How Nigerian record labels exploit upcoming artistes
NEWS DIGEST – A record label is a brand or trademark associated with the marketing of music recordings and music videos. Also known as record company, its primary focus is to produce, manage, publish, distribute and promote the recordings under the copyright of the brand.
There are several people involved under one record label in various levels who have certain responsibilities distributed based on their experience such as producers, songwriters, distributors, manufacturers, and the artistes themselves.
There is no doubt that the Nigerian music industry is the most vibrant in West Africa. Many artistes spring up almost on a weekly basis. The Nigerian music industry has experienced a global appeal that makes international acts continually collaborate with their Nigerian counterparts.
It is not all rosy in the industry however, with the exoloitation of artistes by record labels increasingly rampant. It is not uncommon to find artistes who are signed to record labels but are still unable to pay their rent.
Many artistes are being cheated daily with opportunistic deals. Labels rely on them to make money. A lot of upcoming artistes get pressured into signing up any contract that comes around without seeking clarifications on the details, with the allure of the luxurious lifestyle they would be introduced into, blurring any sense of questioning. But the bitter truth is artistes don’t get free things from record labels. They will recoup double or triple the value of any thing they give.
The typical revenue allocation formula which most record labels use is as follows: Upcoming artists generally see between 20 and 30 percent revenue rates while seasoned professionals can bring in as much as 50 percent in revenue. However, there are some record labels which pay a meagre 10 to 15 percent revenue to upcoming artistes. This is a worrying trend.
There have been instances where fast rising Nigerian artistes were being cheated by their record labels and had to seek escape route elsewhere. In 2013, Wizkid parted ways with Empire Mate Entertainment (EME) Records owned by Banky W. During the conflict that led to Wizkid’s departure, it was discovered that he had been getting just 25 percent from whatever he got paid to perform at an event while Banky W and Segun Demuren were getting 50 percent. Osagie, Wizkid’s former manager, was getting the remaining 25 percent from the singer’s hard earned money. Wizkid demanded a 50-50 sharing formula which was rejected by Banky W, leading to the former’s exit.
Oluwadamilare Okulaja aka Durella the “king of the zanga” crooner was living a luxurious life off his record label’s funds, but the money was never his. Capitol city, his label were always going to make back their money. So they kept feeding him change while he made hits until he outlived his usefulness. When his rent expired he was kicked out because he couldn’t pay. The glamourous lifestyle he sang about wasn’t real for him after all. The record label had used and dumped him.
After Kelly Hansome’s fallout with record label Kennis Music in 2012, these were his words: “Right from my last album, Maga Don Pay, Kennis Music has not paid me. They promised to get me a house, car and other necessary things I needed as stated in our contract but they didn’t. 70 percent of the shows I did were, as I was made to understand free. When I later found out that they have been collecting money from these people, they now assured me that they were going to pay me. They have being collecting money from them and claiming that the shows were all complimentary. 30 percent of the shows I did for Kennis came through my manager, Pental. Even the show they did for Glo…one laughter whatever, featuring Basket Mouth, they were paid, but nobody gave me a dime. Apart from that, Kennis used to block my shows. People who wanted me to do a show for them were turned down; they were often told that I was not in town, meanwhile, I’ve been in town since December 24 last year. Kennis has been chopping my money; why? What have I done to them? Is it wrong for me to believe their words?”
Frankly you are better off without an exploitative contract. Eva Alordia left Trybesmen barely a week after signing up with the outfit. Her management released a statement later; she didn’t like the hidden clauses in her contract. She has remained independent ever since.
The worrying trend of record labels exploiting upcoming artistes tends to lead to the latter seeking greener pastures elsewhere. After establishing themselves as household names in the music industry, majority of these artistes go independent and create their own record labels. The problem however is that when they establish the record labels and sign new acts, the newbies are made to pass through the same unfavourable revenue sharing formula. This makes the exploitation of upcoming artistes by record labels a negatively cyclical trend.
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