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Matthew Ohio… Ten Years Of Propelling Industry Nite

A scene from the Industry Nite show in Lagos

Unlike many, who would prefer to be on the spotlight, Matthew Ohio is a behind the scene guy. Even with the growing popularity of Industry Nite, a platform he founded years ago for upcoming acts to not only showcase their talent, but to also to meet and network with top players in the industry, this Edo State native remains self-effacing, even as he continued to break new grounds. Notwithstanding, his works speak volume.

“Naturally, I’m a shy person; I don’t like being at the forefront. Besides, based on my orientation, I just believe that when you are not at the forefront, you have less distraction, which helps you focus. A lot of people like to be in the limelight, but that puts your under pressure,” he said in an interview with Guardian Music.

For the CEO of El’Carnaval, organisers of Industry Nite, seeking cheap popularity is a ‘no, no’ for not just himself but also for his team members.

“If I wanted to be ‘Mr. Popular’, I would have done so, but I’m just happy letting the few people who matter know me. Right now, I can take a walk on the street without any issue and still be able to hang out with my celebrity friends.”

Meanwhile, if you are the type that gets carried away by flashy and celebrity lifestyle, then Ohio is not the best boss for you.

“That means you won’t be able to work with me,” he quipped, adding, “I have a lot of celebrities around me all the time, so, you can’t really focus working with me. In fact, generally, if you get distracted by things like that in this industry, as a man or woman, you can’t go far,” he noted.

Born January 23, Matthew Ohio is a show promoter, concert producer and a human right advocate. A Communications graduate of the Olabisi Onabanjo University, he founded El’Carnaval in July 2008 as an entertainment company with core focus on concerts production, experiential marketing, production management, touring and artist booking. Since its inception, the outfit has created events and concerts for leading brands such as MTN Nigeria, Remy Martin, Glenfiddich, Diageo, Hennessy, MTV Base and also responsible for the highly celebrated Felabration Concert in Lagos.

Ohio’s first major project was the 2face & Friends Tour in 2007 sponsored by MTN Nigeria, which he handled under his outfit DOJOES Management Limited. The project, which toured major campuses in Nigeria, was an opportunity for young talents to share same stage with established acts like 2Face, D’Banj, Faze and others.

“After that tour, I thought of creating a smaller platform to give young talents the opportunity to showcase themselves, without basically looking for an MTN to sponsor it. I was particular about all those talents that wanted to perform during the 2face & Friends Tour; I wanted a platform where people can come and have access to perform. At that time, the industry was largely ‘man know man,’ so, I needed a platform where only your talent will sort you out,” he recalled.

Right from the maiden edition at the Coconut groove lounge, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, featuring May D and singer Ibiyemi, with The Biners on the bandstand, the project got massive reception. And with the support of 2Face Idibia, who put his brand behind the initiative, it didn’t take long before it became an instance success.

“We started doing it every Wednesday in clubs then; it wasn’t that expensive to host and the clubs needed content. From the first edition, the reception was great; it appeared a lot of people were already looking forward to such platforms.”

Ten years after, the project has become one of the most vibrant entertainment platforms in the country. Aside serving as a launch pad for fresh talents, it has also become a useful tool for established acts to sample their works and connect with fans.

For instance, Industry Nite was the first ever show Tiwa Savage held a microphone upon returning to Nigeria to pursue her solo career. The same platform also created the opportunity for 2face to discover Dammy Krane and eventually signed him on his Hypertek Music. The likes of CDQ met Master Kraft on Industry Nite, while Burner Boy also introduced himself to Lagos audience on the platform. Just recently, Falz gave kudos to the brand live on stage at his show held at Terra Kulture, for playing a major role in his music career.

“Because of my relationship, people gave us a lot of attention. With people like 2face, Sound Sultan, Olisa Adibua, Jimmy Jatt… a lot of them started coming because them too were like, ‘this is what we need.’ So, it has been growing till now,” he said.

Though there had been some interesting editions of Industry Nite, the special edition organised in memory of the late rapper Dagrin remains a major highpoint in the history of the music project.

“Unfortunately, it was somebody’s death; he had performed on the show six weeks before he died. His wake keep was an Industry Nite kind of thing; that was the same night that people really noticed Wizkid. A lot of people performed that day, from General Pype to Dr Sid, Don Jazzy, the Storm Records guys, Olisa Adibua… everybody in the industry was there. So, I think that’s the one that really showed that the project had arrived. Everybody came grieving, all dressed in black. We’ve had so many highpoints though, but that one in particular was great,” he said.

Wizkid’s first appearance on Industry Nite, according to Ohio, was yet another landmark edition.

“That one, Oriental Hotel got a query from Lagos State. It happened that the whole board of Access Bank was in the hotel for their retreat, but because the crowd was too much, we started bouncing people from the gate; my bouncers bounced the MD and directors of Access Bank. Again, people packed from Oriental up to 1004 Estate; there was traffic everywhere. The next morning, Lagos State Government queried the hotel; that was the day I met the owner of Oriental Hotel.”

He continued: “The Mavin launch was definitely a bid one. After the whole D’banj and Don jazzy wahala, they now launched Mavin at Industry Nite; that one was definitely a highpoint. The Davido’s Night, 2face’s Album launch listening… we’ve had so many of them,” he enthused.

Notwithstanding his success stories, Ohio is not carried away by the fame that comes with the project.

“I could have been carried away and started feeling too big; taking pictures and following 2face up and down, but I’m not cut out for that. Again, because people didn’t even know me, they were able to assess the event for what it is and not about who is behind it. I mean, sometime, people will be talking about me and I will be sitting down beside them.”

Having been on this journey, Ohio has learned a lot of lessons.

“I’m still learning, but I think one thing I’ve learned on this journey is perseverance; you just have to keep doing it, keep it going. Not everybody will like you, not everybody will appreciate what you’ve done. Because you’ve helped people, don’t expect them to be forever grateful; don’t expect too much from people. And when you help people, don’t always expect them to pay back. Humility is very important, don’t get carried away by your position. I see a lot of artistes, you call them to come and perform, they will tell you, ‘bros, I no get time.’ Six months later, they are calling you; their songs are no hot anymore, they are looking for you. So, humility is key on both sides,” he admonished.

Looking back at what the project has achieved so far, he said, ‘I feel happy and proud of what we’ve done; I’m now more confident in trying to help people. Then, it was trial and error, but now, I feel I actually have the ability to help artistes grow. I’m more confident that I can impact young people; I can help them grow their talent. I’m just trying to see how I can give back to the society that made me,” he said.

Ohio

As part of his give back initiative, Ohio recently unveiled the MAAHT Foundation (Music Assembly Against Human Trafficking) in collaboration with NAPTIP, with a concert in Abuja by Falz The Bahdguy. The movement is a global assembly of musicians and entertainment industry professionals committed to ending human trafficking in Nigeria.

“I’m from Edo State; I travel a lot. Everywhere I go, I see Nigerians in a very bad situation, mostly because they are in that country illegally or they’ve been trafficked. As an African creative, you don’t have that luxury of being too materialistic and flaunting your success and wealth amid so much poverty and suffering. I think everybody should try to make contributions in any little way; use your platform to make changes.”

He continued: “A lot of people, who are being trafficked are young people, so, I’m trying to use music to tell them there’s no need to travel illegally. I want to find ways of giving people opportunity within the music industry and raising awareness about human trafficking. We are partnering with NAPTIP and we are going to be doing a lot of awareness campaigns and shows. Of course, 2face is involved. You know, this human trafficking thing is serious; it has refused to go. So, we are using our platform to create awareness and raise finance to support people like that,” he said.

Right now, Ohio is focused on getting Nigerian and African artistes to toured the continent and connect with their fans.

“Nigerian and African artistes are touring around the world, but they are not touring Nigeria and Africa. So, we want to create the platform for our artistes to tour the continent. If you look at the likes of Wizkid and Davido, they are touring more outside than here; it’s not their fault, the right structures are not in place. We know what the structures are and we are trying to build it. You cannot do music without touring and you cannot have an industry without touring. We should be able to take Wizkid to go and perform in Kano, Enugu, Kaduna, Calabar and the rest. This is an industry on its own, very lucrative industry that can create jobs; that’s the big picture,” he hinted.

Even with a certificate in Communication, Ohio seems to have found peace in the entertainment industry.

“Even in school, I’ve always been throwing parties; I guess it’s something that I’m passionate about. If I go and ask somebody to bring N10million lets do oil business, they won’t answer me. But if I tell them to bring 10million let’s do party, they will answer me. So, that’s what I’ve always done from school till date. My aim is to contribute to the Nigerian music industry so that even when you are gone, you know you’ve done something that people can remember you for,” he concluded.

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