In August 2016, when Iyanya announced he was leaving triple MMMG, a label he co-founded with Ubi Franklin, and forming his own label, one of the things I said was that Iyanya had not shown he was a good business leader while with MMMG. There were numerous situations compelling Iyanya to demonstrate leadership while with the label, and he consistently fell face flat. Therefore, I didn’t think it was a good idea, per se, for him to set up his own solo label, given his prior music business leadership history.
Fast forward to late October 2016, Don Jazzy made the official announcement, via twitter, that Iyanya has signed to Jazzy’s Mavin Records. Iyanya doesn’t reveal the details of his recording contract. However, what he makes clear is that the type of contract he has signed is not a production deal. In addition, he explains he made his decision to sign with the Mavins because he didn’t want to be stuck with the daily logistics of running a label, and he wanted to expand the reach of his music.
Is the move to sign with Don Jazzy a good one?
Yes. I believe it is. Iyanya, it appears, understands his strength and weaknesses, and believes he is better off having others manage his career. This makes sense, and I believe Don Jazzy has the potential to help Iyanya attain critical mass across Africa, with a potential of an exploitation of his music and personal brand in western music markets.
In my view, while Iyanya is very gifted: (he is a great singer, has had some few good hits, and performs well on stage), he simply has not delivered on a scale of critical mass within and outside the continent. I think part of the problem is that Iyanya, in a search for quick monetization of his music and understandably so, became like every other average artist out there. He now lacks diversity in sound, and sound style, and he remains quite passive with his approach to his career.
For majority of his music career, Iyanya has delegated the duty of thinking about his personal brand, and brand strategy to Ubi Franklin. Ubi Franklin seemed to do it all for him, including the thinking; and till date he continues to credit Ubi Franklin for it all. That lack of interest in taking the initiative about the overall direction of his career, especially as a label owner of his artist brand, has been a major hindrance, in my view, to Iyanya attaining critical mass.
He has no voice, not because he can’t, but because he would rather not be heard in that sense.
I think joining Don Jazzy’s Mavin records is a good step towards showing he is wearing his thinking cap a little. However, he has to be careful not to dump his personal brand responsibilities on Don Jazzy and Temple Management, like he did Ubi Franklin. Iyanya has to realize he is the visionary and driver of his brand/career. Everyone else is there to help him execute his vision.
For Don Jazzy/Mavin Records, I think it is an exciting to acquire Iyanya on the label’s roster. For most Nigerian “larger” labels, the trend has been to sign and break new artists rather than more established ones. Now, we are maturing to a point where labels like Mavin can make strategic moves to build a strong catalog, and leverage the power of talented and experienced artists with a fan following who need further brand expansion, and domination.
The challenge, however, for Don Jazzy has to be his lack of legal business sense. From D’Banj, to Wande Coal and even in his recent dealings with Tiwa Savage (as evident during the T-Billz/Tiwa business fallout), Jazzy doesn’t seem to understand the importance of setting forth clearly defined contractual relationships that dot i’s and cross t’s on all fronts. I hope Iyanya does not serve as a further exhibit of this bad habit.
Finally, back to Iyanya. There is that big elephant in the room that Iyanya keeps avoiding. In fact, he extends his avoidance to the public and threatens those who have a right to discuss it in the public domain. The big elephant in the room is his situation with his business partner Ubi Franklin. It is no news that the two have a falling out which led Iyanya to leave the label he co-founded without necessarily, at least according to his statements, legally dissolving the relationship. However, right now, MMMG has one of the hottest artists in the country (Tekno) who is rumored to soon join the Sony music family.
As MMMG continues to thrive (irrespective of Ubi Franklin’s personal problems that continue to spill into the public domain), Iyanya will have to stop his bad habit of running away/pretending there is no issue and face the reality of the death of that relationship.
He needs to, from a business law standpoint, determine if he wants to restructure the relationship in a manner that makes him: a) a silent partner/investor, b) legally dissolve the relationship, or c) sell his share and keep it moving.
Running /procrastinating from the inevitable just means he is saving up for a very nasty fight ahead. Indeed, my sense is that, consistent with bad business habits rampant in the industry, these two never had a partnership agreement that included a “buy-sell” provision dealing with what happens in the event any of the partner leaves MMMG, among other things.
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