Artistes/Record label battle is generally not a new thing in the music industry particularly in the Nigeria music industry due to non-compliance to contract terms which arises when either of the party fails to understand the contract terms he/she signs and subsequently choose to disregard same contract. Money has always been the fore front of these issues whereby the artiste feel shortchanged and starts engaging in financial transactions without the knowledge of the record label.
A couple of weeks back, the Nigeria media world went agog with the news of Runtown fighting his label –EricMany over breach of contracts and failure to fulfill contractual obligations. I diligently followed the story to get a proper glimpse of what truly is/went wrong. Runtown no doubt is a talented singer and I wanted to understand why he had chosen to end his musical career in such manner.
From the days of “Party like 1960”, I had followed Runtown – maybe because of his affiliation with Phyno who then was the new industry beast – but then I was impressed with the sound I heard and the video made a statement with its own uniqueness when other videos had nudity all spread all over them. Fast forward to 2014, rumours had it that he wrote Davido’s popular hit song “Aye” which Davido loved and eventually bought it while agreeing to feature in another of his song. Runtown released “Gallardo” featuring Davido with the beat sounding similar to Davido’s “Aye” confirming the rumours. The released of Gallardo set the milestone which launched Runtown into the Nigeria music scene although he had previously released a couple of singles and even featured Timaya in one of them.
Runtown became the new kid on the block and in my usual journalistic operation; I followed every news, stories and interviews that had Runtown. I remember watching his interview with Moet Abebe of Sound City where Runtown stated he co-founded Penthauze with Phyno but had to leave because he got a better offer from EricMany. I defended him then, after all aside the passion of making music, the end game is to eventually make money, more so the deal was coming from a “young billionaire businessman” who interestingly has been barred from going to the US for fraud related offences.
I remember reading about him and found out he was a very close associate of E-Money but they both fell apart due to “irreconcilable differences” and I wondered if he set up the record label to spite E-Money seeing that KCEE was doing quite well with on the charts and with endorsements. His first signee was Phresh who was the second half of the defunct KCPhresh and subsequently got Runtown on board. Coincidentally the initials of E-Money and EricMany are same and I wonder again if it was just mere coincident.
Two years down the lane and the story has turned sour between Runtown and EricMany after several videos and an album. Runtown is seeking termination of his contract and EricMany is refusing to hear any of that with the expenses they have invested into his career.
While I’m not an expert on contract issues between labels and artistes, one thing I know for sure about handling dispute isn’t by calling out label owners and granting interviews because the industry has been structured in such a way for labels to win these wars. Let me run through some of the widely known ones:
Vector/YSG – Vector was at some point at the peak of his career, featuring Movado and also shooting the video in New York but following the rift with his label who assured him they own him till 2017! The dispute lead to so many issues and Vector was throwing jabs at them in records till they got an injunction refraining him from performing, recording and even appearing at public events. In one of those jabs, Vector said “them forget say man na barrack boy”. He was caged alongside his talent and he was forced to render a public apology which got him off the hook. But during the period of his incarceration, the industry moved on and now Vector is still finding his footsteps where he left them.
Brymo/Audu – I said Brymo and Audu because in my own opinion, what happened between Brymo and Chocolate City had to do with ego issues. Audu is a lawyer first then an entrepreneur who understands the music industry quite perfectly. I remember Brymo calling him out on Twitter and I was wondering what weed he took – clearly he got influenced by negative advice. Chocolate City got an injunction to claim every of Brymo’s recordings. The case dragged and dragged and Brymo couldn’t put out any material until he lost the base he had built overtime. Recently after being left the hook, Brymo came out to say the Judge didn’t make any judgment but all along other Chocolate City artistes were making money for the label while Brymo was battling court case.
Jaywon/Kennis Music – Many might not be aware of this case because Jaywon wasn’t quite good with social media and it was an in-house battle. Without the expiration of his contract, he wanted a renegotiation forgetting the directors of Kennis Music are industry veterans. They served all broadcasting stations a letter stopping them from playing any of Jaywon’s materials which automatically is more like putting a stop to his career. I could remember Jaywon complaining bitterly to DJ Abass over the phone in his hotel room and the advice he got was to go beg Baba Keke. Surviving that big blow, Jaywon till date hasn’t been able to promote any of his materials the manner at which he got promoted while with Kennis Music. His events outings too has decline overtime compared to his stay with Kennis Music where he got to perform on international platforms.
The aforementioned scenarios go a long way to show that Record Labels are always going to win while the artiste’s career suffers a major setback.
For Runtown, he is towing in that direction and it would be saddening to see such a talent being limited because of dispute that can be solved amicably or by choosing to stay patient till his contract expires. EricMany has gotten a court injunction here in Nigeria against him and interestingly from another court of law in the US – a place he has been banned from going to. Despite the injunctions, Runtown did perform in the US and it can be argued that he never got served but that alone would agitate EricMany further more and believe me these rich guys would do all what it takes to prove a point over a less privileged person.
Runtown stated in his interview that Dilly [Owner of EricMany] pulled a gun on him! What was he expecting? A man who has a revolving Lamborghini in his sitting room and walks around with four mobile policeman would do whatever he can to prove he is better placed.
I really do hope Runtown realizes he can’t fight this battle without losing. Dilly would be fine. His car sales business would be fine; his “streets” business would be fine; his other businesses would be fine. He has gotten two court injunctions already due to his connections; Runtown would have to put a pause to his career to sort out these injunctions and remember the music industry waits for no one.