Three years ago when M.I Abaga served as Vice President of Chocolate City Records (CCR) and then decided to launch his own record label, Loopy Records, I said it made no economic sense for CCR. Unless Nigeria’s music industry ecosystem is like that of the USA, which it simply is not, it was a move that would in the long run hurt the best interest of CCR.
M.I Abaga defended his move by comparing it to moves like that of artists in the States who broker joint venture deals with larger record labels. Nevertheless, I still maintained the move did not make business sense and his business model was unsustainable. I don’t think Nigerian artists who transition to become business owners fully understand the very difficult terrain of what it takes to be a successful business owner. The Nigerian music market is simply very different from the U.S. music market, and we have a long way to go to get the industry’s infrastructure where it needs to be, including music business education to help artists own their businesses.
I said two things would happen. Either M.I Abaga pulls away and completely fronts his own label or he in the long run will need to face and fulfill his obligation as an executive of CCR; and focus on expanding the CCR brand. I wondered how he could manage his personal brand as an artist under Loopy, manage the artists he signed to Loopy like Jesse Jagz, Ice Prince and about three others, fulfill his duties as an artist under the CCR label and still fulfill his duties as a VP of CCR? I also wondered what his understanding of his role and responsibility as an officer of CCR reporting to its board of directors and shareholders, and to help make the business more profitable, was. If Chocolate City Group (with several subsidiaries including CCR) was indeed aiming to be traded on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and become Africa’s leading global media and entertainment brand like it claimed it wanted to be, what business sense did the move make?
Fast forward three years later, M.I Abaga, earlier this year, announced he has fully returned to CCR. Loopy records is now defunct and M.I is now president of CCR. Months later after Chocolate City Group advised the public that M.I is now President and during that time, named Ice Prince Vice President (VP), we see Ice Prince make a parallel move M.I made with Loopy by launching his own label called ‘Super Cool Cats.’
Now let’s be clear that Ice Prince has worked very hard as an artist and you really can’t knock his hustle, whether you are a fan of his music or not. Also, he has talked about launching his label for a couple of years, but that is before he was made Vice President of CCR in 2015.
Indeed, in an interview with MTV UK, in 2014, here is how Ice Prince described his label: “There’s Super Cool Cats music, my new outfit, and I have a few artists that I want to introduce to the world. There’s a girl called Ruth and a guy called Stunt. They’re all super cool cats. And there are a lot of producers in that outfit as well.”
Same question I posed with M.I Abaga I now pose with the Ice Prince situation. How is this supposed to work and what business sense does it make given Ice’s role as VP for CCR?
I also find Ice Prince’s manager Tobi Sanni’s statement unprofessional in addressing whether Ice Prince was leaving the label in a recent interview with Thenet.ng:
“Ice Prince can never leave Chocolate City even in death, but the prayer we all have for our children is that at a certain age they’ll begin to branch out and do certain things which shows that you are a man…,” said Sanni in addressing rumors of Ice leaving the label.
I find the manager’s statement bothersome because I believe it is reflective of the mentality many industry professionals hold in the treatment of artists.I also think it is one of the core reasons why Nigerian record labels are now endangered species in the industry. They come to the table treating their artists as “children” rather than adults. They approach business in a ridiculously paternalistic fashion and at the end of the day, they incur very hurt feelings because as we all know, children rebel at a certain age (usually the teenage years), and will do their own thing and there is nothing a parent can do to change a determined and rebellious child. When this happens, we hear the affected labels lament and say, “after all I have done for XYZ artist. They did this to me?” Worse, the label is in the hole in investment pounds/dollars and naira with the artist. Nigerian label owners need to give this child-father relationship a good kick in the ikebe (butt) and treat business as business. I believe it is time to do so and the industry is a bit more mature to handle such treatment.
Ice Prince is “family” where CCR is concerned. But Ice Prince is and should be his own man where the business of music is concerned, even within CCR. He shouldn’t have to leave CCR (or launch his own label independent of CCR) to “show that he is a man.”
Also, as an artist and his own man, CCR should not treat him in a manner where they spoon feed or continue to spoon feed him or he needs the approval from the CEO of Chocolate City Records (M.I) or the CEO of Chocolate City Media Group (Audu Maikori) to make personal decisions for his life, his family and his career. Family doesn’t mean we don’t chart our own course or have our own personal autonomy.
Therefore, to me, to have his manager make such a statement to the press that “even in his death,” Ice Prince “will never leave Chocolate City” and analogize it to having children is very unprofessional and very paternalistic. Again, I think it shows the underlying lack of respect to the artist as his/her own person that permeates the industry and leads to the deep fragmentation and rocky relationship between artists and labels.
In any event, should Ice Prince leave Chocolate City? Yes, if he feels he has what it takes to operate his own successful music business. I also think and know there are so many ways to fashion a mutually beneficial business relationship that keeps Ice connected to CCR but yet cuts the umbilical cord his manager alludes to so he can stand on his own.
Should Ice Prince continue as VP of CCR? In my view, the move to make him VP was premature and he should not have been appointed in the first place. He should step down. Ice Prince has been managed all of his music career by M.I Abaga, Audu Maikori and the staff at Chocolate City. This doesn’t mean his ability to lead should be underestimated, but I think he needs more time to learn how to be a leader since he has always been led. Also, based on Sanni’s highly unprofessional statements to the press, Ice Prince it appears has been spoon fed and treated like a child within the organization, not a man. Well guess what? You don’t give a child the job of leading an organization like CCR because that child will not know what to do.
Indeed, now that he has been given the responsibility to lead, his first move is to strike out on his own to do his own thing. How does that show leadership skills that is beneficial to the interest of CCR? As VP, Ice is responsible for managing the daily operations of CCR business, in the delegated department or overall department for CCR, and reporting directly to M.I Abaga, his boss.
How can Ice effectively do that, launch his own new label and manage artists he is preparing to sign to his own ‘Super Cool Cats’ label while also being managed as an artist by CCR? This makes no business and financial sense. Then again, perhaps that is the point. CCR sees and knows this and is waiting for Ice to return home, like the prodigal son.
Read the exclusive story on TheNetng.net and join me in the debate. What are your thoughts? Should Ice launch his label at this point? If he does, should he step down as VP for Chocolate City records?