When I first saw the news that eLDee had purchased a Cadillac Escalade Limousine for his artists valued at (40)million Naira, I had a puzzled look on my face. I waited patiently because I expected to see something pop up explaining the rationale behind eLDee’s purchase. Something did come up. The explanation allegedly given by eLDee is that it is to show that his “management is one of class and style.” *Sigh*
The only thing that comes to mind in response to that is eLDee’s hit song, “Is it your money?” this time posed to him. Artists, often, many of you get caught up in the hype and forget what really matters. Before I say a few things about what eLDee appears to present to the public as a unilateral decision on his part to purchase these vehicle for his artists, let’s look at the Trybe Records brand.
In my book, eLDee ranks as one of the hardest working music executives in the music industry. He worked so hard that I think he got buried in the work and rightfully so, so he could build the infrastructure and a strong foundation for his business. I think at some point, eLDee looked up and saw that colleagues who did not work half as hard or have the experience or skill sets he brought to the table as a business man, artist, music producer/engineer etc. were getting all the attention and press in the media.
To me, that is when eLDee did a 180 turn and began to do a full court press on the media front. We saw a complete re-branding and unveiling of the Trybe Records logo and a merge with IMAN Entertainment to really build out his brand internationally and inter-continentally. We also saw some very important strategic moves. Specifically, his acquisition of talents that pose triple threats. From music producers Sheyman, K9 to Eva, he made it clear he was now finally ready to act local but think global with his brand.
So, really, to me, there has been a huge and important recognition on eLDee’s part that the brand image, packaging and presentation is just as important as the substantive work he does or has done. Many, especially in the tech world, believe you cannot build and brand at the same time. I happen to think you can. In any event, arguably then, eLDee’s recent purchase of a Cadillac Escalade Limousine for his artists is an extension of that need to brand as explained above.
But in the final analysis, I’m more interested in who bears the costs?
Scenario #1: Did eLDee purchase this vehicle as part of a business expense for Trybe Records with a title in Trybe Records name? If so, great! Carry on. He has the money and even though Nigeria’s terrible pot hole ridden roads will not insulate him from safety issues and a car that will depreciate in value faster than you can say “how much?,” that is his problem.
Scenario #2: If, however, eLDee purchased this vehicle, unilaterally, and then imposes the costs on his artists by telling them, “it is a huge investment and a way of showing that the management is one of class and style,” as Netng.com reports, then I have an issue with it strictly from the artist’s view.
1. As you all know or should know, because I have talked about it so many times, scenario two would amount to an advancement by eLDee’s Trybe Records to his artists.
2. Such an advancement is recoupable.
3. eLDee’s artists are still trying to gain traction and leverage with their emerging music careers/ in new music markets. By the time they begin generating income from music, they have to pay back the advance fees and the additional millions for the Cadillac Escalade Limousine that is supposed to make Trybe Records look good?
4. If these artists are unable to generate enough income that can pay back their debt, they could very well be indebted to Trybe Records for a while. I shared the news that Bow Wow was new host of 106 & Park this week. Did you also know Bow Wow now claims to have only $400.00, in a court room, in his bank account and is leasing his current vehicle? Bow Wow is signed to Cash Money Records. What happened? The point is don’t take on more debt than you have to AML artists.
5. Finally, to me, especially in Nigeria, the safety and well being of artists should be priority by a label not showing off that a label is one of style or that management has style. If you are doing your job well, you need not announce that. When I think Chocolate City, class, style and professionalism comes to mind. They haven’t bought expensive Cadillac Escalade Limousines for their artists to build such brand identity. You either have it or your don’t. Flashy vehicles create a safety issue for artists in an already crime ridden society where local wealthy Nigerians are now targeted.
I don’t get this flamboyant “Big Boy” purchase. Obviously, eLDee can decide what is in the best interest of his label and his artists. However, as independent thinking people, AML artists, y’all gotta make sure to come to the bargaining table with some power and leverage, a strong sense of self and hit hard with negotiating deals that make sense.