AML Industry, arists, welcome to a new week. This week, I will focus on the Mo’Hits case and I will take it in chunks. The issues here are very serious. Stop. Y’all didn’t hear me. The issues are quite serious and frankly at this point, it is an emergency issue for Mo’Hits as a corporation to get the services of a competent Publicist to handle this crisis. The shareholders D’Banj and Don Jazzy can choose to have whomever they choose for their own personal representation. I would recommend Bobby Taylor because in my dealings in digital media, for almost five years, she is the only one I am aware of in Nigeria who I believe can handle the magnitude of this kind of a case and do it well.
To underscore the gravity of this case, let me highlight some of the legal areas involved here based on the recently leaked emails from Mo’Hits:
What Laws are Involved?
1. Nigerian Company Law (Corporate Law)
2. Nigerian Intellectual Property Law (Copyright & Trademark Laws)
3. Nigerian Labor Law (Employment Law)
4. Nigerian Securities Law (Potentially, especially if it can be argued there was mismanagement and fraudulent use of company funds for personal interests)
5. Nigerian Contract Law
6. Nigerian Tort Law (Potentially)
Imagine all of these laws with so many nuanced areas all coming into play at once. Worse, there is a bleeding internally within Mo’Hits. Everyone in the company, at this point, is selfish and really thinking for themselves, especially the leaders. Fellas y’all need to sit on your damn egos and wrap this ish up, like yesterday.
Una don open una yansh finish for Nigeria and the world to see. E don do. Pack it in. Pack it up. Common Fellas?! What’s GOOD?? You are not the first to run a company where people don’t get along. You don’t like each other anymore, fine. Pack it up already, keep it clean and keep it moving i.e. move on with your lives.
There is a need for these leaders in our music industry community to respect themselves,clean up their mess and just move on to the next thing already. One immediate thing to do as I mentioned, is to get the right PR team to handle publicity for the company Mo’Hits, independent of the owners. This is crucial.
To that end, there is also a need for us to discuss how you artists signed under a label should conduct yourselves where that label is in a crisis.
First, understand The Mo’Hits case is truly an Entertainment Lawyer’s dream. From every angle, there is so much money to be made. Whether an attorney represents Mo’Hits or the individual shareholders i.e. D’Banj and/or Don Jazzy, the bill for all parties will definitely add up and add up fast. It doesn’t matter whether it is strictly informal negotiations to resolve the legal drama between the two or it is an all out legal blood bath in a court of law. Either way, it’s all gravy. AML artists, you don’t like it? *Shrugs shoulders* If you don’t like the legal drama, lawsuits, lawyers et al., then avoid having the problems in the first place.
Second, since the onset of an alleged breakup of Mo’Hits and its Executives who are founder(s)/shareholders in the company, two of Mo’Hits artists Wande Coal and Dr. Sid have poked their noses where they should not with statements they have given to the public. #Deadly. This takes me to this post which kicks off my ‘No Mo’Hits’ one week legal commentary/coverage.
5 Deadly Sins to Avoid in the D’Banj v. Don Jazzy Mo’Hits Breakup if you are Wande Coal & Dr. Sid.
Deadly Sin #1: Artists it is a Sin to Remain Oblivious to the Fact that You Could Be Subpoenaed to Testify as a Witness in a Court of Law in this Kind of Dispute: It is a deadly sin to go revealing information about confidential information you are privy to, especially to the public, in a hotly contentious case such as the Mo’Hits situation. Granted the industry is very young and this is all new stuff. But, at some point, we gotta get past being gullible and wise up. AML artists you have an obligation to educate yourselves about the business of music including the basics on the law.
First, as an artist signed with your record label, you could be creating legal liability for yourself i.e. breach of contract, depending on if you signed a confidentiality clause in your record label agreement.
Second, you could be subpoenaed (forced into court) to testify as a potential witness in a case like this. If you refuse to honor the subpoena and do not show up, a warrant can be issued for your arrest and once arrested, the court can have you thrown in jail. In this case, Wande Coal, Dr. Sid, and all persons that have ever worked for or done business with Mo’Hits are potential witnesses. They should be quiet, not getting on twitter and ranting off.
Let me add this. I have been practicing law for almost 11years. Since the onset of my career, at least 70% of my legal practice has been dedicated to courtroom drama (litigation). During all of theses time, I have NEVER met anyone who likes to be in a courtroom except the trial lawyers who try the case. Trial lawyers take to a courtroom the way fish takes to water. Most of us love it and the adrenaline rush we get from being in a courtroom. That is our stage. In contrast, everyone else prays and prays fervently that they NEVER see the inside of a courtroom. Obviously, there are valid reasons why. When you are in a courtroom, you are losing money, time, you are stressed out, anxious, have a heavy heart and depending on the nature of the case i.e. criminal versus civil, you could be looking at jail/prison time or watching a loved one face the chances of doing time in jail or prison.
There is nothing sweet about the experience even though we lawyers try to buffer the intense impact of what is often traumatic for most people. What these translates to, AML artists, is that when “ish” starts to hit the fan, as in the Mo’Hits Record label situation, YOU ZIP IT!
You never say ANYTHING except to consult with an entertainment lawyer, independent of your record label, to discuss protecting your interests so your career does not go down the tube just because your record label dissolves.
Deadly Sin #2 You Forget Anything You Post on Twitter, Can Be Used Against You in A Court of Law: It is a deadly sin to post on twitter statements, as an artist signed on a label, involving ongoing dispute within that label. Beyond the issues addressed above, trial lawyers like myself now know to begin looking at twitter for “discovery” (investigative) evidence that will be used to bolster our position in court in furthering the interests of our clients. Here in the USA, courts are ruling that such evidence is admissible. There seems to be no reason why a court of law in Nigeria would not admit statements you make on Social media that can hurt you or your label. Social media (facebook, twitter etc.) law is new territory for most courts. This means lawyers can spin the most creative arguments to get what they want admitted. Further, what you post on twitter goes worldwide, instantly. Remember, you are a “celebrity!” The media and blogs will eat what you say, chew it and spit it out so the almighty Google can archive and index what you said, indefinitely. In short, as I said above, zip it!
Deadly Sin #3: You Undercut the Role of a Publicist and You Confirm Rumors: If we had any doubts that the email leaked to the public last week was actually interactions from D’Banj to Don Jazzy and vice versa, we no longer need to doubt it. Wande Coal just confirmed by taking sides and denying the statements made by D’Banj in the email. Wande Coal, from me to you, focus on your “Private Trips” and “Tings” okay? Stay out when two grown folks are fighting. There are so many reasons why this was a fatal move on Wande Coal’s part. First, it appears from the emails that these two persons may have been focusing on their personal interests rather than the interest of the company from the leaked emails. A company has a legal personality independent of its members or shareholders. Is the money D’Banj earned as a Mo’Hits artist owned by Mo’Hits? Was that money invested into business or did he use it for personal interests? Further, the actions of a member of a corporation cannot bind the legal entity.
D’Banj says he spent a total of over 16million Naira in purchasing vehicles for both the executive and an artist in behalf of the corporation because “no one questioned him.” Was that a misuse of the company funds? The email discusses issues as to debts that are outstanding that need to be paid. Where did the 16Million Naira come from and why is he trying to get the duo to pay for his individual actions? Again, Wande getting online and going off on twitter is simply the wrong move for what appears, on its face, to be a corporation that may have been mismanaged by its owners.
Let the public speculate on what is or isn’t and whether the email is true or not. Don’t help. Na who send you??!
Deadly Sin #4: You Fail to Hire a Competent Publicist: In my last discussion when D’Banj’s newly hired Publicist, Ms. Vanessa Amadi, claimed his account was hacked, I said I was disappointed because the evidence directly from his twitter page did not corroborate her released statement and the statement failed to address the glaring issue of the corporate dissolution of Mo’Hits.
The latest facts i.e. leaked email further strengthens that position especially with the way both Ms. Amadi and Bankuli his manager have handled it. This time, Ms. Amadi, in a correspondence to NETng.com, denies knowing anything about the situation. That might very well be true but it looks really bad for all parties. First, it shows her client is not communicating with her. Second, she shifted the focus to herself not the client, D’Banj. Public relations is about the client. Clearly, it is hard to be thrust into an already messy situation and expect to be completely caught up. That is understandable. All she needed to say was that her client, at this time, will not be giving a statement. They are conducting an investigation as to the “alleged” leaked email and will address those issues after a full investigation of the issue.
At least Ms. Amadi appears more in touch and keeps it real. Bankuli his just completely out of touch with reality. He says “Dban’j has nothing to do with that,” and is not even “involved” in the email. You have a leaked email, you have a Mo’Hits artist Wande Coal essentially saying one of his bosses, your client D’Banj, is a liar and you are saying what? Come again? I mean Managers are not Publicist but common na? What’s good Mr. Bankuli?
I can’t emphasize this point. Hire competent PR professionals. Also realize the strength of each professional. As I indicated in my introduction, I would, for example, look at Bobby Taylor of Bobby Taylor PR for crisis management. She is on the ground, she knows the industry very well, she has worked with many of its professionals and has existing relationships with media relevant to the industry. She also has a knack for smoothing the craziest of crises, at least from what I have seen, without adding more gasoline to fire. In contrast, Vanessa Amadi is someone I think would be perfect for connecting Nigeria’s industry professionals with their Western counterparts. She is in the UK, she has the connection in the UK entertainment industry and is a better fit in Nigerian-European media relations.
Deadly sin #5 – You Do Not Provide Enough Information to Your Publicists so they can Assist You: Publicists can only be magicians if you equip them with accurate information. They are the ones that help tell your story to the media; and have the media echo a story that is more favorable to you. In this case, there is a clear showing that none of these artists/executives are communicating with their Publicists. They are sort of doing their own thing. This can be a Publicist’s worse nightmare and makes it very difficult to control a crisis. Mo’Hits has lost control so how do you make sure it all fits. You got Wande Coal and Dr. Sid and God knows who next ranting on twitter. You got Don Jazzy making statements that seem to further substantiate the so called “leaked” emails and D’Banj who has just checked out of the matter as if that will make the problem go away. During a crisis, your Publicist should be tied to your hips.
I hope Wande Coal takes his own cue and actually goes on private trips. Focus on the music Wande Coal. Actually if you ask me, you would be one heck of a successful SOLO artist (under your own label). You have all it takes. Just believe in yourself, come out of the music shadows, find your own voice and just keep it moving.
As for Dr. Sid, I have nothing to say to him. He should know better. He is called “Doctor” for a reason, act accordingly, at least in this instance.
Messy case, messy stuff. Could get messier if these folks stay as selfish as they have been. Whatever the case, enough with it already.
I’ll touch on other issues throughout the week. Have a good week ahead.
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- AML 149: Intellectual Property, Race and Unjust Music Contracts with Prof. Kevin J. Greene
- AML 148: The Business of Music in Ethiopia with Negus Alemu & Leyla Konjo
- AML 147: Meet Temi Adeniji, MD Warner Music South Africa & SVP, Strategy, Sub-Saharan Africa
- AML 146: Women in “Afrobeats” Music – Eva Alordiah, Weird MC, Joy Tongo