Since the details of the Kiss Daniel – G-worldwide case, the Runtown – Eric Many battle and the toxic situation at Tinny Entertainment became public, record deals in Nigeria are no longer seen the same way. What used to be a celebratory feat has become a concept that arouses scepticism and pessimism. News of an artist signing a record deal is now commonly met with the “I hope this artist looked through the contract” line of thought. Aspiring artists are being told to go at it on their own terms and avoid the “trap”, although many will still welcome a deal even if it is coming from Lucifer.

Curiously, the many cases of record deal scandals and the fact that they often revolve around the same issues – breach of contract, breakdown in contract renegotiations, disagreement over contract termination proposal – doesn’t mean there won’t be a similar story in the news tomorrow – the developing story of MMMG is an example, although different in some ways. What is unlikely is that up and coming artists are unaware of the possibility of a million Naira deal being a “bad deal.” Yet, many still go ahead and ink such deals and give glory to God for the “dream come true.”

Kiss – not Kizz – Daniel of G-worldwide appears to have been well aware of his situation with the label when he recorded “Another Day” – one of the constituent songs of his debut album, New Era, which interestingly was released under G-worldwide. He likened being signed to being in chains; and he might have hinted at his unwillingness to sign with another label after his time with Emperor Geezy – an idea that manifests in his decision to create FlyBoyINC. His referenced lyrics on “Another Day” goes thus:

“…another way is another kain death

another day, another day

    another label, another chain for 7 more years

  thank God for the fact that I still dey here…”

Why will such a talented artist make an elaborate thanksgiving for being “enslaved”? The primary answer is funding.  The two key elements needed for music success in Nigeria, outside the sine qua non position of talent deposit, is fund and structure – these are the resources that a proper record label offers. “Structure” could mean the board (strategists), marketing team, press team, radio pluggers, account department, and the legal team that will work collectively to ensure the best results for the released materials. Funding will mean covering the cost of the services of these professionals and other costs that include studio session fee, accommodation fee, travel expenses and more. This could run into tens of millions of Naira, for a modest consideration.

In truth, the indie option is probable considering the increasing alternative sources of funding available to artists – revenue from digital sales mostly – but most artists still have their best bet in a record deal. This option however usually comes with a condition of recoupment for the label. Ed Sheeran’s producer, Jake Gosling, compared seeking a record deal to walking into the bank to get a loan. He said: “I can only imagine walking into a bank asking for a £100,000 loan, saying: ‘I’d like to use it to pay my living and work expenses for the next four years so that I can develop my craft by being able to write full-time and work with songwriters all over the world. You’ll make it back from the royalties the songs I write during those years will accumulate. And if you don’t, I don’t have to pay that money back. What? You need some kind of guarantee? Just listen to these new songs I’ve written.’ They’d laugh me straight out of the door.”

That is, an artist taking a record deal should not lose sight of the plan to repay the label’s investment, else another artist-label drama is in the offing. Quite often, record deals are likened to choosing between the devil and choosing between the deep blue sea – an accurate metaphor that depicts an artist’s situation of having to choose between two uniquely uneasy options. What guides the decision of an artist in such situation is an understanding of the size of resources available to him or her; and how these resources can be combined to produce result. A lot of artists with no ship to sail with will have to turn in the only other direction left.

This article was written by Ibironke Oluwatobi. He tweets via: @ibironketweets

Leave a Reply