Have you ever stayed or know someone who stayed in a relationship they knew they had no business staying in? What happened when they insisted on being the “mugu,”stuck around and told themselves their love or loyalty would fix the relationship? AML people, but of course you all know how the story ended. At some point, the relationship reached the point of no return because either deep resentment grew for the person who stuck around and they finally left; or the person receiving all the love and support did not see the value in Mr. or Ms. Stick Around, they decided not to renew the “love” contract.
Indeed, this love story gone wrong plays out both in personal and business relationships daily, and it is the case we have before us today in the matter of Skales (Artist) v. EME Records.
For those joining us here at AML for the first time, let me lay the context so you know who the characters in our story are, and clearly understand the issues.
Empire Mates Entertainment (EME) is considered one of Nigeria/Africa’s largest record labels. However, when compared to the labels we have here in the USA, EME is at best an indie label. Nevertheless, with a roster of only six (6, now technically (4)) artists, it has managed to make some important strides in Africa’s music markets. Its six artists are: Banky W (co-founder of the label), Wizkid and Skales (both signed in 2010), Niyola, DJ Xclusive and Shaydee (signed in 2012).
In terms of real revenue coming into the label, the big rainmakers have been Banky W and Wizkid.
Banky W, a Nigerian-American artist, who still shuffles between New York and Lagos, for many years (2000-2008), tried to make it in America’s music market as a household name. While he was able to garner attention particularly in New York’s local music markets, and even win some awards, he was far from his goal of becoming a household name here in the USA.
In 2008, Banky W took advantage of his African heritage and relocated to Lagos, Nigeria to make music that hopefully would command the listening ears of thousands, if not millions. I still recall Banky W’s cover/remix of Rihanna’s song ‘Umbrella.’ That song, to me, was very instrumental in having Nigerians open their homes and hearts to Banky W and also solidifying his place, in an unsaturated music market at the time, as Nigeria’s R &B King.
Watch the Video
EME ‘Ebute Metta’ Rihanna Remix
By 2010, Banky W’s label was doing quite well so much so that it signed its first set of artists, seventeen (17) year old Skales and nineteen (19) year old Wizkid, in addition to Banky.
Especially as a first time manager of artists, other than the co-owner Banky W, there is no denying that Banky W along with his fellow co-founders who did not share the music background Banky W has, had a lot to learn about growing a label, managing artists and basically becoming successful.
The executives felt their time and energy was better spent pushing Wizkid. To that end, their resources, time, energy and marketing and promotional efforts was ALL about Wizkid. Certainly the digital footprints of bloggers and Nigerian media speak volumes and provide evidence on where the label spent most of its energy and time on. The seventeen year old Skales, to be rather frank, was simply ignored, whether from a business strategic standpoint or as a result of the success they began seeing with the nineteen (19) year old, Wizkid.
Wizkid flew off the handles. He was one of the most sought after artists across Africa and later in the US and UK, among the African diaspora audience. He also began grabbing the attention of corporate brands who wanted to leverage his superstardom to gain new customers and have a stronger reach. The collaborations and endorsements began pouring in, including the biggest of all, PEPSI Africa.
Everything was great and peachy. But hey, wait. What about the seventeen year old Skales? What happened to Skales? Many industry heads and fans alike began wondering and asking the aforementioned question. Some even suggested Skales leave EME because they thought the label had its head buried in the sand with Wizkid.
Skales, nevertheless, stayed.
Folks, Skales was no ordinary 17 year old. He could rap his tush off. He was fresh, young energetic. He could also sing. Further, he came to EME with some traction. He had performed with other local and even famed acts, and overall had over 200 songs penned. Yet, all the EME thought to give him was a full time duty warming the bench and occasional drills of running up and down the bleachers while his fellow artist colleague Wizkid was always point guard on the team.
If you compare it to raising kids, it is like that one kid who the parents always dote over while leaving his or her sibling to look after themselves. The real deal is that the time in the EME camp was divided between Wizkid and Banky W.
However, the executives of EME did not see the inevitable wrinkle common in artist-label relationships coming. Wizkid, at some point, no longer wanted to play the game, at least not according to the rules. In 2012, Wizkid allegedly signed a 7 album record deal with EME. Wizkid claims he signed it under misrepresentation and duress, as part of trying to help the label comply with necessary documents needed for Wizkid’s first ever UK Tour. By February 2013, Wizkid realized he had signed a *sh*itty* deal, excuse my Yoruba and he was not having it. What did he do?
He hung out with UK’s Tinie Tempah and “’em,” Tempah had a management deal that was supposed to work in line with EME to manage Wizkid for the UK market. The deal made no sense whatsoever because EME had some months prior to, announced an exclusive world wide deal with Akon’s Konvict records with Wizkid as the ultimate prize Akon received. Akon would break Wizkid into the US market, EME would help Akon expand into Africa. Now, stuff had hit the fan between Wizkid and EME and Wizkid just did his thing.
Wizkid floated his label Star Boy Records, and as stated hung with Tinie. Tongues were wagging furiously. Everyone wanted a response from Banky W. None was forthcoming and it was clear the label boss and his protege were no longer on speaking terms. If we were confused, Wizkid dropped the Maleek Berry produced ‘Back to the Matter’ track and things heated up across the net and offline.
Watch the video
But hey, wait! Wait! What about our seventeen (17) year old kid who was still bench warming and running bleachers? What happened to him?
He was growing up fast! EME finally remembered they had him and began to focus on Skales, okay like for one (1) second. They told us Skales was good, as if we did not already know that, then they did nothing more, really. Don’t y’all dare tell me a few singles here and there from EME for an artist who has been with them for four (4) years, and as a young kid is doing a lot. You will get that blank stare and side eye look.
EME gave us a few singles here and there from their supposedly “very talented” and “next big thing” Skales and ladies and gentlemen, “thasit.” The minimal investment and inability to define the sound, scope and vision for Skales’ brand got many probing and asking questions. Insiders and fans alike suggested Skales jump ship, while others told Skales he was the problem.
Anyone recall AML reader Obinna Agwu’s, “The Wholeskale Detour . . . E.M.E’s SKALES “No Vision, No Mission, No DIRECTION, No Passion.”
Fast forward to 2014, after this seventeen year old has given four years of his impressionable life to EME, EME confirms that they have dropped him from their label, and also have the audacity to couch it as some sort of bad investment with no real return on investment. To be precise, Thenetng.net in relevant part says,
“We’re told EME decided not to renew its deal with Skales because they feel it may no longer be a profitable venture.”
Okay . . . whose fault is it?
There is also an insider in the story reported by thenetng.net who claims the camp has spent “millions” on Skales. Millions of what? Naira? Convert Naira to dollars and that is some thousands of dollars. Okay? And so . . . what exactly is the point there? Can we see the invoice on monies spent on Wizkid vs. Skales? How much actual time and investment when compared to Wizkid? You can’t say an artist is “no longer a profitable venture” when you never even really paid attention to him.
How much artist development in that four years has gone into Skales when compared to Wizkid?
Here is the deal folks. EME has a right to do what it deems fit with its business practices including deciding who goes and who stays. In fact, Skales is no saint and we saw that in recent times. If EME refuses to renew Skales’ contract, that is fine. EME should however spare us with the “profitable venture” language.
Reducing this artist to some unarticulated object or money, especially when it is clear EME had no idea what to do with this talent, at least to me, is ridiculous.
What are your thoughts? You see things differently? If so, how?
Skales Recent Release ‘Very Soon’ – He also claims he will soon release a freshman album.
Wizkid’s The Matter