Sometimes, that means stringing unwitting signees on a pole with bad deals that essentially undercut them. Equally, the technological advancements of the world now mean music is traceable and the avenues to utilize music and increase revenue off it continue to increase, so the relevance of publishing and ‘masters’ have increased.
Realizing that they have been historically missing out on a lot of things that could secure a future, artist vs. label battles have been on a steady rise over the past 15 years.
In Nigeria, the structure is worse. While the emergence of the alte crowd and indie artists who push their craft through social media and amass a niche following now stand a better chance at making money off music, the system is still at best, terribly backward and at its worst, non-existent.
Artists in Nigeria make little to no money off music sales. The bulk of their revenue comes from performances, endorsements and in a few cases, merchandising.
This problem and the damning economic and financial realities of Nigeria means only a few artists can fund their own careers from the ground up like Davido.
Even with the power of the internet, artists still need a record label to help them navigate the unsteady and unpredictable waters of the music business. Even in America, successful independent artists like Russ still need a record label, at least for better distribution of their music.
Nigerian labels only have a chance of making money off their artists they sign through 360 deals that sometimes come off as exploitative. Music is a business, and a business is set up to make profits. Sadly. as it is in Nigeria, a lot of labels can’t even make their investments back with 360 deals, talk less of making a return on their investment.
The angry artists being human beings then feel exploited and once they – hit the coveted – ‘blow’ they realize they should be making more money – on their own. They then cry wolf to ignorant fans on social media and gain a following.
What they usually do is breach the terms of a binding contract when some of these labels have not even made what the expended in funding. It becomes a big issue and sometimes, the artists win.
In recent history though, labels have become less temporal and insist artists see out the rest of their deals or even insist they buy out the rest of their binding contracts.
However, some of these label owners are greedy and inconsiderate too, albeit lacking in progressive thinking. It’s only normal that ego increases when an artist starts blowing. It even makes more business sense to foresee the future and secure your future as much as the artist’s with a good deal.
Some of these labels expect the artist to remain the scrawny and poor soul he was when they signed him. Some of these label owners also want artists to continue on these ordinary bad, yet understandable deals when there is always a middle ground of negotiations.
Women are showing the way
The possibilities are endless, but it’s also important that the artist must sign a deal he would be fine with till the contract concludes. It is important to have renegotiation clauses that mean deals will not just be in perpetuity.
It is a big issue that labels and artists have to keep working at to find better terms to collaborate on while bearing in mind that no deal is perfect; both parties have to make concessions to make the record deal work.
We need to channel some of Tiwa Savage and Simi who have left their labels on celebratory and temporal terms by simple expiration. It involves an absence of greed and the presence of quality negotiation.
While it is possible to remain contented, a part of me will bet its last nickel that Tiwa Savage and Simi signed iron-clad mutually beneficial deals before signing to Mavin Records and X3M Music respectively.
That said, amicable dissolution it doesn’t just behoove the artist, but the label owners not being greedy themselves. Sometimes, it’s just time to let the artist go.
Nonetheless, both women have shown the way and we need more of that, with both the label and the artist working to make it happen.
For now, let’s digress a little…
Peruzzi has sense, but so do Burna and – in a way – Dammy Krane
For a time, and for Nigerian acts, foreign deals were all the rage. They were the ultimate dream like a voluptuous girl is to a hormonal 17-year-old boy.
But a few days ago, superstar singer, Burna Boy voiced what many have known for a while; he warned Nigerian artists on the perils of international deals while thanking his mother for helping him make the best of his deal with Atlantic Records, a subsidiary of Warner Music Group.
Controversial artist, Dammy Krane agreed with this line of thought just hours later, but DMW-affiliate, Peruzzi came with the disagreeing ‘vibes’ and noted that you can make the best of any deal. Peruzzi made the most sense while Burna and Dammy Krane voiced a cliché.
Digression over, let’s fuse the narratives…
Theres no one way simple way to sign a deal, but some basic things can help
While some people are experts, nobody has all the facts that can make every deal work. Each deal has its own peculiarity.
Getting a good deal is easier said than done, there is always a way to get a good deal with that understanding and the nous to go into deals with your eyes open and a sensible, attentive Lawyer on your team. We shouldn’t have artist-label drama every time.
Again, no record deal is perfect, it’s all about both parties having a meeting of minds to understand where they both stand, who bears the greater risk and who is in a stronger bargaining position.
Both artists should bring their terms to the table and then negotiate.
With the knowledge of the last two paragraphs, a good deal is about concession and negotiation. An artist has to first understand where he is, the best he can get and the best deals.
However, that doesn’t stop his Lawyer from trying to legally get the best deal possible, if the label is not attentive enough and understanding of its bargaining position.
Depending on what the label offers, you must assume you have the biggest future and then insert good terms as that dictates, but with an understanding of where you are.
Asides that, and regardless of your stance as an artist in any market, a brilliant Lawyer should look out for the following basic things in the deal (local or international);
1. Understand the reality of the market you are negotiating an artist into and realistically understand what the label stands to make from a successful album.
2. Except you’re in Nigeria, never sign anything that resembles a 360 deal. Even when you are in Nigeria, ‘no 360 deal’ should be your first line in the negotiation, but you can then negotiate and concede certain things into the deal that would ordinarily not be part of a deal.
3. However – mostly for international deals, to sweeten matters of owning your royalties and publishing rights, you can always offer up a fraction of your tour/merchandise revenue/image rights to the label. You need concession and sacrifice, the label is not a charity. 2Chainz didn’t recently own his masters by threatening the label.
Note: For a young artist and unknown artist with no successful independent career like Russ, Tech N9ne or Chance The Rapper, owning your masters the first time around will be almost impossible. You have nothing to bargain with but speculation.
4. Make sure the sharing formula suits both the artist and the label for the foreseeable future. A new artist should definitely be reasonable and not expect a 50/50 split. If as an unknown artist, you will get a 60/40 split, you must be willing to give the label something you wouldn’t ordinarily concede.
5. For a first-time deal, don’t sign anything more than a two-album deal.
6. If you will sign more than a two-album deal, make a provision to revisit and renegotiate the terms of the contract after each album.
7. That renegotiation clause should also have a provision for dissolution of the contract should new terms not be agreed upon after the second album.
8. All artists who have been successful independently must always negotiate total ownership of their masters and publishing rights with record deals – should they need one.
9. If you signed the deal in desperation, you better be willing to see it out. You don’t deserve anybody’s sympathy should the label want you to fulfill the terms of your contract.
10. Equally, if the deal is not good enough for you during the negotiations, you must learn to walk away or live with regret later.