deserve and need for their music, so that their music and art can hopefully serve, inspire and change the world. To that end, everything we are doing at We Plug Good Music is geared towards giving the new and emerging artist a louder voice in the world.
As the avenues we have at our disposal to do the above have become more successful, the reach we have been able to provide our community of new and emerging artists has become wider. I believe music has the potential to change our worlds and GaryVee said something once that I always quote, “the best product will always win… when people know about it”. For these artists that are making amazing music that needs to be heard, we want to continue to play our part by making sure more and more people hear it and more of our world is enriched by their music.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
The two things that comes to mind are:
1. Nobody cares, work harder — this speaks to how your deliverables are YOUR deliverables and if you have agreed to do something or deliver something, save the excuses, just get the job done. It is nobody else’s responsibility to worry about mitigating factors or extenuating circumstances, you are the head of the business and the buck stops with you, so don’t bring excuses to the table.
2. The best product will always win ONLY if people know about it — this has taught me not to be shy or hesitant about shouting about our wins and victories, and about what we are doing well.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
My wife has a passion for helping the homeless and making sure we as a society should provide homes for every homeless person, which has left a huge impression on me, so any movement I can think of would be geared towards that. If I could inspire a movement, it would be a movement of everyone that comes across this interview giving money to their local charities that help to provide housing for homeless people. Some charities in the UK that you could look into donating to are St. Mungo’s, Depaul UK and Centrepoint.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favourite life lesson quotes comes from Psalm 37:5, which says, “Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you” and it reminds me to always put my trust in God no matter the situation, and to commit all my moves to Him. The other is “We go again” and it helps to keep me going. No matter what happens today, get some rest and we go again tomorrow!
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
It would have to be GaryVee, even though he has already given so much game and information on his YouTube channel, I’d still choose him. GaryVee has been one of the most influential business voices to me on my journey in the past few years, it would be great to have a deep dive conversation with him about what we’re doing at We Plug Good Music and get some of his perspective.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
Thank you for giving me the space and platform to share some of my thoughts.