Music Business

Ask Ms. Uduak: Is Lauryn Hill Liable to Nigerian Promoter for Botched Lagos Concert?

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LaurynHillMayDay
Lauryn Hill was supposed to perform in Nigeria on May 1st, 2015. I, for one, was bombarded with marketing and promotional materials about her upcoming gig, and even shared a few of them here on AML with you all. Fast forward to the date for the event and it turns out she is a no show. It is at this point that we have several differing versions on why she was a no show.

According to reports by a few Nigerian media platforms, insider sources allege that Hill was in fact booked for two different flights but she missed them. Hill, however, seems to have a different view on why she did not make the flight.

Let’s look at the statements released by Lauryn Hill and organizers of the event:

Lauryn Hill’s Statement Posted on her Website

“Hello Lagos, Nigeria! We are disappointed to report that we will not be performing at tonight’s concert. From our end, we did everything we were supposed to do, including waiting at the airport for many hours, ready to fly out and share the evening with you. Unfortunately, after much effort, the promoter was not able to get all of our travel arrangements taken care of. This prevented us from being able to fly into Nigeria in time to make the concert. We were all very excited to come, and very disappointed that we couldn’t make this one. HOWEVER, we are working to reschedule our appearance ASAP. From what we’ve been told, the promoter intends to honor all tickets sold. Our best to and for Lagos. Love and Blessings!

Ms. Lauryn Hill and the MLH band and Production Team.”

The Organizers Respond with their Statement
“Due to Ms Lauryn Hill‘s flight issues, the organizers of May Day Live and Ms Lauryn Hill management have concluded to postpone the show. A new date will be communicated soon. All Tickets bought will be used for the new concert date. Meanwhile a party will still hold today at Eko Hotel starting from 7pm, feel free to come and party as no tickets are required.

The organizers of May Day Live apologize for any inconvenience.”

Ms. Hill Attempts even more damage control with the release of this video 

Is Lauryn Hill Liable to the Nigerian Promoter/Promoters for the Botched Lagos Concert?
The Get a Lawyer Talk: From a concert promoter’s point of view, it is a huge financial risk to operate a concert promotions business. You really have to have your business head screwed on right, otherwise you can easily end up bankrupt, stressed to the maximum and suffer a terrible reputation.

From a talent/artist’s point of view, you too can easily destroy your brand reputation, lose money and end up with health problems and stress if you work with the wrong concert promoters. Indeed, we have seen some rather crazy situations with concert promotions gone wrong. From the American concert promoter who was locked up in Angola because Nas, his talent, was a no show to the Nigerian artist McGalaxy who was beat up by a concert promoter in the DMV area, in the USA, the stories never end do they?

The promoters and talents are not the only ones affected. The investors who fund these concerts suffer as well. Who remembers when Jason Njoku and his team at IROKO Partners suffered a whopping $90,000.000 loss, according to him, as a result of a botched United Sounds of Africa USA concert/tour?

The bottom line is folks,  if you are in Nigeria doing business with any American act and interested in having them show up to perform in Nigeria, get a U.S. entertainment lawyer involved. The opposite holds true as well. Always get a lawyer.

There are several reasons why you should. First, we are talking large sums of money whenever you decide to put on these kinds of concerts. Again your financial risk is very high and you should do your best to mitigate the risk.

Second, it helps to work with a local attorney in the country that your superstar talent resides. Such attorney knows the laws of the land, well, and can help protect your interests.

Third, if the talent you pay fails to show up, your U.S. entertainment lawyer can easily match into local U.S. court and sue the talent/his or her label and management.

Finally, there is  a higher probability that a talent will fulfill their end of the bargain because they have to answer to you in their own territory, through your U.S. lawyer. In the event there are issues beyond your control or the talent’s, your U.S. lawyer can easily help renegotiate your agreement.

On to the issue of legal liability against Lauryn Hill 

Now that we have the business/get a lawyer talk out of the way, let’s look at the alleged facts in our case scenario. If the alleged insider rumor is in fact true and the organizers did in fact book flights for Lauryn Hill but she just failed to show up, then the organizers could very well have  a breach of contract claim against Lauryn Hill on U.S. and/or Nigerian soil, depending on the terms of the contract.

I say depending on the terms of the contract because in most contracts, there is a clause that deals with where legal disputes should be heard. Often American artists opt to have matters heard in the U.S. In the past, this was a major advantage in dealing with promoters in so called “third world” countries. It was not unusual to have American artists collect monies from promoters in Africa but fail to show up.

Now that we have platforms like Africa Music Law (AML) and of course social media, the tide is changing. Why? Because social media can create the pressure to make the artists/label and their management do the right thing. Also, with a site like AML, you also now know you can easily hire a U.S. lawyer in the backyard of the talent or label to make them do the right thing.

BREACH OF CONTRACT

At its core, the organizers claiming a breach of contract in a situation like this would need to argue and show:

a) Lauryn Hill, we had a contract with you (whether written or oral);

b) We have performed and have done EVERYTHING we said we would do. We paid you the initial deposit you requested, we marketed and promoted the fact that you would perform in Lagos, we sold tickets in advanced and in fact sold out, we booked your flights in advance for all the parties and persons we agreed we would book. We fulfilled your rider terms that you asked for. In short, we did everything. We performed.

To the degree you may claim that there is some sort of non-performance, we are excused from such non-performance. What do I mean by “excused from such non-performance?” In the fact pattern, in Lauryn’s statement, she says they “waited for hours” at the airport and the organizers were unable to get “all of our” travel arrangements taken care of.

The contract organizers can argue, if it is in fact true, that: 1) there is evidence to show the organizers took care of ALL persons they said they would. I emphasize this because it is not uncommon to see artist exceed the scope of their agreements with promoters. If a promoter says I can cover travel arrangements for you and five people, don’t ask the promoter to cover travels for you, five people and ten extra people. That exceeds the scope of what they agreed to and budgeted for;

 c) Lauryn Hill you breached the contract by failing to show up and perform on the specified date; and

d) We suffered damages.

Damages, the money the promoters have lost as a result of a breach, is not hard to prove here. You’ve got a cancelled concert, the large production costs associated with organizing an event of this caliber, the returned tickets, among other expenses. The organizers would want to recover such costs.

As an aside, do note that typically, a Plaintiff who sues in a breach of contract matter is not entitled to recover what is called exemplary or punitive damages. This in simple English means you can’t say, “Judge/Jury, give me money that will make an example of this person or punish them so they don’t do this to other people in future.” 

That is not the role of the judge/jury and the judge/jury lacks the  authority to do so in a breach of contract claim.

If, however, the breach of contract is also a wrongful tort, then there might be a chance to recover such damages.

Also note that U.S. and Nigerian contract laws parallel each other. This is no surprise since both countries borrowed/borrow heavily from English common law.

What next for the Nigerian concert promoters? We shall see. It appears they have been able to sort their issues out with Lauryn Hill; and perhaps they may fix this problem with her actually performing in future. In the meantime, I think for this case, Lauryn Hill’s classic song ‘Superstar’ is the perfect track. I think we should nod/vibe to this. What say you all?

Cheers,

~Ms. Uduak

Superstar

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Africa Music Law™

AFRICA MUSIC LAW™ (AML) is a pioneering music business and entertainment law blog and podcast show by Fashion and Entertainment Lawyer Ms. Uduak Oduok empowering the African artist and Africa's rapidly evolving entertainment industry through brilliant music business and entertainment law commentary and analysis, industry news, and exclusive interviews.

Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Ms. Uduak is also a Partner and Co-Founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. where she handles her law firm’s intellectual property law, media, business, fashion, and entertainment law practice areas. She has litigated a wide variety of cases in California courts and handled a variety of entertainment deals for clients in the USA, Africa, and Asia.

Her work and contributions to the creative industry have been recognized by numerous organizations including the National Bar Association, The American University School of Law and featured in prestigious legal publications in the USA including ABA Journal and The California Lawyer Magazine. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the prestigious Academy of Arts University in San Francisco.
For legal representation inquiries, please email (uduak@ebitulawgrp.com). For blog related inquiries i.e. advertising, licensing, or guest interview requests, please email (africamusiclaw@gmail.com). Thank you for visiting Africa Music Law™.

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