Here are a few tips for any artiste who wants to sign a record deal.
By ‘Seun Oremade, exclusive to Nigerian Entertainment Today
The biggest story in the past few days in Nigerian entertainment is the arrest of Skales and his manager by his record label, Baseline Records. The arrest was based on a petition that bordered on the issues of fraud and circumvention of funds that were supposed to go to the label.
Some details of the contract signed between Skales and Baseline were revealed in the petition to the Nigerian Police Force and these details were shocking to a lot of people who were surprised at the terms.
Lots of arguments have gone on in favour of and against both parties as regards the deal which was touted to be worth about N200m when it was signed but I choose not to get into these arguments.
Rather, I would want to see other people avoid the same errors that could lead to a future reoccurrence of this kind of situation. Here are a few tips for any artist who wants to sign a record deal:
Don’t get too excited to think straight
Signing with a good record label is a great step in any artist’s career but don’t get too carried away as to just sign any document given to you. Read through the contract several times, take notes, share with a lawyer who would help you vet its content and raise your concerns with him/her.
Discuss the terms with the label and reach agreeable terms before you sign. Always remember that the record label is not doing you a favour. It is because they found potential that could make them money in you that they want to sign you up.
Don’t believe the hype. Know the real figures.
Some labels would offer you an upfront sum, an apartment and a car as a part of your deal. Some don’t. Whatever the case is, ensure that you get the correct value of the initial investment on you. Know how much the rent for an apartment in a gated estate in Lekki is, know how much the Ford SUV costs, do your own costings and agree on the amount with them.
Don’t get carried away by the hype the breaking of your sign-on story would bring. If possible, let your record label state the exact amount being spent on you or they remain silent on the figures. Do not let them tell the world the deal is worth N200m if you know it is not. Be like a footballer, state the exact terms of the deal that is fit for public consumption.
What is the record label bringing on board?
What exactly is the record label offering you? Let these be put in clear terms. Agree to milestones that would help your relationship. Such as the minimum number of videos that would be shot for you per album, number of good songs you need to have before they can choose to promote one of them, minimum spend per album and frequency with which you can drop singles.
This would let both parties have a clear picture of which side is foot dragging on the deal.
Do the MATHS
Before you agree to a 70% – 30% contract for 5 years, do the maths. It might seem good to you at the beginning but the bigger you get as an artiste, the more dissatisfied you will become. For example, if you earn N500,000 per show in your first year and you do 24 shows in a year, at an average of 2 shows per month, you would make N12m that year. Your record label collects 70% of it, i.e., N8,400,000 while you get N3,600,000 which is your 30% for the year. If by your 3rd year you’ve become bigger and you’ve started earning about N2,000,000 per show and the number of your shows have increased, how would you feel knowing that you work so hard to only get N600,000 after each performance while the label makes N1,400,000?
Don’t let them suddenly overhaul your lifestyle completely
While everyone desires a better lifestyle, one needs to be careful of the trappings and expectations a sudden lifestyle change could bring. The cost implication to your label which every single kobo would be paid back by you, should be considered. Be modest in your expectations and let your lifestyle grow with your career.
Start with an apartment in a decent area rather than in Lekki, where your annual house rent could pay for 2 or 3 years in the same type of apartment in Gbagada, Ikeja or Omole. The more you collect from your label, the more you’re expected to pay back.
Get a release commitment
Ensure that you have an album release commitment in your contract. A release commitment is a promise from your record label that it would release at least one album for you within an agreed period of time.
If you record the amount of good tracks that is required for an album and the label fails to release the album, then you should be allowed to terminate the contract. That way, you will not spend four years with your label without having an album.
Ask for a clause that you can review your contract after a period of time
If you are dealing with a progressive-minded record label, you should be able to negotiate a clause that would allow you renegotiate the terms of your contract along the line as the deal progresses. This review could happen after the success of your first album with the label but the label is not bound to make any changes if it so chooses.
It is like signing a footballer, if the player performs very well and his worth increases, the club could agree to a new deal with the player and sign a contract extension. But if they do not agree, it is obvious the player would leave at the end of his contract.
Check the exit clause
Before you sign that contract, check your exit/termination clause! If anyone is investing N200 million in you and wants you to pay £10,000,000 before you can leave such a contract, RUN!!!
While you do not want to give an impression that you want to dishonour your contract, it is only reasonable that the financial expectation for an exit is realistic. It could be the amount invested plus an interest of 100% within the first 3 years and an interest of 50% + capital should the artist decide to leave after 3 years, i.e. before the contract expiration.
Keep an open book
Once you have signed a record deal, let your financial records be accurate. You will need it to balance your books with your record label.
Don’t hope to run away
The law would get you! If you do not intend to honor your contract, do not sign it. The implications that breaking a contract could have on your career could be worse than you expect. Not everyone would have a second chance, so be careful before you sign that deal.
‘Seun Oremade can be reached via email firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @seunoremade
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