Makinde Azeez may appear as your regular guy, but the 27-year-old Physics and Electronic graduate of Osun State University is the founder of one of Nigeria’s biggest music download websites, naijaloaded.com. Fresh out of the university, he speaks with OVWE MEDEME on his plans to reinvent the platform, challenges he has had to deal with and a whole lot of other issues.
HOW did Naijaloaded come to be?
I actually created it seven years ago, October 1, 2009 to be precise. It was on Independence Day and it was a public holiday. I was fresh out of secondary school then. Have always been a good internet user and I was actually undergoing some training in web design.
And then, I did a check and I discovered that most bloggers have no knowledge about web designing. What they do is, they outsource their design and programming jobs to outsiders and those ones build based on their own understanding. But as one who has the knowledge, I know what is lacking in different platforms in Nigeria. So I built a website to address those challenges. That was how we started.
At what point did you realise it was something big?
With most blogs, users had to search a lot. We do most of the hard-work, then get most of the information we think Nigerians want to know. There was an issue with UNILAG admission in 2009. They already announced the date of their exams. It was on all Nigerian blogs but it was very hard for users to get the information.
So what we did was to create a page for exam information. That was how we were able to grow based on what we think our users want. Music in Nigeria is a very lucrative business, but then there was no platform offering very flexible music downloads. What we did was that people wanted to comment. They wanted to talk about new releases even after downloading. As at then, there was no site giving them that platform. So we created a comment box for each post. That was how Naijaloaded grew from being just a normal information website to a full blown music website. Now, we are a niche-less blog. We do music, football, and majorly anything. We are not just a music website, but as it is, we don’t think there is a music website that can compete with us.
How were you able to fund it at the beginning?
There is a quote that says ‘start anyhow’. When I started back in 2009, there was no finance power. I just started anyhow I could. I started with free hosting. I was able to build a very good traffic with them. After one year, I saw that this is something promising. Then I started looking for how to raise money. In 2010, I bought a domain name, got a server and started paying, but we have really grown from a 10,000 visit monthly to a 110 million page views monthly.
Now, we have between 110 million and 130 million page views averagely. And then, the server fee has really increased. But with hardwork and sponsored content, we have been able to tackle those bills. Today, we pay up to 2,000 dollars monthly to just have our server running. We have about 15 staff members now and we pay about one million naira as salaries monthly.
What is the concept behind Naijaloaded TV?
Everyday, we put up a post on Naijaloaded asking people’s opinion about happenings in the entertainment industry. And then, there is a whole lot of comments that generate buzz. We noticed that the way people comment on blogs is actually different from the way they speak in real life.
So what NLTV is out to do is to go into the streets, hear what people have in mind and interact with them. We believe in less than one month, if we start the videos, they will go viral. We have a lot of topics already lined up. We posted one on our platform because we know Nigerians will like to be more specific. So what we are trying to do with NLTV is basically street interviews, exclusive engagements. We also have a programme called Rap Attack where we will bring students from different schools to do something like a rap battle and then put them up for Nigerians to watch.
How soon do you intend to float the TV?
By the first week of January, we will be putting up our first contents. Then we can now decide what content to drop on what day of the week but we can boast that Nigerians will actually enjoy the concept of NaijaloadedTV. Also, for the next Headies, we are actually working with them to do a live streaming. Not everybody has cable TV but we all have internet. We will be doing artiste interviews. We have a studio already for all of that.
What other concept are you exploring?
What we are trying to do is that we are trying to develop some of our already existing contents to build another platform of its own like our football highlights and our football predictions. All through 2015, Nairabet was the one powering it. You know how big Nairabet is. What we do is that a day before any big match, we tell our subscribers to predict the winners. So we give the top five winners some money. So now, what we want to do is that, we want to take out the predictions from Naijaloaded and build platform that will standalone. It will be free. All people have to do is go to the website, drop a comment and if they are lucky, they will win a prize. They are not betting with their money, they are not gambling. It’s just strictly prediction. So, apart from NaijaloadedTV, we are working on various projects and in a few weeks, we will also be changing the face of our platform because we want to be more professional.
Who do you regard as your biggest competitor?
Let’s say I never started because of competition. I don’t play football, I don’t play games, I don’t do a lot of things. The only thing I know how to do is to surf the internet and probably send out information. I don’t really think I’m competing with anybody because what we are doing in Naijaloaded, we don’t think anybody does it. We do music, videos, football predictions, highlights, news and such. I don’t think there’s any platform that combines all of them together. So we are our own competitors.
What we are trying to do is that in the next four years, we will grow all these categories. Our music category alone is even bigger than some standalone websites. We have 35 million downloads every month for our songs. For our football predictions, we have 13 million visits. That is even bigger than some Nigerian standalone music or football websites. So we are our own competitors. What we want to do is we want to grow all our categories. We want them to have different templates, different interface, and different audience. So I don’t think we are competing with anybody.
How do you get songs for your website?
The Nigerian entertainment industry has become more flexible. More companies are coming in. Over the past years, Nigerian musicians actually call up bloggers to put their songs on their platforms. Some even pay to have their songs in blogs. The only way they used to monetise their content was by performing in shows or tours. But for their music, they hardly make anything from it. Today because of some music streaming sites, they can monetise. Once they put out a single, they send it out to bloggers, but some top artistes like Davido don’t do that anymore.
What are your projections for 2017?
I just graduated from school six months ago, so I think we are just starting. All we’ve done for seven years was being done from the bedroom. And if we were able to achieve a whole lot within that period, we believe that now that we have a structure, we have those who get things done, we will do better.
Now, we are doing things differently from what we’ve been doing in the past seven years. New products are on ground. With new management, new structure, and new plans, we believe 2017 will be the real year. There will be bigger achievements, endorsements, a whole lot of apps coming in, a whole lot of events powered by Naijaloaded and a whole lot of things going viral. We are very sure of that. We’ve done our test run for three weeks now. We have a whole lot of new bloggers, new writers, new event managers, competent graphic designers. So we believe we are in for the real game now. The business is about to launch.