I find the recent article by Osagie Alonge of the Nigerian Entertainment Today, NET, very interesting.
The article didn’t dance too far to the left or right. It presented a seemingly unfortunate threat by Nigerian artistes who are jumping out of existing contracts with labels and hugging what has appeared a more favourable atmosphere of dependence. And it also asked questions and did same to the side of the artistes being unduly exploited, where music label owners run prominent names from their bedrooms or hotel rooms, on top of large hipped hookers, who do sex so much, the artiste is forced to feel the sensual heat unlike the man who is directly involved.
The issues it raised were relevant, not just to those who are in the business of managing recording artistes or the acts, themselves, but those who appreciate good music and an industry run on sanity. It is unfortunate that the problem of leadership as it affects the Nigerian state affects everyone in Nigeria. There is a gap in our homes and our businesses. People who have been frustrated gather little funds and head to register names of record labels. The end point is a duel.
The recent clashes between Vector of YSG and Wizkid of EME, where the artistes were accused of walking out of their deals: existing contracts, is pathetic. Wizkid has since gone back to his boss and management. Vector is not having the cool side of life, after romancing the police, it is also gathered that a deal to be a judge on Nokia’s Don’t Break Da Beat kissed the dust.
Opinions from prominent players in the industry have outlined what they think are their fears. Chief amongst these fears is the fact that the labels are packing up and some are diversifying. Storm Records rebranding to Storm 360, going into general entertainment to survive and Kennis Music running its TV channel on cable and terrestrial TV have both been seen as misplacement, as these people have to do something else aside dwelling on the artistes and feeding without selling records.
The major concern has been survival not excellence. The labels want certain clauses involved in the contract. One of these clauses is the ‘360 clause’ which would enable labels to chiefly benefit from deals and shows and other things signed by their artistes. This would make them rich, and pay rents and cover costs.
The artistes when picked from the gutters are cleaned with very special bathwater. The water is disinfected. That cost money. He is clothed. He is given food. He is taken to the studio for exclusive photo shoots. He is given an apartment in or around Victoria Island from his Mushin home in Lagos, where he shared an apartment with cockroaches and other whatnots. He is taken to a studio for recoding. The recording would involve a producer who would be paid. The mixer and those who would master it would also be paid. The label pays for all these services and expects that they would get all that is lost. There is usually no electricity. A large generator is hired at a very expensive rate. Then the record is bought at 5 million naira by a marketer in Alaba.
The ‘ridiculous’ amount can’t pay the staff of the label who get laid daily by desperate female university students with very horny thighs. The label owner, at the end of a very long day of wild spending, maybe, of course, can’t afford taxis. He buys a tricycle popularly called ‘Keke’ and the artistes get a deal from a telecommunication company and buys a private jet and insults ‘broke’ people on Twitter with very bad grammar.
Today, the labels are angry. They are dissatisfied with what has been called development. They want a fair treatment. They want to turn the table around. Okay, not exactly. They want everyone to benefit, own a jet and make the airspace a place for the super rich and pollute our oxygen. Okay, let’s ask some salient questions. Was there the times when music sold in Nigeria? What happened then when people bought CDs? Was there a time when music labels exploited their artistes? Was there a time when they drove in hummer SUVs while the artistes fed on bread and Akara with a bottle of un-cold coke? Was there a time when music executives travelled abroad on expensive holiday treats and the artistes who made the money had to look for a hideout, somewhere in the slum of Lagos, Port Harcourt or Abuja to smoke some marijuana so as to find solace outside the many wrong things that the company kept doing?
Maybe there has been a revolution. The Nigerian musician has discovered a magic, to not depend on sales as it is a mirage. He gives his songs for free. And expects accolades, he is therefore invited for a birthday and paid 2 million naira, such an amount that his label couldn’t give to him in 3 years. Maybe the companies who make deals have seen that it is cheaper to have faces of prominent people all over their brands for almost nothing, instead of giving out millions to a whole crew when just one man was needed.
I think what the labels should be thinking of is the possible ways of fighting piracy and selling records and making sure artistes are properly taken care of, so there won’t be rebellion. I think more ways of selling on iTunes, if CDs can’t sell, should be considered.
A portion of Alonge’s article on NET talked about musicians releasing singles for free, for fans, therefore making them popular as gods. When contracts were signed, were some of these properly spelt out? Who is to blame or how is there the possibility of creating a middle ground, where artistes and the label owners can be fully protected and rewarded instead of creating a platform that seems like a coup. Why would the artiste suffer because the label suffers for lapses created? Was there a time when the musician suffered so tremendously and no one spoke up? 2Face is richer today than when he was with Kennis Music. What’s the magic? What approach were they using that kept him as a perpetual houseboy until he left? Is Cloud 9 a new reform to bringing slavery to the music industry or salvation? Shouldn’t there be an open debate about what is needed to be done and the business of music is taken as seriously as the business of governing people in a democratic state?
The Okoyes’ run their label within their family. What happens when a stranger is signed? Will same approach used on them be applied to the signed?
When people opt for a simple solution because a telecommunication company is bringing resources, I suspect a foul play. I think Cloud 9 is just another way for having a larger house of mess. More ways, creative ways should be thought of, so the musician remains relevant. Laws made should be friendly to sides, artiste or the label owners. If we need to go to the churches to hawk CDs it should be done. If we would have to make marketers swell diabolically to not dubbing music and promoting illegal downloads, it should be done.
Nwilo Bura-Bari Vincent