Legal Drama, Music Business

Chocolate city wages 20Million Naira legal war against Brymo, artist insists the label used him and did not pay for his services

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Three years after the Chocolate City v. Brymo legal war and Brymo’s exit from the record company, Brymo continues to insist he got screwed in his relationship with Chocolate city. He says the record company paid him no royalties, gave him no advance fees and he was also responsible for paying his manager.

Brymo’s insistence comes on the heels of a recent report by Premium Times that explains the ongoing  legal war between the artist and the record company. Excerpts from the report follows:

“The Chocolate City Entertainment Company has said it invested almost N20 million on its former artiste, Ashimi Olawale Ibrahim (popularly known as Brymo), but failed to recoup up to N3 million according to court documents made available to PREMIUM TIMES.

The music label and singer have been embroiled in a legal tussle since 2013 over allegations of breach of contract.

Brymo left Chocolate City in 2013 shortly after the release of Son of A Carpenter, his debut album on the label, accusing the company of failing to promote the record.

The music company, on the other hand, said the artiste breached a five-year contract that required him to release three albums between 2011 and 2016.

‘No royalties’

In a court document deposed at the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court, Brymo (the defendant) accused his former label of short-changing him, saying he never received any advance as agreed in his contract for the development of the album Son of A Carpenter.

“The plaintiff (Chocolate City) on many occasions told the defendant that it would give him a release from the contract and then change its mind,” Brymo said.

“The defendant was never paid any royalties on the album Son of A Carpenter nor was he ever given a stated amount of the monies expended by them for the album.

“An email dated 14th May 2013 from the defendant clearly stated that the defendant is owed the sum of N925, 555.83 for the album Son of A Carpenter.”

Brymo also accused his former label of failing to employ a manager for him, transferring one they earlier gave to him to another artiste, and forcing him to single-handedly employ and pay his own manager.

“The defendant never provided a platform for it to release another album, as it did not have the means to do so,” said Brymo.

“It is based on the breach that the defendant wants to be released from the contract so he can continue with his career independent of the label.”

Chocolate City denies

Chocolate City, however, said it paid for, on Brymo’s behalf, every recording cost it authorised and for which a prior approval was sought and obtained by the singer.

The music group also said it is standard industry practice for record companies to pay for all expenses incurred during recording (paying producers, video director, dancers, and others), as opposed to giving the entire budget to the artiste.

“It is a notorious fact in Nigeria music industry that most artists will fritter away the approved budget if same is handed over to them without producing any commercially and technically satisfactory Master recordings,” Chocolate City stated in its deposition before the court.

“The artists are mostly not business inclined.

“The plaintiff avers that it has advanced and expended almost N20 million on the defendant but has not recoup (sic) up to N3 million.”

The label also accused Brymo of failure to actualise his career potential due to inability to “follow simple instructions”, insubordination, and active/passive promotion of Indian hemp which caused “serious damages to his brand and that of the plaintiff and other artists in the stable of the plaintiff”.

“The defendant’s active and passive promotion of drugs/marijuana included posting of pictures of Indian hemp/marijuana on his Twitter handle, Facebook or Instagram,” the label said.

“It got so bad that no reputable company was ready or willing to give him an endorsement deal, thereby deny (sic) himself and the plaintiff good revenue.

“In fact, a major telecommunication company in Nigeria suddenly pulled out of an endorsement deal worth N20 million which the plaintiff was negotiating for the defendant and which would have earned the plaintiff about N10 million.”

The music label denied telling Brymo it lacked the funds to produce his second album, and accused him of intentionally creating a crisis and then announcing to the public that he had become an independent artiste. – Premium Times

In a recent interview with Sahara Reporters, Brymo again maintains the record company cheated him:

I was a fool, there was no contract…Oleku was a pro bono work not a dime was made for Brymo from it so I felt like maybe because I didn’t have a contract and I was new,” said Brymo to Sahara Reporters.

“Maybe that was my trial period but after… I signed a contract in April 2011, but guess what, nothing changed, the label still didn’t provide money for upfront which was in the contract, they were supposed to provide money for every single project”.

Brymo is talking about the practice of record companies advancing a lump sum amount to a signed artist to record an album. The advance fees are recoupable against future royalties from the sale of the recorded music. Visit my article on Wizkid’s 7 figure Sony Deal  to see how this works.

Folks, it is not uncommon for Nigerian labels to either give an advance directly to the artist to cover the costs of producing an album and their living expenses, or directly pay for the costs themselves. Often, they choose the latter to control costs, and ensure that the artist is spending the money on what he or she needs to be spending. Therefore, Chocolate City not directly giving Brymo the advance they promised is not necessarily out of the ordinary in the Nigerian music business. The problem is that they claim they actually paid for his recording costs,  living expenses etc. but Brymo says that never happened. Brymo claims  he had to fund his recording himself. For his living expenses, he says M.I, who was also a label mate and VP at the time, I believe, funded his expenses. So, if you stayed with an executive of Chocolate City at the time, and he covered your living expenses so you could focus on recording, is your costs not absorbed by the label?

The problem I see here is the seeming lack of accounting from the record company to the artist. When was Brymo supposed to receive his royalty statements? Did he receive any and how transparent was the accounting? Did the accounting show what the label actually advanced to Brymo, the recording and other recoupable costs incurred by Brymo, the recorded music/live entertainment income Brymo earned, the net royalties, if any that was left, and what was owed to Brymo?

By the way, it is common for the artist signed with a large record label to walk away with zero royalties or still owe the label after the above deductions are made.

It would be interesting to see a copy of the recording contract Brymo ultimately signed. Based on his description, it seems like he had some sort of initial demo deal  (basically prove your worth type deal before we invest heavily in you) with Chocolate City. When they felt he had what it took, it seemed they signed him at that point. It also seems he lacked a basic understanding of the music business, what he signed and the deal terms.

At this stage, I wonder if instead of just defending himself in the media, Brymo has filed a countersuit to Chocolate City’s lawsuit? It would seem to me he would file a breach of contract claim against Chocolate City and also demand an accounting of all of his royalties. At a minimum, he should make Chocolate City provide an accounting of his royalties, if in fact his claim is true.

Folks, if you recall, I interviewed Audu Maikori, founder of Chocolate City, regarding this brouhaha in December 2014. The things he discussed remain relevant. You can listen to my interview with him on episode 27 of The Africa Music Law Show.

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Africa Music Law™

AFRICA MUSIC LAW™ (AML) is a pioneering music business and entertainment law blog and podcast show by Fashion and Entertainment Lawyer Ms. Uduak Oduok empowering the African artist and Africa's rapidly evolving entertainment industry through brilliant music business and entertainment law commentary and analysis, industry news, and exclusive interviews.

Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Ms. Uduak is also a Partner and Co-Founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. where she handles her law firm’s intellectual property law, media, business, fashion, and entertainment law practice areas. She has litigated a wide variety of cases in California courts and handled a variety of entertainment deals for clients in the USA, Africa, and Asia.

Her work and contributions to the creative industry have been recognized by numerous organizations including the National Bar Association, The American University School of Law and featured in prestigious legal publications in the USA including ABA Journal and The California Lawyer Magazine. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the prestigious Academy of Arts University in San Francisco.
For legal representation inquiries, please email (uduak@ebitulawgrp.com). For blog related inquiries i.e. advertising, licensing, or guest interview requests, please email (africamusiclaw@gmail.com). Thank you for visiting Africa Music Law™.

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1 Comment

  1. Winston Balagare says:

    Small boys, big laptops. SMDH. If any artist signs with them again after all we’ve seen just this year alone, they deserve anything the small boy does to them.

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