Music Business

Why M.I Abaga & Chocolate City’s Grandstanding of Renewed Contract Will Not Make the Breakup “Rumours” Go Away

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Have you ever observed a trial in a court of law? Sure you have. You have either seen it in an actual courtroom or watched the legal drama unfold on your television screens. What happens when you have observed trials in a courtroom? The Prosecutor/ Plaintiff’s attorney gets up before the court and jury and if he/she is very good, which we will presume is the case, they give a compelling opening statement. They tell us the story of what they say really happened. They tell us the facts. They proceed to tell us what the evidence will show, what the testimonies of their witnesses will say to corroborate the evidence, including their expert witnesses. Finally, they conclude that when all is said and done, the jury will have no choice but to render either a guilty verdict, if a Prosecutor makes the opening statement, or a win for the Plaintiff, if it is a Plaintiff attorney in a civil litigation trial.

It all sounds so great  when they are done. In fact, many times, you see the jury turn its attention to the defense table, after the Prosecutor/Plaintiff’s opening statement. Their faces betray their feelings. They wear the look that says, “your client is fried. Can you really top that? Guilty, guilty, guilty!” That is of course until the Defense Counsel gets up and begins his/her opening statement. Suddenly, it is clear that all is not what it appears to be.

Indeed, when it comes to the Don Jazzy v. D’Banj breakup, the opening statement on the Plaintiff’s side is what we just witnessed yesterday. D’Bani, courtesy Ayeni Adekunle/Netng.com, released his beautiful tale of what the facts really are. D’Banj finally engaged the media the way he should have. However, Don Jazzy is yet to provide his rendition of the facts. Further, for our purposes, we are yet to really look at what D’Banj is saying and delve into the many legal minefields present, even in the story told, that you should be alert and avoid. I also promised we would look at the leaked emails, at least a bit of it so you all walk away with some important lessons on the music business and the law.

While you all wait to hear from me, at the very minimum, on the legal pitfalls present in the aforementioned case, I want to turn my attention to another case: The M.I Abaga v. Chocolate City Alleged breakup.

Grandstanding has got to be one of the things I have little patience for, especially where the persons grandstanding created their own issues in the first place.

Just so we are all on the same page, let me quote an excerpt of a definition I like of what grandstanding is, from wisegeek.com:

“When someone is said to be “grandstanding,” it means that he or she is putting on an ostentatious performance with the goal of impressing people, and that the performance includes a great deal of exaggeration. Essentially, someone is putting on a show when he or she is grandstanding, often to the detriment of the message that he or she is trying to convey. “

Over the weekend, M.I Abaga signed a piece of paper and/or document that was an alleged contract renewing his record label contract with Chocolate City. Chocolate City then took a picture of the act, placed on their social media public platforms complete with pictures and the following statement, “despite the rumors, MI renews his contract with Chocolate City – See him with two of the Choc Bosses…Audu Maikori and Okeugo Paul after the contract signing . . .”

Further, Audu Maikori the spokesperson and one of the executives at Chocolate City is quoted to have said to NETng.com in a phone conversation: ‘It’s an open policy we run at Chocolate City. M.I has been here for over six years and renewing his contract just shows the kind of trusted relationship we have. We are proud to say we run a successful music company.’

One of my favorite albums by M.I remains his freshman album, “Talk About It.” AML Industry, let’s “talk about it.” Let’s really look at M.I, Chocolate City and talk about, what is in my view, the recent grandstanding.

First, M. I created these so called rumors. Late 2011, M.I had began sharing information/alluding to the rejuvenation of Loopy Records on his social media platforms. By January 2012, I certainly believed in my predictions that he would be leaving the label. Predictions are exactly what they are, predictions. They may or may not actually materialize. I’d like to think I get it right a lot of times. But, maybe I was completely off on this one. Fine. I will concede. We moved on. AML in its small corner is not necessarily driving print, news and web media worldwide.

However, by February 2012, M.I continued with actions that made Nigerian public, the web, blogs and fans worldwide pay attention. He began actively looking for rental/housing space to house his new label. Within that same February, he announced he had three acts he would sign (hip-hop, rock and r&b acts) to his newly revamped label Loopy Records. The news stories came and came hard. Print, online, blogs, twitter, facebook, everyone had something to say. They said, and it made sense, that M.I was leaving Chocolate City.

I followed up with an article on these alleged “rumors” and questioned M.I’s P.R tactic and execution. M. I responded indicating  Loopy Records was a subsidiary of Chocolate City and  would be managed by a third party Executive. I published his statement as a different post so those on google search could see his statement. However, his actions and that of Chocolate City continue to undermine his statement.

From late 2011 to present, Chocolate City, a parent company with an alleged subsidiary, is nowhere to be found supporting its new baby Loopy Records? There is no co-branding of any sorts on any promotional materials evidencing this is Chocolate City’s subsidiary and Chocolate City is yet to informally on social media platforms or officially on a press release claim any affiliation or recognition of Loopy Records. On Chocolate City’s website, the silence is deafening. There are absolutely no press releases and any information whatsoever but for the statement made in a comment section of AML that Chocolate City is the parent company owning the subsidiary Loopy Records.

Recently, M.I further made the so called rumors even more truthful. According to the NETng.com, of which Chocolate City and M.I regularly grant exclusives to including the above quote I mentioned, they report that at the launch of Loopy Records, M.I unveiled three more artists. They were Chocolate City’s key stars: M.I Abaga (himself), Ice Prince and Jesse Jagz. Further, they report all executives of Chocolate City never even bothered showing up. All of the promotional materials leading up to the event had every sponsor logo but the Chocolate City brand on it.There was no statement of support for Loopy Records from Chocolate City executives, the same ones taking pictures now, no explanation of Loopy Records in relation to Chocolate City. Nothing. Just silence. The rumors of course remained. Now, they get on facebook etc. with the grandstanding?

Let’s get a few things straight.

1. Everything about M.I and Chocolate City’s actions show all is not as it appears to be.

2.  It is absolutely ridiculous for M.I to start Loopy Records, in a limited geographic region like Nigeria where his current label Chocolate City IS a competitor, have three of Chocolate City’s biggest stars and main roster  on his new label and expect the public and the media will not ask why that is happening and suspect he is leaving Chocolate City.

3. It is further ridiculous that M.I would be so bold as to have a flyer campaign for Loopy Records that includes all of these three Chocolate superstars, never address them and instead call legitimate questions raised by fans, media, bloggers and the public “rumors.” Dude you just took half the L.A Lakers shining stars to another NBA team in the USA  you just bought, albeit small, yet you are claiming they are still playing on the Laker’s team. How? What? They are not expected to compete against the Lakers? Because why?

4. Signing a piece of paper does not mean anything. What are the basic terms that the media should know? What is the relationship with Loopy Records and Chocolate City? Now you have signed why the continued confusing messages? EME/Konvict Music signed papers. They did not need pictures. They were transparent and told us what exactly the nature of the basic terms of the contract is so we understand the brand affiliations. They showed respect for their fans, media and public that have invested their time, emotions and energies with the brands. Further, there is no conflict as in the Chocolate City and M.I case. EME handles Africa with respect to Konvict’s artists, brands, trademarks, logos, copyrights etc., Konvict Music handles USA with respect to EME’s brand, logos etc. Similarly, D’Banj just revealed his relationship with GOOD Music & Island Def Jam. D’Banj handles Africa via Island Def Jam Africa, in return GOOD Music/Island Def Jam handles the USA market. We know the basic terms that we need to know.

5. In the USA domestic music market, if at all that is what M.I is trying to emulate, we have seen Kanye West launch his GOOD Music brand, he has publicly told us Island Def Jam is his parent company, they handle distribution and Kanye sort of does the management of his artists. There is no conflict. Similarly, Ne-Yo did the same with his Compound Entertainment label that is part of Island Def Jam. There is no guess work and no seeming conflict of interest. We know what it is and every piece of information in the public reiterates this. The opposite holds for M.I Abaga and Chocolate City both of whom are not new to the music business. They have been at it for at least six years. Chocolate City has even won awards. This is basic music business 101.

Music is business. No business owner, especially Chocolate City, who is still trying to leverage and grow the brand, would be comfortable in having its main stars jump ship to a new start up in the same geographic region, appealing to the same fan base. Who does that?! Talk about brand confusion! Further, if you are M.I, you have been in the game for how many years? You know how the music business works, your personal brand stands independent of your label. You have just started your own label. Would you sign over all of your intellectual property rights? Of course not. Why would you?

We are in the digital age where any artist can place mp3s online, set up a basic indie label and move songs through online stores like Itunes, Orchard etc. M.I knows how the business works, he has the connections and the contacts. Years ago when he started Loopy Records it did not work out. But, the situation is changed. What logical sense does it make to give Chocolate City majority of your hard earned money?

It doesn’t. However, based on the “trusted” relationship Audu mentioned, both parties are trying or should be trying to work out a win-win situation where Chocolate City does not take a major tumble.M.I has the higher bargaining power and Chocolate City knows it and so does M.I. It makes sense to put two heads together. However, the execution, I insist, from a publicity and media standpoint, is VERY poor. It has raised and will continue to raise questions of a breakup between the two; and no amount of grandstanding, posting pictures on facebook of the signing of a piece of paper will make the so called “rumors” M.I created and continues to create go away.

By the way,  are they planning to release pictures of Ice Prince and Jesse Jagz renewing their contracts with Chocolate City on Facebook, twitter etc. (sarcasm intended).

-Uduak

 

 

 

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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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