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Artists and the contracts they sign

Posted on: September 5th, 2016 by The Moderator No Comments

Artists need to have better insight into their personal value and understand all of the jargon in contracts

Eniola: Again..does an artist need a manager to promote his craft/work? Its open to debate. But I don’t think so. Social media has made brands out of people who we wouldn’t have thought were brands.

Nike: Social media space is saturated. Artistes will record song, perform said songs, shoot videos. You have to think like Jon Bellion and his team to use social media well.

Tobe: Jon Bellion should be studied in University though.

Tobi:  I believe this area of the industry is still in its formative stage, more talents are still emerging, new labels emerging, l believe both parties will get wiser and time goes  on.

Eniola: I agree. I review a lot of agreements and the truth is a lot of labels and even their lawyers do not understand what is in the agreements. We use a US/UK template for a Nigerian market that is totally different. For example, how many people have bought a record here and returned it? I will guess no one. Yet labels put this in an artists agreement. They say they will hold 10% of the artists money against anticipated returns. This doesn’t make sense in Nigeria.

Tobe: The ‘new labels’ are a problem, I think. Like if I have a couple million and like some guy who’s voice makes me happy, I register a record label, ‘invest’ in him and boom? No. I think that shouldn’t be the case. Should it really be that easy to start up a label? Isn’t that the problem? Aren’t there too many ‘trailer park’ labels loitering around the industry?

Uyi: I personally had an experience with an artist this afternoon, he got a new contract from a record label and he wanted to get my opinion on the details.He had given his lawyer the contract for review, the lawyer came back to him with a lot of questions highlighted in the contract. The artist sends this review back to the record label’s lawyer. Their response was amazing. They told him if he didn’t sign the initial contract given to him within 24 hours, the deal was off the table. So he asked my advice and I bluntly told him not to take the deal. The details of the contract were too vague and not specific in any way.

Tyeng: If he really values his art, he should walk away. There are always other labels. Too many so called artistes too.

Tobe: Hahaha. So the question is, did the artist value himself enough to stand his ground or did he cave in? If he caved in, he MUST understand that he is bound by those terms and SHOULD NOT cry and make noise when/if it all goes up in flames.

However, if he’s agreed to the initial terms and goes in with a plan to become a catalyst for change, that’s a different story (and honestly, the kind I like).

Eniola: I have had an artist who the label boss said we couldn’t leave the room until we signed and if they didn’t sign the deal was off. I looked at the contract and the content was saying. My name is (Record Label), sign below to agree that I own you for the next 15 years. If you attempt to run away, you owe me 5 million naira. I told the artist we better leave this place now. This guy sounds like a rich kidnapper!

Tobe: I also think that artists should not be going into contracts beyond 5 years. Even 5 years is a stretch. Start small, see if the business marriage works, keep a window open for a nice legal separation, sooner than later. If you like the first year, have another go. You like the 2nd, do two more. If you are still ‘in love’ after year four, do more. But these multi year contracts…hmm…serious corporate kidnapping if you ask me.

Nike: This is like old Nollywood where a girl has to sleep with Aristo to raise money to help her sick dad.

The Octagon: As is with a typical business. A value is often placed and the business reevaluated periodically. Is there a way we can standardize the value of artists? How do we know what they are worth and not just rate by popularity.

Andre: Most labels are solo enterprises run on the wealth of an individual or individuals. The contracts are really a reflection of a larger malaise – the idea that law can be bent to fit people. If the Nigeria system is in focus, an important thing to consider is whether or not we have defined how adopted UK and US laws controlling the creation and distribution of music work for us in Nigeria.

Tobe: I think it all boils down to artists not letting “desperate times lead them to rash decisions”.

Eniola: The law profession, like a lot of professional bodies has a union. The union speaks with one voice. This makes it stronger. The artists’ union must be stronger and more united.

Tobi: The quality of the artist has a part to play in the artists valuation. The artists value will grow based on the hits it can deliver. Those songs translates into endorsements, performances, and all. And it needs to be sustained. Same way brands need to be top of mind for its customers, it’s same for artists and the quality of their content, which will translate to the weight of their valuation. I believe a new artists value can only grow per time. Look at footballers and how they are valued.

Tyeng: If this can happen, we will see changes… IF!!!

Eniola: Footballers have strong union(s). How many artists are paying attention to the proposed changes in the copyright law? These have repercussions for them. As a lawyer one of the things I am passionate about is educating artists about their rights. You may not have land (real property) but you have a great song (intellectual property). Are you protecting this property in the same way you would your land? If you value your work, people will value it a bit more too. But I also advise them to create work that is valuable. Stay in the studio until it is perfect.

Uyi: The excuse these label execs give is that they project the artist becoming profitable in 2.5 years. So the remaining 2.5 years is to recoup.

Tobe: Understandable.But they should all ask themselves what measurable footprint they can create in one year and let that be the, sort of, KPIs for the 1st year of their engagement and sign on that

Tyeng: Some sign 5 album deals instead of years… And you can’t drop an album every year unless your Chris Brown or Riri.

Uyi: Or Olamide

The Octagon: It is often a discussion that artists need investment majorly for PR, push and getting on the air waves  They claim that the cost of this is high. Is this reality? Should labels outsources PR and plug ins?

Nike: It can be in-house or agency or both. But most times you need a different perspective.

Andre Blaze: Self wealth. How should the investors recoup?

Tyeng: They can outsource, or create theirs to keep the money flow in-house.

Tobi: More of the loose cash option.

Tobe: I think there are more loose cash individuals.

Uyi: I think a fair deal is 4 years. 5 years seems a bit of a stretch. In all fairness. The industry is changing. Record label Execs are now getting more enlightened

Andre: Not fast enough. Yes they’re changing, yes the perspectives are different, but the contracts are still being built to accommodate rapid returns on investment with often very little ACTUALLY invested.

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