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  • “Record Label Owners Aren’t Demons” – Joey Akan

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    “Record Label Owners Aren’t Demons” – Joey Akan

    Investors Might Be Hard Players, But they aren’t the demons.

    Eat the rich…especially when they are putting money down for business.

    It’s hard to be a Nigerian record label owner. There are very few reasons why anyone in their right minds would want to go into the music business in a country where selling music requires you to operate from a place of loss. But people do it and trust me, their lives are some of the hardest.

    At the height of my work at Pulse, I worked on an investigative report about a record label situation in Lagos. A popular Nigerian musician had decided that his record label, who found him when no one knew he existed, and ponied up the cash for his career, hired professionals, and paid a great deal of payola to get him off the ground, was exploiting him. That story changed my perspective on how I saw the record label business in Nigeria.

    At first, my heart was given to the artist. I’m a creative, and I understand how hard it is to make something out of nothing. Heck, this newsletter which you are reading is designed to get me some money for my creative efforts. After trying to get the artist to go on the record, and failing at it due to “there’s a legal case, and my lawyers insist that I cannot talk to journalists.”

    While they turned down the opportunity to talk to me, they were prolific with their press releases. They would rather control the narrative with smooth PR than allow me to stab at the truth. This is common practice, and I understand their reason for not playing ball. But I needed my story, and so took another route to it. For the first time in my history of reporting on record label deals, I switched focus to the businessman who was being demonized in the entire saga.

    When I approached him, I was welcomed. Through sources close to him, I got all the documents that have ever passed through the artist and the company. I pored through all the record contracts, the books, text messages, emails, voice notes and more. The receipts O por! It was plenty in the ear.

    Turns out that the record label had been fair to the artist, even though he switched up once he blew. When he began to bring in more money after years of investment, he immediately pushed for renegotiation. That was done reluctantly by the label, but they did concede some ground. They gave him more money and kept it moving. But the artist didn’t want to be tied to them anymore. Further investigations showed me that the artist simply didn’t want anybody’s hand in their bag.

    That wasn’t all.

    Turns out the artist had aligned with another legendary artist who wanted to break him free of his contract. We’ll call the artist K, and the legend B. B had a company that wanted K, and he sold a dream to K. K appeared to fall fr it, and enlisted B who had experience with these things to break him out of contract jail. B engineered the process, found a technicality and played a strong hand with a reputable law firm. Super chess moves, and it was checkmate for the record label. B had done it for K!

    K left, record label went to court, failed to get an injunction to stop K from performing, and have been pursuing that case ever since.

    Meanwhile, a new free K had the world at his fingertips. He broke it off with B immediately in the most “inside life” of episodes ever and set sail as a solo artist. Free to live a life of independence, head high up in the clouds, feet chasing the sunset.

    So what happens to the record label boss who had just begun to reap the benefits of taking a chance on an unknown talent? What will become of the investment they had thrown in? How will they get justice?

    They never will. After failing to get a court to grant them an injunction, they effectively lost the case. Artist K celebrated when the injunction was not granted. He will perform, and go about life, knowing well that the case can drag on for years until everyone gets tired of spending racking up legal fees in futility.

    The record label owner will no longer want to take the chance on any other artist. He knows that he got lucky to have an artist that blew that big. Most don’t even know how it happened so big for them. And when they try to push for replication, they’ll discover that several variables that are beyond their control, aligned for their earlier success. Things such as artistry and funding can be controlled and improved at home. But public acceptance and the changing sonic spectrum need to be navigated. You can never control the weather, you can only open your umbrella and hope that you can weather the storm.

    That record label owner has never recovered after K’s loss. There’s a strong chance he wouldn’t. And when his friends tell him that they are trying to invest in music, what do you think he’ll say? He’ll be an anti-mascot, dissuading everyone from taking a chance. He once did and got bitten. He’s currently losing money investing in deadwood. He isn’t smoking backwoods. Why would he allow anyone of his friends to go down that ugly route? Over his dead body!

    That’s how the Nigerian music industry loses investors. When contracts are weak and fail to protect the money, they fail to protect the industry. It’s like CO emission hitting the ozone, and depleting it, one hole at a time. Every time an artist gets away with rebellion, the collective attractiveness of the space drops. It’s already hard to make money from music, why make it so insecure for my capital? Why needlessly increase risk with a faint possibility of ROI? Is it crack?

    Article Credit: Joey Akan

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    Posted on March 9, 2020 by:

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