Urging Young Musical Artistes To Insist On Legally Binding Contracts, And Shun Oath-Taking Of SecrecyOffered By Record Label Owners

By Isaac Asabor

It is no more news that in the music industry, the tussle among artistes and record labels for creative control, ownership rights and fair treatment is an ongoing narrative. The reason for the foregoing view cannot be farfetched as not a few Nigerians have over the years heard or read about how the entertainment industry has been fraught with rows among artistes, recording companies and producers. This is particularly widespread in the music entertainment industry, where artistes and record labels are friendly one day, and on the warpath, the next day. Such feuds, amongst other factors may be traceable to disagreements over royalties, collaborations with other artistes, performance rights, unfair treatment by record labels, decisions by artistes to opt out of the recording contract, among other motives.

In fact, all over the world, artistes who feel fraudulently treated by their record labels are usually at liberty to opt out of the recording contract by signing a fresh contract with other labels they deem trustworthy and fair enough to work with or setting up their own labels. However, the move for artistes to become independent has always been opposed by the management of their record labels they are contractually signatory to, particularly if the artiste is good and command mammoth fans. Instances abound on how labels resisted artistes that left them, and resorted to campaigns of calumny as a way of de-marketing the somewhat renegade artiste.

In most cases, the seemingly offended labels would fight tooth and nail to implement the terms of the recording contract and compel dissatisfied artistes to stay or leave with nothing. Most times the recording contract is drafted in favor of the record label leaving the artist profitless in the event of a clash.

At this juncture, it is expedient to look back, take a deep reflection, and opine that not a few well-known artist-record label have over the years markedly disagreed with their signees. In an exploratory features done by the trio of Florence Amagiya, Opeoluwani Ogunjimi, Anozie Egole on the retrogressive trend in the music industry, titled “On Nigerian musicians dumping their record labels”, and published on the online edition of the Vanguard Newspaper of September 7, 2023 spoke to some Nigerian artistes who no doubt have an understanding of why some record artistes cheat their signees and the dynamism of the industry.

As gathered from their reports, GT The Guitar Man, an artiste, in his view said one of the reasons labels cheat their artistes is that they prefer to deal between the artistes and their managers. “Again, this is due to the fact that some record labels don’t really sell much in terms of theartistes’ works. So, they find it hard to meet their terms of agreement with the artistes. Sometimes, the labels don’t really have the capacity to nurture and expose their artistes to the world. Given that situation, most of us prefer to deal with a management that will get us sold. Even at that, some labels still cheat the artistes by offering them 70/30% deals in favor of the label.”

In a similar vein, another artiste simply called Adokiye said, “I think it is as a result of unfulfilled promises on the part of the record labels. Artistes leave their labels because of unfulfilled promises, and sometimes soured friendship. When label owners and artistes are no longer on the same page. Another thing that could cause theseparation is when there is a shift in priority on the part of the artistes or the record labels.”

In his own response, a popular Nigerian rapper, Ruggedman, said, “Misunderstanding is the cause. “However, beyond the reasons adduced to why artistes and their labels often fallout, not a few legal experts are of the view that the major causes of disputes between record label and artiste revolves around financial gains most times, and in such cases artistes end up breaching contract terms they signed with their respective record label.

Be that as it may, it is expedient to recall that the cyberspace is awash with tips on how to prevent future disputes between record label and artistes as signees have been urged to always seek proper guidance before signing a deal with a record label, pay attention to the terms of agreement entered into with record label, and be meticulous about insertion of an Arbitration Clause in the terms of Agreement. This is as such arbitration agreement helps in resolving disputes amicably without navigating the murky waters of litigation to resolve disputes.

Not only that, artistes have been advised to always get sound legal representatives, and should not be too desperate in signing an agreement with a record label. Still in the same vein, they’ve been urged to always exercise due diligence on a record label before entering into an agreement with them, even as they are urged to keep to terms of contract entered into with record label.

Above all, it is expedient for young and upcoming artiste to insist on signing legally binding contracts, and shun taking oath of secrecy.

Whether taken in ignorance or not, artistes should always not forget that oaths of secrecy have spiritual implications that can dangerously bind them with the record label they are signed to. They must know what they are getting into before making any commitments, especially regarding record label owner of this nature.

There are many examples of how oaths have been used throughout history to control people and groups of people. These oaths can have negative spiritual implications that can bind the taker even if they are unaware of them. In Africa, for example, many traditional ceremonies involve oaths taken without the participants fully understanding what they are agreeing to.

Being African, I can tell you I look back in hindsight and realize how many strange things exist and still exist in the guise of “tradition.” I would have in this context go into detail, but being that it is such a sensitive topi c.

At this point in time, it is germane to opine that the reason for the foregoing view cannot be farfetched as the media is at the moment agog with conjectures that cultism and oath-taking of secrecy have encroached Nigerian music industry, particularly in the area of the signing of contract between music artistes and record label owners. The foregoing view is further been fueled by the death of Lerioluwa Oladimeji Aloba, popularly known by his moniker, Mohbad, a rising rapper, singer, and songwriter who died recently at the young age of 27, and whose death has led to widespread outrage on social media with the hashtag #Justice4Mohbad as well as on the streets, where his fans are demanding an investigation surrounding his death.

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