Why being a successful artiste is no guarantee for success as a label executive

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  • One ordinarily assumes that artistes with business acumen are best suited to succeeding as record label executives.

Dayo Adeneye and Kenny Ogungbe successfully ran a label without being artistes themselves.

Most times when a talented artiste emerges, attains mainstream success and gets that big break, the artiste begins to weigh influence and considers exploring other ventures besides the music.

Whilst some usually settle for businesses outside the entertainment world, a lot more follow the path of setting up their own labels. We have seen the likes of Dr Dre, JAY-Z, Banky W and more all crossover from being artistes into successful label CEOs.

Running a label has always been a high risk venture, especially in a terrain like ours where albums are sold far less than a dollar, promotion costs are quite expensive and the returns on investment are as unpredictable as ever.

So having gone through the whole nine yards of being under labels themselves and working their way up the ladder, one ordinarily assumes that artistes with business acumen are best suited to succeeding as record label executives.

A handful of them have been fortunate but majority have been mis-hits.

Here are some names that have had great successes as artistes but struggle as label execs.


2Baba and Hypertek Records

2Baba flanked by Sir Victor Uwaifo and Dammy Krane

Following his departure from foremost label, Kennis Music, Innocent Ujah Idibia, now known as 2Baba, established Hypertek Entertainment in 2006 with himself and Tha Natives as acts on the label.

This was one label that promised much, not just because of the clout of the label boss, but also because of the involvement of one of the industry’s finest talent managers and Now Muzik boss, Efe Omorogbe, who also doubles as director of 960 Music Group, a company that later bought a stake in Hypertek Entertainment leading to the birth of Hypertek Digital.

It all looked settled on the administrative side but the part that mattered more which was the talent left much to be desired. Hypertek had two major names on its roster in Dammy Krane and Rock Steady.

Whilst the former was visible and enjoyed relative success with his debut album, The Enterkraner, the latter (who many believed was signed more for sentimental reasons in the first place) has done very little outside his features on 2face’s Away and Beyond and The Ascension albums.

Tha Natives – with 2face’s brother Hyacinth as one half of the group – never really kicked off. Dammy Krane has since left the label and the later signing of Sir Victor Uwaifo basically added no value to the label.

It has been announced in certain quarters that the label has been shut down for a while. For an artiste who has won it all and supported younger talents on the come up, owning a label may just not be one of the abundant talents 2face possesses.


eLDee and Trybe Records v2.0

eLDee and Trybe 2.0

Hip-hop veteran, eLDee made a return to the scene after his hiatus in the United States. In 2012, announced himself, Sheyman, Sarz, K9 and Sojay as the new face of the revamped Trybe Records.

It was a star-studded line-up and immediately they soon began to release videos and singles like eLDee’s ‘Today Today’ and Sheyman’s ‘Celebrate.’ The future looked bright once again and all seemed set for the Don to wield his magic wand like he did a decade before.

Within the same year, Aramide, Eva and promising rapper, Rukus, (prominent for his ‘Enigma’ freestyle, relocated to the country) and all signed with the label.

Soon, things began to fall apart for varying reasons and music fans witnessed an exodus of some of the finest talents any stable could assemble.

Trybe Records V2.0 had stalled; eLDee announced his retirement from the game and has now moved onto a new tech venture called Playdata. If there was anyone who many would have placed a bet with their lives on making a success out of running a label, eLDee would surely top that list.

Way back in 1998 when the industry didn’t even support Nigerian music, he built a label that assembled extremely talented individuals like 2Shotz, Blaise, Sasha, Dr Sid and Del.

He’s also credited for breaking the Alaba stronghold on the industry but Trybe Records v2.0 proved to be a totally different experience.


M.I and Chocolate City

M.I Abaga, Audu Maikori and Choc City

Founded in 2005 by Audu Maikori and his partners, Chocolate City Music grew to become one of the most successful record labels not just in Nigeria but in Africa.

The label paraded names like M.I Abaga, Jesse Jagz, Ice Prince and Brymo who all grew to become household names. 10 years later, Audu decided to step aside and hand over the music arm to M.I Abaga who looked like the ideal man for the job having grown with the label, gaining sufficient experience and building a massive brand along the way.

So for a moment that a young artiste trying to get started gets a call from Chocolate City for a meeting with the great M.I – a meeting during which he offers a record contract; how many artistes can resist that? Almost none, to be honest.

And that was how the label, via a merger with Loopy Music, added Koker, Milli, Dice Ailes, DJ Lambo, Kahli Abdu & VHS Safari, Loose Kaynon, Pryse, Victoria Kimani and Ruby Gyang to its stable.

This was a formidable force one would expect to dominate the airwaves for a long time, similar to Kennis Music at the turn of the century. For some strange reason, save for the TICBN project, Ruby Gyang’s This is Love EP, and mixtapes from Loose Kaynon and M.I, the music just wasn’t coming. The few ones released themselves had little or no promotion as the label did its early acts.

Frustration began to grow in the camp and a mass exit soon followed: Kahli and Milli led the lines with DJ Caise, Pryse and Victoria Kimani all following suit.

Jesse Jagz and Ice Prince were allowed to run their independent imprint which was a way of allowing them leave without getting bad press.

The label has slumped to an all-time low during M.I’s two-year tenure and only recently announced DJ Lambo as the new President of Choc Boi Nation. How this will restore the glory days back to the label remains to be seen.


Ruggedman and Rugged Records

Mbryo and Ruggedman

Rapper, Ruggedman emerged on the scene with his controversial single ‘Ehen’ and from then on, there was no turning back as he carved his path to fame.

He got signed to Muri Ejalonibu’s Little Fish Records but the relationship didn’t last long at all and this led to the birth of his own label, Rugged Records.

In 2012, the label announced the signing of its first act, singer MBryo which led to the promotional tape Money Making Music, then later Chinaydu who got infamous for wading into the Rugged-9ice beef with his song, ‘And the Beef goes on’, and he released a mixtape, This is Chinaydu Vol 1.

Five years later, those names have faded off the scene. Even Ruggedman himself has struggled as an artiste and now focuses more on his 20th September clothing line.


9ice and Alapomeji Records


After his exit from Edge Records in 2008, 9ice founded his independent label, Alapomeji Records, which housed the likes of indigenous rapper Seriki, Snow, Ajayi Brovas, Kayefi and Wise.

Seriki was one of those viewed as a contender to late rapper, Dagrin’s throne but got caught in the instability of 9ice’s personal issues at the time.

By 2013, all the artistes had departed with majority citing ‘lack of support for their careers’. 9ice later claimed in an interview that he was only putting them on as upcoming artistes and never signed a formal agreement with anyone.

In 2015, as he prepared to make a return to the scene, he rebranded and changed the label’s name to Alapomeji Ancestral Records, signing a new act Mikol who released his single titled ‘Asiko Laiye’ with accompanying visuals. But two years on and next to nothing has been heard from him.

Even though 9ice has seemingly revived his own career with the success of his latest singles, none of the acts that passed through his label has been able to stake a claim in the game.


D’banj and DB Records

‘The Lee Family’

On June 9, 2014, D’banj took to his Instagram page to announce the artistes under his newly formed label, DB Records. He listed his younger brother, K-Switch (KayswitchLEE), brothers Mosskriss and Ralphkriss and the duchess of the label, Nollywood actress, Tonto Dikeh aka PokoLEE with DeeVee as producer.

But the dust had barely settled before the first departure from the label happened: Tonto Dikeh reportedly left after being told by D’banj that she would need to step her game up soon after she got married.

Of all the other acts signed to label, none can boast of an album or any body of work to their name. Some observers point to this as another cost of D’banj’s quest for international success.

Mr Eazi only recently disclosed that contrary to popular belief, he’s not signed to Wizkid’s Starboy Records.

For most of the above listed name, the ‘failure’ of their artistes does not completely fall at their feet – some acts are actually irredeemable (Tonto as a singer for instance) while others may not have envisaged the enormous challenge running a label entails (9ice is a ready example of this), signing acts who are largely their protégés and trying to run their career the same way theirs was patterned.

A career in music business is one of the toughest paths to take as it is demanding, and technology in recent years has raised the question of the necessity of a record label when it is easier to go at it solo.

A label executive doesn’t just stop at providing funding and infrastructure for musical careers: they need to understand that intention does not really translate to success. It takes a lot unsexy hard work and only through strategic partnerships and proper label model can gains both long and short term, be attained.

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