Sync deals: Davido and McGalaxy songs placed in ‘Queen of Katwe’ movie starring Lupita Nyong’o & David Oyelowo

Congratulations to Davido and McGalaxy whose respective songs ‘Skelewu’ and ‘Sekem’ have been placed in the Hollywood blockbuster movie ‘Queen of Katwe’. The movie stars Nigerian/British/American actor Davido Oyelowo and Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o. Other African bands with songs placed in the movie are Uganda’s Eddy Kenzo (‘Mbilo Mbilo’) and Afrigo band (‘Oswadde Nyo’ and ‘Nfunda n’omubi’).

This is not the first time we’ve seen African music in American films or commercials. We saw 2Baba’s (2Face’) song ‘African Queen’ used in the movie Phat Girlz starring Mo’Nique. In 2012, we saw D’Banj’s ‘Oliver Twist’ used in  a commercial for ‘Malibu Rum.’

AML people, we are synchronization (sync) licenses territory. I covered this discussion in a AML podcast episodes #75, so be sure to listen below.

In a nutshell, using Davido as an example, here is a short breakdown of how syncs work:

When is a sync license triggered? When music is distributed in a movie, commercial, video, television production, soundtrack album or other audio-visual related work.

What is the legal right affected? The right to distribute under copyright law. Davido has allowed his song to be synchronized and distributed with the Queen Katwe movie.

Who gets paid? The songwriter  and the recording artist if the sound recording is distributed. Davido is both the songwriter and recording artist for ‘Skelewu.’

How often is a songwriter and/or artist paid? This is a one-time license fee.

How much do they get paid? It depends on your bargaining power. It can range from a couple of hundred bucks to thousands. Sync licenses are becoming a common source of revenue for artists.

Who pays Davido for use of his work? The film or tv studio, or in many cases the production company. There are also other third parties. It all depends on the use of music. Here, from the reported facts, it would be the film studio.

Who handles the payment logistics or negotiations? A license fee is directly negotiated with Davido or his music publisher if he is represented. On the sound recording side, a master use fee is paid to Davido or his label DMW Worldwide, owners of the sound recording.

Davido ‘Skelewu’

McGalaxy ‘Sekem’

“Queen of Katwe is in theaters September 30!

Queen of Katwe is the colorful true story of a young girl selling corn on the streets of rural Uganda whose world rapidly changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and, as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion. Directed by Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding) from a screenplay by William Wheeler (The Hoax) based on the book by Tim Crothers, Queen of Katwe is produced by Lydia Dean Pilcher (The Darjeeling Limited) and John Carls (Where the Wild Things Are) with Will Weiske and Troy Buder serving as executive producers. The film stars Golden Globe® nominee David Oyelowo (Selma), Oscar® winner and Tony Award® nominee Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) and newcomer Madina Nalwanga.

For 10-year-old Phiona Mutesi (Nalwanga) and her family, life in the impoverished slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda, is a constant struggle. Her mother, Harriet (Nyong’o), is fiercely determined to take care of her family and works tirelessly selling vegetables in the market to make sure her children are fed and have a roof over their heads. When Phiona meets Robert Katende (Oyelowo), a soccer player turned missionary who teaches local children chess, she is captivated. Chess requires a good deal of concentration, strategic thinking and risk taking, all skills which are applicable in everyday life, and Katende hopes to empower youth with the game. Phiona is impressed by the intelligence and wit the game requires and immediately shows potential. Recognizing Phiona’s natural aptitude for chess and the fighting spirit she’s inherited from her mother, Katende begins to mentor her, but Harriet is reluctant to provide any encouragement, not wanting to see her daughter disappointed. As Phiona begins to succeed in local chess competitions, Katende teaches her to read and write in order to pursue schooling. She quickly advances through the ranks in tournaments, but breaks away from her family to focus on her own life. Her mother eventually realizes that Phiona has a chance to excel and teams up with Katende to help her fulfill her extraordinary potential, escape a life of poverty and save her family. Disney’s Queen of Katwe will open in U.S. theaters on September 23, 2016.”


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Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Uduak Oduok (Ms. Uduak) is a fashion and entertainment lawyer, speaker, visionary, gamechanger, trailblazer, and recognized thought leader, for her work on Africa’s emerging global fashion and entertainment markets, and the niche practice of fashion law in the United States. She is also the founder of ‘Africa Music Law,’ an industry go-to music business and law blog and podcast show empowering African artists. Her work in the creative and legal industries has earned her numerous awards and recognitions, including an award from the American University Washington College of Law for her “legal impact in the field of intellectual property in Africa." She has also taught as an Adjunct Professor at several institutions in the United States. For more information, visit her at

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