In view of the recent publication on Pulse.ng, which sought to unravel the cause of the disagreement between Nigerian musician Runtown, and his record label, Eric Many, certain pattern consistently played out in record Labels/Artistes fallouts. The pattern appears to be that artistes are rarely on the offending side. That sound subjective because the traditional thing to do is looking at the issue objectively. But notice that we said ‘pattern.’
This is not to say that artistes cannot be irresponsible sometimes. Of course not. We have had testimonies of drug-addict and womanizing artistes whose lifestyles have ruined business for themselves and their labels.
That’s is not our focus here. We speak of hardworking and productive artistes whose adjudged misconducts are usually a reactionary clap backs, prompted by unfair treatment meted to them by their record label boss.
Of a truth, the relationship setup between artistes and record labels is not balanced, especially when such artistes in question are up and coming and lack economic power. In such asymmetric setup, the artistes depend so much on the record labels for support in terms cost of producing records, video shoots, promotion, hotel bills, travels etc. hence, they have little say.
Now this is not just about warming up to and sympathizing with the underdogs, but in most cases, especially in Nigeria, artistes are usually treated like little children, of course because they don’t have money. You see it in the way the record label bosses address them and the way the artistes in turn address their bills payers. ‘We are family’, ‘he is like my little brother.’ And other mushy mushy talks. It is becoming obvious that those expressions are beyond putting up appearance on social media, it defines the mode of engagement offline. Brotherly, music is serious business.
And it worth repeating here that, because they lack sufficient economic power – before joining, or during their stay, in a label, and because they also occupies a subordinate location, artistes feel caged in record deals. They try by all means to avoid scandals that are capable of ruining their careers till their contracts with their record labels expire. This situation appears more like a woman who has to endure abusive relationship because she fears rejection and societal judgements. But like some women in such abusive relationships, artistes soon get fed up, grow some balls, and decide call it a quit. It is just an extension of capitalist extortion.
From the business relationship of Aristocrat Records/Burna Boy, Birdman/Lil Wayne, G-Worldwide/Kiss Daniel, and to more recently Eric Many/ Runtown, we see a pattern of relationship usually starting with ‘he is my son. He is my little brother, we are family. But when the money starts coming in, the monster of greed, manipulation and dishonesty behind the mask of brotherhood unveils itself.
There is a need for a change in the mode of engagement in music business in Nigeria. There will be misunderstanding. Sure. But the ones we have witnessed are as a result of the fact that we prioritize Instagram pictures update and ‘the big announcement’ over major home work of negotiations and business plans.
There are exceptions though. And the results are there for everyone to see. Olamide. He raised Adekunle Gold and Lil Kesh and allowed them to go explore the music world themselves. Within the periods they agreed to stay. I think record label should be that supportive if both parties have good working relationship.
Up and coming musician must bear in mind that, before signing a record deal, he/she have to negotiate and weigh the clauses of agreement properly with the assistant of an attorney who has a rich experience in entertainment law. That will save your life.
Bear in mind that it is no longer a mutual and healthy agreement if a record deal which is supposed to enhance your musical career and bring money to the record label becomes a modern slavery for the artiste or a huge financial burden to both parties respectively.
Artistes must have provision for renegotiation even at the very beginning of contract. Just in case things do not work as expected. But one cannot be this clearheaded without ownership, music business is increasing becoming expensive to break into. You can’t do that if you are in a haste to ‘blow.’
Haven’t we not seen how easy it is for record labels to withdraw support from an artistes who is not yielding return on investment? On the other hand haven’t you seen how record label want to milk a successful artiste dry if he yielding huge returns? What does the two scenario have in common? Interest!
If record label could protect their interest because they have upper hand, the artiste can start by protecting his interest right from the get go of signing any contract. That’s my sincere take.