What's real, what's hype and what's in the deals they're signing?
Like a media platform (not NET) described it, it’s raining Sony deals for Nigerian artistes. Since Davido put pen to paper for the global music company in January of this year, it’s been Sony this, Sony that. Wizkid got a Sony deal, Ayo Jay got one by the way of RCA Records and so did Ycee apparently. Tekno is the most recent name reported to be inserted into the Sony roster.
While it is great PR exposure for our artistes, we would be remiss if we did not ask the question: what exactly are in these deals that Sony Music is giving to Nigerian musicians?
Since Davido made a big show of his signing up ceremony in New York early this year, he has gone through the motions of excitement, disappointment, anger and resignation: he sang about his FADER Magazine cover, ranted on social media how ‘it wasn’t his fault’ (it doesn’t take much discerning to decipher he was talking about his stalled sophomore album) and finally dropping a miserly five-track EP, Son of Mercy. And Davido has done better than everyone else. At least he has a body of work distributed by Sony.
For all the ‘eye watering, jaw dropping multi-million dollar’ contract that Wizkid is said to have signed, even he hasn’t had the pleasure of taking a token photography with the Sony backdrop like the others have.
The Nigerian society is not famous for being open with information. It’s a tiring endeavour asking and digging for news as though it were high level state security classified info. So all that is left is conjecture and speculation.
Here’s why that is a problem: once it appears that the story told was in fact a story sold, the audience gets tired and wary of the whole thing. Even the artistes get irritable, as evident in the aforementioned Davido Snapchat chronicles. Either he’s stupid and didn’t know his deal with Sony would mean tanking the album that was pretty much stupid or he got carried away with his country’s celebration of him signing a major deal. Now Davido is NOT stupid. He – or any of his several handlers – would have known that his B.A.D.D.E.S.T album would have to be redone.
So let us examine the rumoured ‘$1m in cash’ that he was willing to throw into the grapevine. How far is a million dollars going to take Davido’s Sony career? When all the lawyers and managers and producers Uncle Sam take their various percentages, will what is left be enough to tide him over one album, let alone two?
In 2016, Nigerian music has grown to a level that we should no longer be deceived by dubious deals and hype. While it is a boost for the artistes concerned, it no longer defines how important our artistes are to the world.
It shouldn’t take a marquee signing of Davido’s stature to wait nine months to drop any material. Wizkid is too much of a big deal to have his deal shrouded in mystery. When Drake got signed to Cash Money back in 2009, it was clear what belonged to who, and when. Perhaps that’s why in spite of all the madness going on between Lil Wayne and Birdman, he’s still doing great.
We have long passed the years of craving international exposure just for the hell of it. Any deal given to Nigerian artistes should elevate them further, not hold them back. As we have overcome the ‘collabo-by-force’ demon, we must subdue the ‘foreign deal’ medusa as well.
This is Wizkid’s best year yet, still he hasn’t dropped any track of his, safe for the lukewarm ‘Shabba’. If he and Davido has attained their respective heights by themselves, Sony contracts should make them stratospheric. Sony needs Nigeria music more than we need them, and Michael Ugwu who heads Sony Music West Africa is beholden to his employers who see Nigeria as the next frontier to conquer, not necessarily to his fellow Nigerians.
For Ycee and Tekno whose careers are just about to take off, it might do them a whole lot of good to study Darey Art Alade‘s unfruitful stint with Sony BMG or D’banj‘s stay with them: here’s a summary of what happened – nothing.
It would be a travesty of titanic proportions if our brightest stars are shackled by ambiguous international record deals. It would do us all plenty good to find out what precisely our artistes are signing with deals, lest two years from now, they all will be suing the music company for financial mismanagement as Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson did in 2014. Both Prince and George Michael struggled to get out of their contracts in the early 90’s. Like motivational speakers like to say, be guided.
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