EME Records #Winning Formula, Spinlet’s Monopoly, IROKO’s Bullying – What Impact on Nigeria’s Music Industry & Other Key Players?

In Law & Policy, Music Business by Africa Music Law™3 Comments

I recently worked on a draft article dealing with COSON’s recent billion naira lawsuits against Wazobia and Cool FM. Radio stations are also important stakeholders in the music industry and certainly any steps taken to protect copyrights of artists, cannot do so in a way that is highly detrimental to radio stations. The COSON lawsuits against the aforementioned radio stations, in my view, create complex issues that deal first with the role of COSON as a performance rights organization and second the protection of radio broadcast rights and organizations in Nigeria. It is an interesting balancing act and I hope to share my thoughts soon.

In the meantime, let’s close out this Friday with EME Records, Spinlet and Iroko TV. HAPPY FRIDAY! This week was busy and my weekend will stay busy. *Sigh.* Anyway, let’s get right into it.

First, hats off to EME Records. EME is killing it on all fronts. They are making statements without really saying a word. A couple of smooth moves they have in place which serves as Exhibit A for industry persons to pay attention to:

1. They have their legal counsel negotiating all of their important contracts.

2. They focus on their strengths and outsource the rest to others.

3. They pick the right talents and they educate and mentor their talents on the business of music and personal and corporate branding.

4. They get out of the way and allow those who they have entrusted with EME obligations to do what they need to do. We saw their agreement with Cokobar/Ropo Akin. They got out of the way and Cokobar executed like wow!!! Cokobar got the hype going and engaged their database of connections. Most importantly, they hired a solid videographer, did solid edits on their video clips and  pushed on and offline, primarily through media, bloggers, radio etc.

5. Finally, the future of business is really about collaborations. You can’t do it all. There is strength in numbers. So collaborate with like minded partners and make things happen. We have seen EME do it so well.

EME is about the business of EME, as it should be. However, let’s talk about one of its recent partnerships with Spinlet, a new digital distribution company out of Finland with offices in Nigeria and the USA.

EME recently had its release of its EME All Stars Album. “The album is a 22-tracked LP that features E.M.E boss, Banky W, WizKid, Skales, Singer and songwriter Niyola, DJ Xclusive and Masterkraft,” according to FlyTime TV. Again, it employed many of its winning strategies including collaborations with many “friends” of EME. EME chose Spinlet as the exclusive platform it wanted to distribute its All Stars Album free music, consistent with its existing partnership with Spinlet to move their relationship forward.

DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION IN NIGERIA’S MUSIC INDUSTRY

This is where it gets interesting. Digital distribution is the future and as I have said in the past, the fight/litigation will be “all up in here.” What is interesting in Spinlet’s dealings with Nigeria’s record label is that Spinlet goes from non-exclusive agreements and relationships, which it still has with many labels, to a seeming push towards a monopoly via the EME album. I think it is a preview of what is to come.

So, check this out. Spinlet, without the internet traffic to boast its place as #1 in terms of digital distribution, gets exclusivity on the EME Album. It offers 75,000 free downloads and credits to new users.

As a distributor, Spinlet’s job is not only to distribute. Its job is to strengthen its marketing and promotions for its brand and that of the labels that do business with it such as EME. However, again it is a new entrant so how will this happen? Spinlet gets the sub-distributors (music blogs like 360nobs and Notjustok) to do the lifting for them.

Clearly, Notjustok.com typically gets exclusives and then the rest of the internet follows. Notjustok also sells music/albums (sub-distributor) and has sold albums for artists and labels in the past. If Notjustok is now unable to deliver its exclusivity but it is sending its millions of unique visitors to Spinlet, what does that mean for music blogs in the future? Remember my article on technology companies that are about to eat the lunch of African music bloggers? This scenario is a great example of it.

Is Spinlet headed towards a monopoly on the internet when it comes to Nigerian music? Spinlet it appears has paid a few music bloggers to push the EME All Star Album and also the “Spinlet Featured Song of the Day.” In the long run, if all of these blogs drive traffic to Spinlet, Spinlet will be able to stand on its own and truly be that #1 distributor it claims it currently is. What happens to these music blogs then? Are they insignificant in the final analysis in Nigeria’s music industry? If your money is going to Spinlet and Spinlet cuts you a few change every now and then, what’s the plan for the future? How can you stay competitive?

Should these blogs insist that labels and artists give them a piece of the pie since they have the larger traffic? For (Spinlet’s) fellow digital distributors what does this mean? Truspot has 70,000 + facebook users compared to Spinlet’s 8,000 +. How come Nigerian labels and artists have not really tapped into such strong pull and technologically progressive digital distributor to sell their music? Is it poor marketing on Ike Orizu/Tru Spot’s part?

What does this mean for the industry? I certainly want to hear your thoughts on all of these moves happening in terms of digital distribution.

Finally, still on distribution, one of my pet peeves has to be new entrants, mostly technology companies, who enter the market place and promise they can and will curb copyright infringement in the marketplace. Spinlet is one such company. How exactly has Spinlet curbed piracy issues in Nigeria? I fail to see how piracy on the ground has changed since Spinlet got in. On the ground, Spinlet has engaged in event sponsorship to increase its brand visibility. Nothing different from what other brands do. How exactly has this curbed piracy?

Online, Spinlet, like others before it, has created another medium that artists can share and sell their music but we get into an even more complicated discussion on copyright infringement of digital music online. I am unsure if Spinlet intends to have a radio station streaming music much the same way Gidilounge, Iwantairplay etc. have. If so, then what’s really good on payment of digital music royalties to Nigerian music labels and artists, given it does business in the USA? There is so much to get into with this whole digital distribution thing specific to Nigeria’s music industry.

The same discussion goes for IROKO Media/Partners by Jason Njoku. Njoku is already streaming music online at Iroking.com, is it in compliance with US and UK laws as to payment of digital music royalties? Njoku has offices in London, not so?

Independent of the digital music royalties discussions, I honestly do not know what Jason Njoku and/ IROKO is doing specific to music on YouTube. Like Spinlet, IROKO claims to be “Official Number One Home for All Afrobeat and Nigerian Music.” I am no techie gal but I doubt the infrastructure much less the business model supports such a claim.

From all I have seen and observed so far, IROKO is , at best, an official number one bully when it comes to its insistence on getting into Nigeria’s music market and laying its hands on the piece of the pie. Where were these persons when the music bloggers and Nigerian music fans were building the industry one post, mp3 and video at a time? Why does Njoku/IROKO think that a YouTube model where he does not own the YouTube platform gives him a monopoly over video sharing of Nigerian music? He acts worse than even the American music record labels and he is not even a label.

For the artists and labels, how does Njoku’s IROKO TV really promote your brand? Everything Iroko is doing for you on You Tube, You Tube makes directly available to you as a content provider on YouTube. You can block others from using your video, you can make money directly without sharing the revenue with anyone. Literally everything IROKO does on You Tube is available to you directly. So, why would anyone enter the kinds of agreements they are entering  with IROKO??

Please don’t say, “Oh he has Iroking website.” Really? The strength of IROKO is in its movie sharing. For the music model, I am unsure what exactly IROKO is doing. It has no real connections in the music industry, unlike Spinlet, to even connect Nigeria’s music industry professionals to other important acts in the UK, USA or even the Carribean. With respect to branding, all of the branding to date that has occurred has been Iroko’s branding of Iroko.

Iroko logo greets you on their videos, Iroko ask you to follow iroko on its website (of late they are now saying follow the artist in a small barely visible url). Iroko does interviews of artists and so what? What is difference when compared to every other media outlet, blog etc. that has done interview of artists and uploaded on You Tube? It is mind blowing for me that many Nigerian artists are signing exclusive and a few non-exclusive deals with Iroko TV.

Many are focused on the upfront deposit fees they demand and they do not think about the bigger picture including monies they can make down the line from other avenues. They also cut fans out as Iroko’s method limits sharing of their work on popular sites. You go on Notjustok, Jaguda etc. a video clip was up. Now it is blocked because Iroko (blocked it). They don’t follow up with Iroko’s own clip, they go somewhere else. Worse, if IROKO is sued for copyright infringement (or something else happens) and they go kaput (disappear) on You Tube because You Tube does not want the headache as the litigation progresses, artists, what’s your plan B? You have moved everything to IROKO Youtube channels. What will you do? 100,000 views (and your money) puff! Gone with the wind?

Exclusive digital distribution deals on a borrowed platform i.e. You Tube makes no sense. As an artist, you want your monies coming from right, left, center, front and back on and offline. Offline, you limit the geographic markets i.e. P-Square’s South African distribution deal limited to South Africa. Online, you do not limit yourself with an exclusive deal. Itunes, CD Baby, Orchard, Notjustok, Truspot, Iroko, Spinlet, Ghanamusic and the list goes on should all be contenders in bringing you money for sale of your music.

I am just scratching the surface. I never land sef. Swamped with work but I’ll be back to continue where I left off.

Have a great weekend.

(NOTE: Feel free to strongly disagree with me as I am sure some of you will. I’d love to be enlightened so share your views.)

-Uduak
@uduaklaw

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  1. Author

    ‎@Jason Njoku – With all due respect Jason, get over yourself, really. You say you run a 100 member team as opposed to my very small team of “2.” Yet, you expect me as a business woman to get on the phone on my time to “chat” with you? Who does that? Are you for real? It appears you are used to getting your way and have a hard time with someone saying “no” to you. Who is paying for my time? You’ve got 100 people at your disposal that make you money, they can “chat” with you. Come off the ego, will you?

    Second, I wonder why you fight me so vigorously. In interviews you have granted online, you yourself have agreed a business model based on You Tube is not exactly secure, especially given You Tube’s launch into Nigeria. Why are you so worked up about even something you have agreed to on the record?

    Third, as to your self professed love and respect for Loy Okezie and Tech Loy, good for you. Tech Loy literally worships you. His portal has been one of the primary if not the only portal announcing all of your iroking launch and news. I would worship him if I was you too.Clearly, I am not Loy. I am Uduak Oduok and I don’t worship. It just is what it is.

    Now let’s get to the heart of a few of your substantive arguments:

    1. P-Square has licensed its works to you. It is your job to do what you did as a distributor in the Rick Ross leak.Accordingly, sending copyright take down notices to google for infringement on the work of Nigerian artists licensed to you should not get a pat on your back. You should not be praised for what you have contractually agreed to do.

    Further, it is a weak attempt, at best, to cloud the issues I raise.

    My point remains that industry artists or labels can INDEPENDENT of you and IROKO, establish their own You Tube Channels. This is because if anything happens to IROKO, they still have their channels and their views and they are still making money from google ads. Like many content providers on You Tube, myself included, artists as content providers on You Tube can and will be notified through Google’s Content ID System of copyrighted infringement materials. They then have the choice to block the material or leave the copyrighted material online and even place money making ads on their content. You are not doing anything different than what artists can do themselves.

    Further, it is important to remember that for a very long time, You Tube was not monetizing content. For the longest time, many of the videos online from Nigeria where fans who put it up so persons in the diaspora could gain access to Nigeria/Africa. It was purely a fan driven thing. In the past few years, Google began monetizing content.There is a need to be sensitive specific to this fact as you characterize copyright offenders.

    2. As to your claims on the per annual revenue IROKO gives to the industry, correct me if I am wrong but IROKING is not even a year old. So, where is these “[annual]” revenues you keep indicating you give to artists coming from?

    3. You mentioned COSON. Let’s talk about COSON. For one, COSON should have already been in touch with you if these artists signed to them as members are doing business with you. COSON should be collecting monies of these artists from you, a t a minimum, for your streaming of their artists’ music on your IROKING website. 25 Million Naira might be small but that is because they still have to collect from many who are yet to pay to COSON, hence their latest 1billion Naira suits against companies like Wazobia and Cool FM. I also understand you do business in New York. Could you shed light as to IROKO’s digital music royalties payment pursuant to the US Copyright Act and the UK’s in conjunction with Nigerian/Nigerian American/American artists whose songs are on your platforms?

    I will stop here for now.

    -UO

    1. Author

      Chin Okeke (CO) please see my responses below:

      CO: Have you ever looked at an iRoko channel?

      Ans: Yes I have hence my response that a business model based solely on You Tube with respect to artists videos for the artists I write to, which serve as my core audience, makes no sense. They should be prudent and have their own channels even if they decide they want to work with IROKO. Again, it takes just one filing of a copyright infringement lawsuit and an injunction to cripple IROKO’s activities on You Tube. It is scary, therefore, that there is no plan B for Nigerian artists who decide to engage with IROKO. This platform is to raise those issues, irrespective of whether they decide to do business with IROKO.

      CO: pls take the time to look and then look at Vevo and then comment again about how they brand the artist content.
      Ans:
      Yes, I am familiar with VEVO. Search VEVO on AML and read up on what I have to say. However, you are missing a KEY point here. VEVO is the collaboration of 3 music labels with EMI licensing. Here is how they describe themselves, “Vevo (stylized as VEVO) is a music video website. It is a joint venture among Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Abu Dhabi Media with EMI licensing its content to the group without taking an ownership stake.”

      1. Distinct from VEVO, IROKO is NOT a record label.

      2. Distinct from IROKO, VEVO (Sony, UMG etc) creates the content and owns it and they also control how their works are used on You Tube via their own specially created VEVO channel.

      3. Distinct from IROKO, VEVO as the owner of content shares the revenue only with GOOGLE. In this scenario, content owners i.e. Nigerian artists and labels will share profits from their created content with IROKO and Google. If that is their prerogative, fine. But, they should also know there is an alternative; and the need for a plan B; where IROKO is out of the picture for whatever reason, which is totally plausible, given its operation on a borrowed platform such as You Tube and GOOGLE’s launch into Nigeria with You Tube Nigeria.

      4. Distinct from IROKO, VEVO videos are syndicated extensively across the web generating income from multiple streams/sources. IROKO essentially manages artists videos on You Tube yet restricts the rights (via exclusive agreements) for syndication across the web. There is a problem with this model and any artist aware of the possibilities of streams of income should have a problem with this.

      5. Finally, distinct from VEVO, IROKO’s model, as a commenter noted, could potentially create Antitrust lawsuits for IROKO. As it stands, IROKO is basically taking on the role of COSON who, arguably, should be the one with a direct license with You Tube managing the interests and rights of its artists members works on You Tube. IROKO has stepped in to basically prevent COSON from doing this and worse, it is entering exclusive licensing deals with artists that preclude them from doing business with other online distributors both radio or otherwise. Arguably, COSON not IROKO should be the one with a direct license with You Tube that would receive royalties from You Tube for user generated videos or videos uploaded by COSON in behalf of its member artists. Certainly murky waters and potentially messy lawsuits are in the horizon.

      CO: I represent talent and develop content myself and after serious deliberations about who should monetize the content, iRoko was recommended to me by my friend who is the head of Youtube EMEA.

      You can try and do it yourself but most artists or managers lack the time and know how to do so. As you rightly mentioned, EME winning formula is having partners that add value. iRoko is one of them and so is Spinlet as are all the blogs.

      Ans: Errrr. . . I am not so sure EME is a partner with IROKO. I think even Jason says in his comment that EME refused to join. But okay, if you insist. Either way, the issue is not that artists cannot work with IROKO if they choose to. The issue is exclusive agreements and solely relying on IROKO is not prudent. We can agree to disagree on this.

      CO: Each individual is free to decide in what capacity they choose to partner with these entities whether exclusive or non-exclusive. That’s a decision them or their management make and not you. its a matter of opinion. Its not unethical but standard business practice.

      Ans: Stating the obvious. Although for IROKO, arguably, it is potentially dangerous territory for artists if they do not have their plan B, as I indicated above.

      CO: its as simple as iRoko is taking the risk to do what Vevo does everywhere else but is too scared to do in Africa. you clearly don’t understand the monetary value that can come from content if distributed and protected properly.

      Ans: I think you have that reversed as to understanding monetary value. Distribution only on You Tube via a third party that dips into your pocket and blocks (from a competition standpoint in the marketplace, not copyright infringement) your content (via exclusive agreements) from being shared across the web is a showing of that. That you don’t get this point indicates your lack of understanding of the monetary value (here), not the other way around.

      CO: When they block blogs from posting the wrong video, this is because that version cannot be monetize for the content owner. Why can’t blogs just embed the file? if they all do then one source tracks the views and revenue is returned to the artists.

      Ans: Blocking is not an issue. With Google’s Content ID system copyright infringers are easily caught and google is swift to respond. This is a moot issue.

      CO: As for research, have you taken the time to interview Jason or Michael Ugwul? Have you interviewed any iroking clients? Jude Okoye, Tiwa Savage, Lynxxx, Omawunmi, and the list goes on…
      Ans:
      Unnecessary. It has no bearing on the core premise and argument here. The argument is that an artist’s reliance on IROKO for music video distribution who then solely relies on You Tube is simply illogical, especially given Google offers these services to these artists and labels directly and anything can happen to IROKO to take (IROKO) off the market.

      CO: As a lawyer it upsets me to see a fellow make such claims and false statements without taking the time to know the facts.
      Ans:
      Are you an attorney? Licensed where? Whether you are or not is irrelevant. There is nothing false about my claims or statements. Jason is on record both on video and online, CNN and other media outlets agreeing with my point when questioned. This is a moot issue and your job as a lawyer is irrelevant to the discussion.

      CO: Your article is full of assumptions, “seems to” “appear to” … where are your supporting arguments and references?… You should know better than to go on a with hunt. Come better prepared next time.
      Ans:
      The other way around. “Seems to” “appear to” is showing that there could be contrary evidence undermining the arguments.In this case, the evidence speaks for itself. Go on You Tube and see it. You should take your own advice and come prepared next time. Even your own positions contradicts the statements made by IROKO’s executive/founder Jason, on the record. I would advise you take your own advise.

      CO: Look forward to what you have to say about the COSON matter with the radio stations…
      Ans:
      Sure. I think COSON’s lawsuits are quite intriguing specific to the impact on Nigeria’s radio stations. I am coming more so from a policy perspective. The need for balancing although I get their very difficult position in moving the industry forward, hence the lawsuits.

      CO: I suggest you come back and get your feet wet and then you might get a better understanding of what the industry is and who are the villains and who are actually trying to build it into a reputable industry. Its not as obvious as it seems.
      Ans:
      After 5years of dealing almost on a daily basis with key industry players in radio, tv, artists, labels and being also responsible for breaking a few artists and contributing my own ancillary services etc. I think I am cool where I am at.

      CO: I take my hats off to iRoko and Spinlet for what they have been able to do so far, knowing full well this is only the beginning.
      Ans:
      I have told Jason when he reached out, I am a huge fan of Nollywood Love and its concept although I think down the line he might face the same issue and he is already addressing it with IROKTV. For the Iroking/music, we are on different pages. For Spinlet, I am intrigued. . . and they are winning me over slowly but surely but I wait to see more . . . and of course will ask the tough questions where the situation calls for it.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Cheers,
      UO

  2. Wow.. after going through every written word on this article and reading your argument with the supposedly self acclaimed lawyer ‘c.o’. i’ve got just two words to say ma’am. YOU ROCK. as an upcoming act myself this article has been as expository on the topic at hand as it can ever be. funny enough, i had the plan of working with iROKO as my momentum in the music world gains even more tenacity, now i know much more than i possibly could ever understand left to myself.. keep it up ms uduak. you just got you a fan for life. hahahahaha. CrizB.

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