RECORD DEAL OR CAREER KILL?

Davido signing record deal with Sony Music (Image courtesy of twenty20media.com.ng).jpg
Davido during his record label signing with Sony Music (Image courtesy of twenty2omedia.com)

The past few years have seen growing interest in African Music, within and beyond the continent’s boarders, thanks to a gradual evolution that has redefined the industry.Unlike before, African artists who were largely independent are now being sought by regional and international record companies as a key strategic step to widen their (that is, the record company’s) influence in the music world.

Among others such artists include, Tanzania’s Nakaaya Sumari, Congolese Natalie Makoma, Nigeria’s Davido and the recent Ali Kiba signing with global record deal company Sony Music Entertainment. While for most artists this may be considered as amongst the greatest milestones one would achieve in their music careers, it might be about time African artists re- evaluate major label record deals offered to them and the impact of the latter on their careers.( Allow me to play the devil’s advocate for this particular article, with the hope of reaffirming African artists that  a major label record deal may not necessarily translate into more success.)

Most (if not all) of the decisions made concerning an artist’s music career are made by the major label record company, with a main goal of ensuring a return on their investment, just like for every other business.  In an article dated March 21, 2009 on the Daily Nation, Tanzania’s Nakaaya Sumari, who had just been signed by Sony BMG (now Sony Music Entertainment) explains how she had  done a couple of singles ready for release, but that they could not be released during that year as Sony wanted her to promote her album first.

In addition, Nakaaya went ahead to reveal that Sony wanted her to re- do the album that was by then complete, re- brand it and “make sure that it fits the international standards it requires”. And while the record company would finance the expenses involved, this just goes to show the creative restriction to an artist working under a major label record company.

In a different article dated May 28 2016 on the Daily Nation, Kenyan Rapper Xtatic signed to Sony Music Entertainment Africa revealed that she cannot release music without the label’s permission; neither can she walk away from the contract, unless someone buys her out. She goes ahead to explain that she signed a multi- album contract and that the label can extend it  for as long it needs to, until it recoups its investment. “Because I can’t do anything musical unless it’s with Sony, I have put aside my music; I’m just doing an ordinary job now. One day I hope to mentor new talent, but for now I will focus on providing for my family”

 

 

 

Being signed to a major label record deal company (which has many other artists signed under it) means that an artist becomes a fish in a great sea amongst other bigger fish. This could sometimes inevitably lead to fighting for attention from the record label; which is resolved by the company alternating attention and time to its various artists, such as a whole year to promote an individual artist’s brand entirely (at the expense of other artists under the same label). This also means a detached working relationship between an artist and the record label, being a large company that will mainly have agents or third parties working directly with their artists. (Just like a big company has structure, making it hard for a mid- level employees to reach those working at top management level).

Now that I am done playing the devil’s advocate, I might as well share some of the perks that come with being signed to a major record label company.  Needless to say, artists such as Ali Kiba and Davido who are now signed to Sony Music Entertainment have acquired an international stature and can use that to negotiate for higher pay with clients.

Artists signed to a major label record company no longer have to worry about the costs involved in producing and promoting their content, as that is handled entirely by their record company. This is in addition to the record company having significant contacts that they can use to further push their artists’ content, which would have been harder for an independent artist to do on their own. Due to the many artists that they have under their record label, they would also have the advantage of conducting business in bulk and therefore cutting down on the overall costs spent on individual artists (e.g distribution costs of artists’ content)

I am certainly not advocating for artists to let life changing opportunities pass them by, but this is just a call to weighing one’s options before choosing to ink that deal.

 

 

Wizkid; Revolutionizing Africa’s Music Industry

 

Wizkid (Image courtesy of i.onthe.io)
Wizkid (Image courtesy of i.onthe.io)

 

Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun better known by his stage name Wizkid is a Nigerian recording artist, songwriter and performer.  The singer who started his musical career at age 11 signed a record deal with Bank W’s Empire Mates Entertainment (E.M.E) in 2009 and then later released “Holla at your Boy”, a song that marked his rise to fame. The singer has since then revolutionized Africa’s Music Industry, arguably establishing himself as the most influential African Artist of his generation.

Here are some of the major strides made during Wizkid’s music career that are molding him into legend;

The Nigerian singer prides himself in numerous awards to his name including the most notable 2012 BET Best International Act Africa Award. In addition to this, Wizkid has been nominated for two Channel O Music Video Awards, three MTV Europe Music Awards and four World Music Awards for the highly contested World’s Best Live Act and World’s Best Male Artist titles.

As if that was not enough, Wizkid has been ranked 5th on Forbes and Channel O’s 2013 list of the Top 10 Richest/ Bankable African Artists. It is however important to note that his is not just riches in terms of money, but also an amazing  distinct voice with equally rich content in his music, which explains his being profiled as one of the 12 most innovative singers in the world with the coolest sounds.

 

In 2014, the Ojuelegba singer became the first ever Nigerian musician to have over 1 million followers on Twitter. Wizkid also had his influence earning him a one- year endorsement deal with Pepsi, alleged to have been worth 350, 000 U.S dollars with the contract later renewed for another two years. He then signed another endorsement deal with Guinness for the “Guinness World of More” concert, before landing an alleged 128 million naira deal with multinational Telecommunications Company GLO.

Wizkid has performed at the BBC Radio 1Xtra Live  alongside big names Trey Songz, Kendrick Lamar, Tulisa and Angel. The Nigerian star recently became the first Nigerian artist to debut in Billboard Top 100 charts, for the song One Dance, in which Drake featured him alongside Kyle and have managed to stay on the charts for one consecutive week. With this, he also made it to Twitter’s Trending 140 charts worldwide.

Wizkid was  listed as the 11th most downloaded artists worldwide  on iTunes along 200 other artists from around the world, again being the only Nigerian artist on the list. He was among world top artists among them Beyonce, Jay Z, Whitney Houston, Justin Beiber, Prince and Iggy Azalea. And if you thought that the huge Nigerian population made up his fans, think again because Wizkid’s songs were said to be downloaded most in Denmark.

In matters fashion, he was named as the best dressed pop star in Nigeria in 2016’s February edition of Vogue, with his sense of style being described as a “trendsetting style just as his sound, with a thoughtful and fun approach to his wardrobe; clean lines and minimalism; a mix of fresh street wear with traditional Nigerian clothes; and bold, bright accessories.”

Wizkid is indeed making a name for himself not just in Africa but the world across, flying the continent’s flag high and having the world look at us and see the great potential in us. His music career can be best summed up as one that involves being bold enough to take risks and standing out by creating your own niche rather than following a crowd.