As Nigerian artists on the continent continue to dream and push aggressively to enter the Western music markets, especially America’s, there has never been a time so crucial to discuss the legal pitfalls of such moves for the unwary artist.
Indeed I have discussed some of these pitfalls in many of my prior articles on www.africamusiclaw.com, with an emphasis on the D’banj/Kanye West G.O.O.D music deal. Nevertheless, we have another good case to underscore my message of being cautious and reading before you sign (on the dotted line of) any legal agreement with a record label. It is the recent case/debacle currently unfolding between one of Nigeria’s respected record labels Empire Mates Entertainment and its artist Wizkid. Before we get into the Wizkid facts, be advised that there is a blue print that we can follow to compare and contrast what a fair record contract looks or should look like.
Our example comes from the recent $6million Interscope record contract deal signed by seventeen (17) year old artist Chief Keef. Interscope is a California based company. The deal terms have been made available to the public in a Cook County Chancery Court filing in Chicago thanks to the fact that Keef is a minor.
In California, when an employer hires a minor (persons under 18) in the entertainment industry, a court approval is required. The statute (law) is called the Coogan Act. The act also requires that an employer set aside 15% of the gross earnings earned by the minor, into a trust fund, which is managed/controlled by the minor’s trustee until he/she becomes of age.
Chief Keef’s Interscope Record Deal
1. Chief Keef signed a 3 album-record contract deal
2. Chief Keef also has a separate three year contract to establish and control his own record label, ‘Glory Boyz Entertainment’ (GBE), which would be a subsidiary of Interscope Records. This second deal could, according to court records, fetch him $6million.
3. For his GBE Deal, Interscope paid Keef a $440,000 advance. His manager also receives a $180,000 advance payment. Chief Keef and his manager each own 40% of the GBE and the other 20% is split between Keef’s GBE artist, his uncle and another individual.
4. The GBE contract requires that interscope pay $200,000 in overhead expenses i.e. the costs associated with running the label GBE.
5. For the GBE label, GBE and Interscope would split profits equally. Interscope, however, can terminate the GBE deal if losses exceed $4.5million.
6. Independent of the above, Interscope has agreed to pay Chief Keef an advance fee of $440,000. 15% of the aforementioned advance, because he is a minor, must be deposited into a trust fund aka ”blocked trust” where it will be controlled by his grand mother until he turns 18.
7. Interscope also provided $300,000 advance (recording costs) for Chief Keef’s recording of his album “Finally Rich.”
8. Chief Keef’s direct record deal with Interscope is conditioned on the success of his album. If Chief Keef does not sell 250,000 units of his album by the end of December 2013, then Interscope can decide not to release his subsequent albums and compilation.
Chief Keef has other legal problems namely criminal action against him. He is currently locked up in a Juvenile detention center (jail for young people) and he has been sued by a woman in family court for child support. His extra legal shenanigans, however, exceed the scope of this article. We are focused, for all intended purposes, on actions that put monies in our pockets, not the ones that steal our freedom and have us involved in baby mama drama. So, let’s get on with it and look at Nigeria’s Wizkid and his deal with the Nigerian based record label EME.
Wizkid’s EME Record Deal
NOTE: Unlike Keef’s, the terms of the Wizkid EME deal are alleged. It is based on insider talks and news stories that have flooded the internet within the past year alone. It may or may not be true. For our informative and educational purpose, however, it is irrelevant whether the facts are true. In fact, I am treating these facts as hypothetical facts, except where noted as true, to drive home the underlying point on the need to read your contract before you sign it, to avoid legal pitfalls like those that may find themselves under the same alleged factual situation like Wizkid. Keep this in mind as you read my analysis.
1. Wizkid is a Nigerian citizen (true fact)
2. Wizkid is a self proclaimed “studio rat.” As early as 11 years old, he was already singing.
3. By 2006, he got his break with Nigeria’s famed artist OJB (true fact)
4. In 2009, at 19years old, Wizkid got an even bigger break when he began working with Nigerian-American R &B super star Banky W’s Empire Mates Entertainment Record label. (True fact)
5. Wizkid already put a lot of the hard work on the talent side before he met EME. From 2009 onwards, EME focused on the branding, artist development, marketing and promotions of Wizkid. (True fact)
6. Within and outside of Nigeria, there was NO LEGAL CONTRACT signed between EME and Wizkid. (Alleged)
7. About March 2012, when fans and the public screamed in excitement about the EME Wizkid UK Tour, Wizkid still did not have a legal contract. However, as a condition to perform in the UK and to get visas granted, the hosting country (UK) required a record contract evidencing Wizkid was signed to EME. EME, in a rush, put a contract together for Wizkid. (Alleged)
8. The EME-Wizkid contract (the first signing of a record deal) had a term requiring a
7 album deal. They promised this contract will be amended to the “real contract” later. (Alleged)
9. Wizkid signed the 7 Album contract, without reading the terms. (Alleged)
10. Prior to the signing, monies were split between the two in a 50/50 way i.e. monies made from concerts/ tours were split evenly. (Alleged)
11. In April of 2012, EME announced a joint deal, in a press statement, with Akon’s Konvict. EME claimed Akon would “produce and release Wizkid worldwide” while EME managed Wizkid in Nigeria. (True Fact)
12. Before we could blink, all of a sudden, Wizkid signed a management deal with Tinie Tempah in the UK. Really? (True Fact)
13. Banky W & EME allegedly never negotiated or agreed to such a deal. Wizkid directly negotiated and signed with Tinie Tempah. (Alleged)
14. Wizkid fronts his own label “Star Boy” under the blessings and umbrella of the EME label. (Alleged)
15. As it stands, the relationship between the EME crew and Wizkid has deteriorated to the point where Wizkid no longer speaks to members of the EME team, including Banky W. All correspondences are filtered through his new manager Godwin Tom (Alleged).
16. Wizkid wants more money and he wants out i.e. reduce the 7 Album deal. He feels slighted because EME promised they would sign a new contract with him and now they want to hold his feet to the fire on their 7 album contract. (Alleged)
AML artists, now what? If you find yourself stuck in such position based on the alleged facts like Wizkid, what do you do?
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