By Janet Ogundepo
The joy of having a talent and earning a living from it would fill the heart of any up-and-coming entertainer. But such joy can quickly be squelched when greenhorn artistes who are ignorant of the rules and how the industry operates, fall prey to shady deals.
Following the death of 27-year-old rapper and singer, Ilerioluwa Aloba, popularly known as MohBad, on September 12, some artistes signed under several labels opened up about the issues they had with their record labels.
Before MohBad’s death, he was formerly signed to Naira Marley’s Marlian records before leaving sometime in 2022.
The PUNCH had reported in October 2022, of MohBad’s allegation that he was assaulted by his management team after demanding a change of manager.
The singer, however, added, “World, pls help me oo, I’m dying inside.”
The owner of the label had debunked the report and described the issue as a “family affair.”
Almost a year after his plea for help, MohBad eventually died.
Disagreements and fallouts between a record label and a signed artiste and or between a manager as well as the artistes can happen. At times, the disagreements can originate from contractual breaches, the discovery of shady deals and stifling requirements.
Many up-and-coming artistes, who may not understand the nature of agreements and are not educationally enlightened, are most of the time vulnerable to being exploited by shady labels and deals.
Here are six things entertainers must know before signing deals with a label.
Know what your label demands
Before signing to a label, it is important artistes know what is expected of them at every point in time.
Having this information beforehand would help to ensure the label and the signee are on the same page.
An artiste and talent manager and the Public Relations Officer, Association of Music Artiste Managers of Nigeria, Raphani Omabidi, and a human rights and public interest lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, said record labels were business entities with a primary objective to maximise profit.
They stated that artistes must understand that record labels are profit-making business organisations and therefore should understand what is required of them.
Omabidi said, “I admit that some of the boys are from the ghetto and are extremely talented. They just want to sing and it is appreciated but the advice is that they should not be in a hurry to sign any contract.”
He however noted that some record labels, while trying to maximise profits, did that at the peril of their signees.
Effiong advised young artistes, saying, “They must realise that it is not also about the immediacy, they have to be futuristic in their views and ensure that their interest is well covered.”
Involve a lawyer
Effiong noted that the first concern of every young artiste should be retaining the services of a lawyer before signing a contract with a record label.
He said, “Before someone signs a contract, one should have a legal practitioner of his or her choice review the clauses. There is no reason why any person would go into entertainment without gaining the services of a lawyer.”
Effiong noted that this was not so among many young entertainers as they were carried away by the immediate glories of their careers and the desire to make money.
Omabidi also noted, “They should always get an entertainment lawyer and their manager to look through the contracts for them to ensure there are no pitfalls in future.
“They need to see and understand the terms of the contract, whether it is for two, four or five years. They need to know whether they would be paid an advance and what it is for.”
The AMAMN’s spokesman urged record labels and artistes to be straightforward and truthful from the onset of their contracts.
Pay attention to the contract
Effiong further urged artistes to be careful before signing contracts with restrictive clauses that limit what they can and cannot do.
“Look out for clauses in the contract that tend to limit their capacity to be independent. Record labels, many of them, have the propensity that put artistes in a slavish position and they find it difficult to leave the record. Such clauses have to be examined religiously before one agrees to them.
“The other has to do with access and property rights. Every artiste, particularly the young ones, should be meticulous in agreeing to proposed contracts or clauses that relate to the selling of profits, assets and acquisition of property. A situation where a record label acquires property for a young artiste in the name of the record label and not the artiste is something that should not be encouraged because that leaves them at the mercy of the record labels. Young artistes must pay attention to this area,” the lawyer added.
The AMAMN PRO stated that every artiste should discover themselves and what they want to get at the end.
Omabidi said, “The artiste needs to discover him or herself because if you do not know yourself when you are going into the label, they will try to change your sound and tell you some things. So you need to know who you are, what you aim to achieve and what your creative process is. Though this is a life-long process at this stage, you need to have an idea of who you are.”
Effiong also noted that artistes must know, define and identify the sort of image they want to project for themselves in the industry without being tied to the apron strings of the record label.
He urged up-and-coming artistes to protect their talents and think of what they want to make out of it at the end of the day.
The lawyer added that they should not be desperate to sign contracts that would encumber them in the future.
Have networking abilities
Omabidi further stated that beyond the singing ability of artistes, they needed to have networking skills. He added that this skill would make them remain invaluable to the label.
The AMAMN PRO further urged young artistes and managers to join the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria.
Learn how to negotiate
Omabidi urged artistes to learn how to negotiate with the labels, their managers, lawyers and public relations team.
He emphasised that artistes needed to sell their beliefs and goals to these individuals “so that they are willing to commit their time and energy to you.”