In 2017, Nigeria’s music industry recorded some important milestones in taking its music to the world and showcasing the works of its artists. Nevertheless, there were some shocking moments in the industry that served as great teaching points about the music business and the law, and reputation management. Here are some of those moments in the form of the 5 Nigerian artists with the biggest crisis of 2017:
Indigenous Igbo rapper Phyno has earned crossover appeal in Nigeria and across the African diaspora with his music. But, it was hard to ignore the crises that kept coming out of his camp in 2017 and his poor handling of the situations.
May 2017: The first crisis hit when American recording artist Pia Mia released a song titled “I’m a Fan.” The song, however, attracted Nigerian recording artist Phyno’s fans who were quick to point out she stole the song from Phyno. Phyno remained silent until Pulse.ng reported the song was in fact stolen by Phyno, not the other way around. This took Phyno from zero to 100 degrees in anger and resulted in a response from him of insults rained on Pulse and a threat of having his lawyers involved. We never heard from his lawyers and do not know how the issue was ultimately resolved. The American songwriter, the owner of the song, did step in to explain Pia Mia legitimately obtained the rights to record her version of the song. As to Phyno, we still do not know what rights were granted to him and from who to record his version.
November 2017: Phyno was scheduled for a concert in Toronto with Olamide. Unfortunately, they did not properly vet the event promoter who invited them to perform. The end result was a promoter who allegedly couldn’t pay the remnant of their performance fees and engaged in dubious practices, to secure and pay them their initial deposit. Make the long story short, on the day of the event, both artists refused to perform causing a riot by fans, and bad publicity for Phyno and Olamide. However, for whatever reason, there was more emphasis on apportioning blame on Phyno than Olamide for the mess.
December 2017: Phyno returned to Nigeria after the unfortunate set of events in Canada. But, he had to deal with issues surrounding his own concert that took place a month prior to in Nigeria. Over 20 women stepped forward to report that they were raped at his concert. Phyno took to Twitter to respond and point out the security measures he took to ensure the safety of patrons at his concert. That would have been okay if he did not question why the women would come forward, a month later. Needless to say, his poor response and insensitivity earned him a major backlash from his fans.
Let’s see if Phyno has a better handle on reputation management in 2018. The issue is never whether a crisis occurs especially when you are a celebrity talent. The question is how you handle it, which can often be a deal breaker and affect your endorsements, fan base and public perception of you.
The Okoye brothers were such a pain in the tush. Everyone just wanted them to go away, already. For over four years, the brothers had been dealing with a public washing of their internal war on social media regarding the dissolution of the band, P-Square. However, they refused to take active steps to end amicably and go their separate ways. Things came to a head-on in 2017, when a video that was taped by Peter Okoye showed the brothers fighting in their lawyer’s office. It was such a mess and further tarnished the P-Square brand, and had their fans just sick and tired of it all. Thankfully, the twin brothers have moved on with their own solo careers. The legal state and affairs of P-Square remain in limbo and the brand has suffered a dilution, but at this point, it is better than having to deal with the constant back and forth public fights among brothers.
Davido had a series of crisis that hit his camp in 2017. The most memorable, however, were the cases involving the death of his friends.
Criminal law took center stage when one of Davido’s close friends, Tagbo, turned up dead after a night drinking with Davido. Tagbo’s girlfriend, Nollywood actress Caroline Danjuma, immediately took to social media to accuse Davido of being involved in the death of her boyfriend. Davido’s car and his staff were seen at a local hospital, via a CCTV footage, dropping off Tagbo’s body. The story went viral, the police got involved, they questioned Davido, arrested some members of his staff, released Davido and we have not heard anything about the two staff members that were alleged to have dumped Tagbo’s body at the hospital.
A few days later, two of Davido’s friends DJ Olu (Davido’s DJ) and Chime were found dead in a car. This was yet another shocking death linked to Davido, more so by virtue of the young men being Davido’s friends. Davido was allegedly also questioned about their deaths. The police also indicated they were conducting an investigation. The outcome of these cases remains unknown.
Burna Boy is a self-proclaimed industry bad guy who never seems to run out of public relations crises hitting his camp. Things took a different turn, however, with the kind of crisis that affected him in 2017. Burna was accused of orchestrating the robbery and assault of a fellow artist Mr. 2Kay at Eko Hotel. The hotel, owned by a powerful global brand, of course, stayed relentless with pursuing the case. Burna was subsequently arrested, arraigned, and released on bail. He will have to deal with this case in 2018.
Dammy Krane rounds off the list of five Nigerian artists with the biggest public relations crisis of 2017. When your crisis hits global shores and extends beyond the African diaspora, then you know it is a really big problem. Krane entered into a live performance agreement with a local U.S. promoter of Nigerian heritage. Upon arrival into the U.S. for his performance, Krane took to social media to flaunt the luxurious perks he was enjoying i.e. flying in a jet, eating delicious food etc. However, the jet owners put a stop to all the flashiness when they alerted the police that Krane and the promoter had used stolen credit cards for their jet travels. All hell broke loose and headlines in local and African mainstream publications began as follows, ‘Nigerian pop music star arrested on fraud charges.’ Krane was arrested, charged and ultimately released after spending some days in jail in Miami, Florida, and having a few court appearances. His charges were also dropped. Krane’s reputation, however, remains quite damaged. A quick google search of his name yields results only focused on the crime and his arrest. It also doesn’t help that folks back in Nigeria continue to heap insults at him for disgracing the country on a global stage. While Krane maintains his innocence, he will need to invest in a competent public relations and legal team to help build back his reputation. Otherwise, expect a very short-lived music career.
That’s my top 5. Which artist in addition to the ones listed would you say had the biggest PR crisis?
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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.
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