Niyola recently released a new music video titled ‘Go On’ directed by Empire Mates Entertainment (EME) label owner/founder, Banky W. When I saw the video, I couldn’t help but feel the same way I did when I first heard him rap on Niyola’s ‘Love to Love You’ single; and wonder, “is Banky W harming Niyola’s career by using his novice directing skills on her music videos?”
First, let’s define the word “novice.”
Novice is defined as a “person new to or inexperienced in a field or situation.” A similar definition from dictionary.com says it is “a person who is new to the circumstances, work, etc., in which he or she is placed; beginner; tyro.”
While you think about my initial question and also take in the definition of “novice,” I have a few more follow up questions. They are as follows: what message is Banky W sending to the industry, media, fans and the public on the value he places on Niyola as an artist; when he uses his novice skills to direct her music videos?
In my view, Banky W needs to be cautious with his handling of Niyola’s career. I believe the line between professionalism and personal has/is becoming quite blurry; and that Banky is too focused on self to really see the big picture and how this can be harmful to Niyola’s career, short and long term.
If you are a label owner and you invest in talent, typically that means you are looking for a return on your investment. The talent expects you to be serious about him/her, and of course stakeholders you market and promote the talent to expect the same, even if you don’t. Therefore, unless Banky W is operating on a shoe string budget, there is no explanation for why he discards the use of seasoned professionals and instead opts to shoot Niyola’s music videos himself. It is enough that he also practices his novice skills on her songs as a rapper.
As a quick recap, for twelve years prior to Banky W signing Niyola to EME, Niyola was a singer. In 2012, Niyola signed with Banky W’s label as the first and only woman on the record label.
Three years prior to (2009), Banky W signed an emerging artist called Wizkid. From the time of signing Wizkid until 2014, Wizkid was the artist Banky & EME’s entire world revolved around. They gave their all to developing Wizkid and in turn, Wizkid brought the major source of income/revenue as an artist on the label, in addition to Banky W. Beyond Wizkid and Banky W, no one else was bringing such income. In fact, arguably, EME put all its eggs in one basket, the Wizkid basket.
EME continued to focus overwhelmingly on Wizkid, two years after it signed Niyola. For those two years, when we all wanted to know more about Niyola, we were told to wait. We also heard something remarkable was being planned for her. However, the next artist on the superstar list Banky and EME advanced to us was Skales, who was also signed in 2009 when EME signed Wizkid.
In 2014, Wizkid the money machine left the label. EME also chose not to renew Skales’ contract.
So, now we are left with three artists on EME’s label. Two men and one woman. It is time for EME to finally show us what this rockstar woman can do. Instead, the label boss is seen using his newly acquired music video directing skills (in a short academic course) to experiment on her career and her brand image? Really?
When Banky jumped on Niyola’s ‘Love to Love You’ song, the focus was on him and his ability to rap or lack thereof. Now that he is directing her music videos, media, fans and public alike are again distracted because we again focus on him.
We all know Niyola is pretty, has a great shape and can sing. But the harsh truth is, so what? There are way more beautiful talented persons in this very competitive music industry. What makes Niyola stand out? What is so unique about her? Right now, she is more like a Nigerian Ashanti. While Ashanti is a strong musician, mainstream is not playing her music right now and have ceased doing that for a while now. So, both on the continent and in a place like the States, it is unclear what EME’s agenda is with respect to Niyola.
The “what makes Niyola” unique question is what we have been waiting to have answered. It is what EME promised it would answer. We are going on three years and instead of Banky W and his allegedly successful label to show us what this young woman is made of, we see Banky W acting in a way that can best be described as selfish. Using his newly acquired music video directing skills on an emerging artist, at the expense of his artist is, in my view, selfish. At this stage, it is even troublesome that ten years later from when Niyola plunged into music professionally (2005), “emerging” is even associated in the same word with her name. However, there is nothing to take her out of the emerging camp, yet.
Now, in case you are wondering what I mean by Banky W being selfish, let me explain.
1. I’d like to see the record label contract that Niyola signed that said, “Banky, you are the CEO of EME and also a successful R&B singer. I know some day, you will decide to become a rapper. When you do, please make sure you rap on my songs. In fact, ignore all the really good rappers you could have me collaborate with, to strategically position me for success within and outside Nigeria, and just rap your songs on top of my own and my yet to really take off career.”
2. I’d like to see the record label contract that Niyola signed that said, “Banky, you are the CEO of EME and you know, me I am just one small artist. So, if you can please pity me. When you decide two years later or three to go to New York Film Academy for a short course on film directing, please use me and my songs and immediately begin to experiment. Ignore seasoned professionals, after all it’s not like I have even really broken into mainstream in Nigeria, talk less Africa. In fact, just write, direct, act and appear in my music videos, in addition to singing on my songs.”
I believe right now, Banky W knowingly or unknowingly is displaying a complete lack of respect, professionally speaking, towards his artist Niyola. Why? There is simply no logical case that can be made for Banky W shooting Niyola’s music videos. Unless EME is not the successful label it claims to be, under no circumstances should Banky W be directing Niyola’s music videos right now. Niyola’s image is lack luster, at best. Beautiful girl but nothing out of the ordinary. Having her work with the right seasoned team of professionals to develop her sound style and brand image, among other things, should be the focus of Banky W and EME.
Banky should focus on his role as her executive label owner, not practice his newly acquired novice skills on her music videos as a director.
Also, if there is a breakup, which there will be because nothing lasts forever, Banky W outright owns everything related to this artist. Niyola is tied to Banky by the hips with her music, and music videos. He even writes and directs her video, meaning technically she doesn’t even get to weigh in, conceptually, on the vision for her own videos. It is till death do them apart in the literal sense with Niyola having no autonomy as an artist, whatsoever. In fact, given Banky’s position of authority and power as a label owner and executive in the relationship, how awkward is it for Niyola to tell her boss “no I do not want you to shoot my videos.” She kind of has no choice and is stuck, even if she really would rather someone else shoot her video.
Banky W is an established artist. He is more than welcome to direct music videos for himself as he did in his ‘Mercy’ video (which was a hit and I still believe a very good video), for a novice and for him, personally. However, for his artist Niyola, he needs to give her the same objective treatment he would any other artist, including prior artists signed to his label like Wizkid, and keep it professional. I would also add that the fact that she is a woman makes this acutely important. The line between Banky W and Niyola is getting really blurred on the business side, and I see and only smell trouble in the long run if it continues.
Again, Banky W has no business shooting Niyola’s videos, not at this time. There are many emerging artists he can experiment with, Niyola is not and should not be one of them.
Now your turn. What’s your take? Is Banky W harming Niyola’s career by using his novice directing skills on her music videos?