The Plug, as described on its website is an entertainment company that offers music management, music publishing, music licensing, and music distribution services but it goes beyond that for two of the biggest names in Nigerian music. For the founders Bizzle Osikoya and Asa Asika, The Plug was created to build a legacy. The company’s roster boasts of one of the biggest African exports in Davido, four-time African Women’s Player of the Year Asisat Oshoala, Ckay whose “Love Nwantiti” has emerged as the biggest Nigerian record across the globe, Mayorkun, Henry Onyekuru, Ajebo Hustlers, Jinmi Abduls & more. With this enviable list, legacy is a word that can be placed in the same sentence as the visionaries Asa and Bizzle.
Asa’s music background, natural ability to form relationships and eye for spotting and grooming talents has made him one of the biggest personalities in management in contemporary Nigerian music. He grew up in a music and entertainment environment and he began organizing parties while getting his secondary education at Whitesands Secondary School. High school parties became club parties and electrifying social gatherings that attracted some of the biggest names in the industry.
Asa’s natural ability to form relationships was key to developing a friendship that matured into a professional relationship with one of Africa’s biggest ever acts. His role in Davido’s success and evolution into an intercontinental superstar can’t be overemphasized. When Asa Asika parted ways with Davido things were notably different for the superstar as Asa was an ace up his sleeve. On January 31st, 2017, Davido tweeted “Welcome back yellow man @AsaAsika! BACK TO BASIC!” The result is what has been regarded as the most incredible run in a calendar year. At the 2017 Headies Awards, Davido had two tracks nominated for Song of the Year after a blistering run.
Bizzle is appropriately nicknamed “The Plug,” as expected, being the most connected middleman in Afrobeats will earn you such description. A description which was adopted by the company he co-founded with long-time friend Asa Asika. Today, Bizzle is a lot more than the Number One Guy who has a guy for everything in Afrobeat. He leads The Plug for which he has the ambitious dream of making it Nigeria’s foremost hub for the best talents in music, sports, movies, and art.
Bizzle, born Abiodun Osikoya, foray into music started with a specialty that was rare in the early 2000s – creating Myspace pages for artistes and sharing their cover arts on Facebook.
Bizzle got his first music job at Storm 360 Records, owned by Asa’s uncle at the time. He handled social media and doubled as Naeto C’s road manager (Asa’s cousin). He later worked with Don Jazzy at Mo’Hits records, starting as a digital marketer and then dabbling into A&R, a skill for which is widely respected. During his time at Mo’Hits, he developed a close relationship with Don Jazzy which informed his decision to join him at Mavin Records after Mo’hits disintegrated in 2012.
It was only a matter of time before Bizzle branched out on his own and that he did in 2016 by starting a company he called B entertainment. A trip to Roc Nation office was the birth of The Plug after a colleague of theirs suggested that Asa and Bizzle merged their companies (Asa was at the time building a new company he called Stargaze Entertainment).
On the 13th May 2021, TurnTable Charts had exchanged a couple of emails with an assistant from The Plug and 2 PM was jointly agreed as the time for the interview. Asa was in America, Bizzle was in Lagos, and David was in Abuja and we intended on bringing all three actors together via zoom call in what we excitedly expected to be a fun interview.
If the early signs were to go by, it wasn’t promising as the network made a hatchet job of the 2 PM zoom call. Apologies were offered to our interviewees and we had to reschedule for 8 PM.
Bizzle was the first of the three to join the zoom call at the stroke of 8 PM. Almost immediately, he was joined by Asa and David. There was a background sound from Bizzle’s end and after a few seconds of determining what it was, it turned out to be the commentary of the premier league matchday. As it turned out, Manchester United was playing Liverpool at Old Trafford and this made it clear that any form of network wavering would be greatly inconvenient.
After Bizzle attempted to answer a question after been asked the question for the fourth time because of the horrible network, it was concluded that a virtual interview won’t cut it. At least not today when a larger part of Bizzle’s attention was devoted to the game. We were embarrassed by the situation and for the second time that day, we offered apologies. The embarrassment of successive failed zoom meetings was made easier by the kind understanding of our interviewees and the promise of a fantastic football game.
Sadly, that day was the only successful attempt to jointly get all three on a zoom call. Due to varying circumstances, two of the trio were altogether impossible to interview. At the end of the day, it was Asa Asika who was able to get on the end of a zoom call and give TurnTable Charts an insight into The Plug.
TTC: Tell us a brief history of how you and Bizzle met?
Asa: Bizzle and I met around 2007 and 2008 when he moved back to Nigeria. My uncle convinced him to move back to Nigeria and work with his company. So I met Bizzle when he was working with my uncle.
TTC: Did you guys have a close relationship from the start?
Asa: Bizzle looked out for me the most. I was one of the youngest guys there. He was the one who understood me the most. He would sneak me into the club so I didn’t miss any event. Picked me up and dropped me at home. He would let me know when I messed up too. I met him when I was in secondary school.
TTC: So how did that relationship grow to become what is now The Plug today?
Asa: Bizzle and I have done a million things together. It usually something like “Bizzle, come I need your help on something” and likewise Bizzle would say “I need your help with this thing, how do I go about it?” At one point, one of our older colleagues advised us to bring our companies together and just call it The Plug. So we were like why don’t we do just that. Then went on to register The Plug in 2016. We are in year 5 so far so good.
TTC: What was the goal for the plug when you guys started?
Asa: When we started, we wanted to provide solutions for issues in the entertainment space. We were not actually focused on managing artists, to be honest. We were more focused on the digital side of things; distribution, publishing, licensing. That was where our mind was at in the beginning. When we merged into what became the Plug, I wasn’t working with David. But when we merged and started working with David, we had to add Talent Management to the mix. And since then, we have added more arms; Branding, Sports. Slowly but surely.
For The Plug, what started as a music distribution and publishing company has grown into a brand and event management, touring consultants and managers, sports management, and many more in the five years of the company.
TTC: Are there other partners in the business?
Asa: No. Bizzle and I own the company but we have partnerships for certain departments. For example, the sports department is headed by my good friend Lanre, he is our partner in the sports department. Likewise in the distribution department, David Edogame. He runs our music and distribution department. We are very focused on giving people the opportunity to do things on their thing. So everything is more of a partnership than an employer/employee relationship.
We want a situation in which in a few years people can stand on their own. For example, you can look at the case of Sam Phrank who manages Mayorkun. Another is Dami, who owns Dapper (a music distribution company in Nigeria). Dami used to work in our distribution department before he opened his shop with Dapper.
So that’s really my thing. The idea is to leave a legacy that goes beyond money. We want to leave a legacy where they can make money by themselves – I’m not talking about salary. I guess we all grow together.
TTC: How influential has your background been on your career path?
Asa: It is a gift and a curse because sometimes I walk into a room and people are like that’s Obi’s nephew and I just get negativity off of that. Obviously, my background has helped me because it has opened a few doors for me. But today, it has been more of my work than my background because, at the end of the day, people would not want to work with me and continue to work with me if they haven’t seen the value I bring to them.
It’s been 12-13 years now and you can’t tell me I still use my uncle’s rep to work [smiles]
TTC: Would you consider yourself a crossover specialist?
Asa: Err…no I wouldn’t because funny enough, the reason I was late for this interview, I’m in Atlanta at the moment and I just finished a call with someone about how we could do better. I feel like I have contributed to the era of Nigerian artistes crossing over but I don’t think I’m a specialist. Let me do it five times before you can call me a specialist.
TTC: You said 5 times right, how many would you say you have done so we can keep count?
Asa: First, what would you count as a crossover?
TTC: Davido of course is everywhere in the world now, so that already counts. I think Mayorkun too would fall into the bracket.
Asa: Well, we have to define cross-over first before we can start dropping names. Because if that’s the case you can throw Ayo Jay because Ayo has a single that went gold in the US.
Asa’s talent for spotting and working with talents was key to convincing Davido to ditch producing to become a recording artist. It was valuable in securing former clients such as R2bees, BOJ, D’banj as well as landing Ayo Jay a gold plaque in the United States, and also assisting Davido to cross into the international market for which he has two gold plaques in the US to show for it.
TTC: Was Ayo Jay the first?
Asa: Nah, David was the first. But yeah I don’t think I am a specialist. I pride myself on constantly learning and asking questions. I am not too proud to ask. Not too ashamed to ask. That’s why I am always in meetings. It could be about what you learn from the person.
TTC: What’s the artist discovery strategy for the plug?
Asa: There isn’t a strategy per se. Artistes come to us in different ways. Like a relationship with David. I didn’t discover David, I heard about David when I was in school. In the case of Oxlade, somebody introduced us to him. Ckay was already a popping artist before I discovered him, I had no idea who Ckay was and then boom, I started hearing mad music. Sometimes I find artist off of social media. I find artiste listening to Playlist on DSP. I find artist attending industry-wise events and other similar events. I have found producers like when we have writers’ camps.
TTC: So basically what works for one artist might not work for another?
Asa: Yeah. One thing I can tell you is that I have never found an artist via email before. I get tons of emails every day, but I wouldn’t come out one day and say I found an artist based on an email.
TTC: So do you have Plug for Sports, Event Management, for Sports, and all of that. When did you guys realize that we can branch into other parts of entertainment?
Asa: We always knew that we were going to do other things aside from music. But with Sports, it definitely took a lot of convincing. You know how it goes right, you will never be ready, and you just have to start. So we just decided to start. Our first year was pretty tough because of Covid. This was because they were not doing anything in Sports. So the first year pretty much didn’t exist. 2020, 2021 was better. 2021 was much better. Things are going back to normal.
TTC: Are there other parts of entertainment that you haven’t touched and you would like to?
Asa: Of course. I mean right now, we are pretty much focused on Music and sports. And with sports mostly football at the moment. But with sports, there is much more we can do; there is basketball, swimming, etc. And with entertainment, we haven’t dabbled into movies yet. We haven’t dabbled into Art yet. There is a lot of other stuff we can do. Yeah, just one at a time. We don’t want a situation where we are doing 10 things at a time and struggling with it. It’s always better to be doing 5 things and be good at all 5.
TTC: Right now, where would you describe The Plug, like where you guys are after five years?
Asa: We are not where we used to be. We have gone a long way. Covid-19 pandemic helped us a lot to reassess our business, make some changes, cut off things we didn’t need, and expand on places we needed to. We are in a good place. I am very excited about what this year and next year have for us.
So, in the two years that TurnTable Charts has released End of the Year Charts, Davido has emerged as the No. 1 Top Artiste in the country in both 2020 and 2021 owing to the volume of music he released in those years. On the weekly TurnTable Top 50 that was launched on November 9, 2020, the artiste has the most entries on the chart with 30 – no other artiste has more than 20.
This question is regarding you as the manager of one of the biggest artist. How would you describe Davido’s Streaming Strategy?
Asa: I can’t really say. First things first, with music and streaming, the most important thing with music is having good music. The second thing is timing, how you put it out, and the strategy behind it. You have to remember there is more than one DSPs. With every artist, some DSPs favor them more than others. You might pitch to get support on Audiomack, or Spotify, or Apple Music for example, and not get everything you asked for. So it is more about using what you have; your social media. It is not like I can walk up to Apple Music and tell them to give me a banner and Apple Music has to give me the banner. There is only so much they can do every week or every day. The major thing with support from DSPs is early pitching. After having good music as well, it is early pitching. Timing is everything with DSP support.
If you start pitching late and they already committed to Mr. X, it is not like they would remove him because of you, it rarely happens.
TTC: How does managing an artist like Davido and his known rivalries rub off on your relationship with other artists.
Asa: of course that’s normal. Unfortunately for us, in our industry, we have a lot of sensitive and insecure people. I don’t see reasons why I can’t get along with other people. But some people are insecure about the fact that David is David and I am David’s manager. But for me, I am cool with everybody. It happens to everybody.
TTC: Going back to The Plug, what is the plan for you at the end of the day, is it a mass-market approach where the Plug is available to every artist regardless of their status, or is it a company that’s more focused on A-list and established artists?
Asa: We are not built on A-list artists. We work with all kinds of artists. If you check our rooster, we have artists of all tiers. Look at it now, we work with Oxlade, Jimmy Abdul, Davido, Ckay, Ajebo Hustlers – all these people are not on the same level.
Some of them we started working with before you guys knew who they were. So it is not about your status, it is more about a working relationship. You have to remember that you don’t connect with everyone. So it is more about the relationship we can build, how we see ourselves working together, and the common goals. But obviously, we would love a situation where all our clients are A-list artists.
TTC: How do you think Nigerian music can build a sustainable ecosystem that is independent of a few artists but more of the entire industry as a whole?
Asa: We need to address our publishing and royalty collection system because, at the end of the day, that’s the most important thing. Not every artist is a performing artist, not every artist wants to perform, not every artist wants to be on the road 24/7. Some want to only 3 or 4 times a year. We see that happen in other parts of the world.
At the end of the day, this is a job. Everybody wants to make an income from it, you don’t have a situation whereby you are waiting on your phone to ring or the annual show you do and stuff like that.
There are so many artists I know in Nigeria, that if we had a structure, they wouldn’t be performing artists. Some of them would like to be songwriters, some of them would still be only be recording artists and still book as many shows
TTC: Publishing and Royalty collection is something we definitely need to work better on. Finally what do you think about Turntable Charts as a music chart and media publication as a whole?
Asa: To me, you are doing something that hasn’t been done in our part of the world which is amazing, and kudos for that. Hopefully, you guys can grow and stay relevant and take it to the next level where we can use TurnTable Charts as the benchmark for the success of records and artists.