Every now and then squabbles between an artist and his erstwhile record label always pops up in the Nigerian music scene. Artist – Label ‘war’ is not just subject to the Nigerian entertainment landscape, it also stretches into the global music horizon. But then I’m just particular about what happens in my own country.
Year after year you definitely get to read a news headline which notifies you of an internal conflict between an artist and his once very jolly music imprint. Once upon a time everyone involved was OK with the contract then a few years down the line something or everything about the contract doesn’t feel right no more.
The history of artist – label fall out is quite long and interesting. Some of the following Nigerian artists have rebelled against their previous labels, broke out to begin something of their own. Brymo, Jesse Jagz versus Chocolate City; Wizkid versus EME; Vector against YSG; Skales and Baseline; Kiss Daniel against G-Worldwide and most recently Runtown and Eric Manny etc. Often times the artists triumphs and sadly others times the legal battle stretches without an end in sight. Just like the Nigerian civil war it’s a case of ‘No Victor, No Vanquish’.
An interesting similarity in all these fracas between record labels and artists is that once a relatively unknown youngster gains astronomical rise via the platform provided him by his music imprint, the label becomes too small for him. Or perhaps the artists believes they have come a long way and they can now call the shots. Of course the artist is churning out millions weekly for his label, so therefore he would love to run the show.
Why exactly do artists and record labels get into squabbles and legal battles?
A typical upcoming artist is like a drowning man who can’t swim ashore to save his life. He reaches out and grabs anything that may keep him afloat until he can get to the shore alive. He is unconsciously desperate, he’ll grab anything within reach and in sight. A young up and coming music talent always sees a record deal as his opportunity to ‘blow’. He is just like everyone else who doesn’t really read the ‘Terms & Conditions’ before signing up for a new stuff online. So he puts his ink above the dotted lines to append his signature without fully understanding what he has committed himself into. He smiles widely as his dreams are unraveling before his eyes, ‘it’s unbelievable’.
By a combination of talent, hard work and intensive promo he blows up, rakes in the money then he realizes he deserves more. The 30% he opted for while hustling the recording deal doesn’t cut it anymore. The record label’s policies become too restrictive and ridiculous. He decides to play smart disobey some rules then problem ensues.
On the other hand, record labels can be a sly bunch no doubt. Recording contracts are crafted to exploit artists, some policies are just too overbearing and cagey. Promises made to these desperate artists are not implemented as earlier stated. Also what accrues to the artists are far from what they currently deserve. It’s only a matter of time before the feud sets in.
Nigerian artists are not ungrateful neither are record labels slave merchants to a certain extent. It’s more about greed from either party.
As a record label when an artist is brought on board it’s a risk because he may not ‘blow’ after all investments poured into his career. Hence those contracts are made in a manner the labels recoup every expenditure lavished on an artist in the shortest possible time. And it’s strictly business. However, in a case were an artist finally becomes really big and the cash begins to roll in. It is only sensible to draft out a new contract or adjustment is made to the existing one. So everyone feels happy again.
Again, ignorance on the part of an artist wouldn’t be excused. Before contracts are signed these artists should endeavor to understand what is on paper. A lawyer who understands the entertainment business should be sought to explain grey areas. As much as contracts are binding, the terms and conditions should be adhered to. If at anytime something doesn’t feel right new negotiations should be initiated. Nigerian artists as much as possible stick to the terms of the contract and avoid messy fights with labels. Apparently when it comes to the point ties have to be severe, it should be done like 2Face and Kennis Music.
No label should rip off an artist neither should an artist treat his erstwhile record label as trash once he becomes the next big thing. Artists need labels and vice versa they’re two sides of a coin.