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The Nigerian Songwriting Misconception, Contract Exploitation and The Importance of Royalties

In Nigerian nigh Africa, entertainment is still stuck in the dark ages of improper organisation and a system toward ensuring a proper machinery is not in place for a proper functioning entertainment industry on contracts, entitlements and fairness. For so long have clamours been about clandestinely major exploitation of art forms at several levels and by several people. Some cases are due to ignorance, other cases are about a resignation to the whims of a fundamentally dysfunctional industry.

Livelihoods and potential returns have been lost to this dysfunction and in contemporary times;especially in 2017, clamours have come from several angles and channels to redress this wrong through legislation. Although our legislation on copyright kind of covers this bit, it’s open to interpretation due to vagueness, you could place a bet on its draftsmen lacking the vision to foresee a day like this when their work could rob humans.

Lesson; Involve vision and play out scenarios in your head whenever you’re fixing any problems.

In Nigeria, third party songwriting is a scourge. Folks get mocked, ridiculed and criticized for “buying songs”. Through time and in modern Nigerian musical history, music lovers have from Blackface’s claim to writing African Queen to Dammy Krane’s claim to writing Baba Nla and Runtown’s claim to Aye and other infamous situations clamped down Nigerians who employ songwriters to pen singles; they’re ignorant. The faster they escaped their delusional cocoons, the better for their future generations.

In advanced musical settings, there’s a place for songwriters who never hog the spotlight. They rake in mulla off royalties and publishing deals in chief. One of such was profiled a while back in a Djbooth, article His name is Ab-liva. Other now famous songsters have a history of penning chart toppers for the spotlight blue bloods. Jessie J, Ciara and Jon Bellion to mention a few are credited with penning major hits before they blew up. In fact, some others prefer absolute obscurity and revere; they’re ghostwriters and they’re happy to do it either gratuitously or for free. A career like Dr Dre’s would be nothing without songwriters. Another career is Rihanna’s and Beyonce’s and they’re both world renowned entertainers and pop stars.

Stargate, Dream and Tricky, Ne-Yo, Sia, Bryan Micheal Cox, Dr Luke, Cirkut, Ester Dean, Shellback, The Neptunes, Sean Garrett and Max Martin, to mention a few a go to guys when stars need a fix. In fact, I’m tired. Maybe folks should read album credits/contributing artistes section sometime or research as to why there’s a “Song Of The year” category at the Grammy Awards. Someone like Ester Dean has been almost exclusively living off songwriting royalty cheques and publishing contracts. Skylar Grey too.

Even worse, Nigerian songwriters leak stories to the media on their proprietary rights to songs they’ve sold to others to get some level of importance accorded them while public outrage and artiste shaming ensues. It’s a shameless cycle of ignorance, from the Nigerian lawmakers, to artistes, to the songwriters and listeners. I’ve concluded that it’s the sorry state of affairs, in a dynamic state of continued degeneration till now. Watch this space…

Recently however, we’ve seen better appreciation for third party songwriting. Artistes like Davido are using songwriters more openly, with payments and credits afforded them. A problem #LooseTalkPodcast has been trying to address all year wrong are the vague provisions on royalties and ownership of songs as intellectual properties, exclusive provisions under a special law for same. Nigeria’s copyright laws do have a provision for same, but it’s too vague and open to interpretation when tested in the sauna of judicial problem solving. Blackface might be richer today if he’d gotten credits for the hit songs he’s penned for 2Face. It’s a sorry cycle that keeps going.

Other problems associated with this are the predicaments of music producers and record label/Telecommunications companies exploitation of artistes’/performers’ intellectual properties. Kiss Daniel is the latest victim of unfair terms of 360 deals. Record producers are also almost only limited to quid pro quo for beats produced with no futures or royalties accruing. This has led to continued degenerative living for some legendary producers in Nigeria. This is disheartening when you realize that some extant provisions in our laws are specifically available to prevent the occurrence of such. For example Telecommunications companies are reported to constantly violate the provisions of the copyright act as regards the ratio for the sharing of royalties. The ratio prescribed by law is the Table attached to the Copyright Act. To acess the entirety of the copyright act please click here.

While some of these problems are systemic and attributable to Nigeria being in a developmental phase — even though it could be better — this slippery slopped needs some friction to stop greater destinies from floundering. Creatives need to be paid now and in the future. Asides album and single sales being a major issue in Nigeria, the highlighted situation of utter disarray has made Nigeria or even Africa — asides South Africa — an unfriendly ground for the Big 4 record labels — Sony, Warner, EMI and Universal — from continuing major dealings in the Contemporary Nigerian society. No one wants to invest in failure.

When we initially discussed this at our little rendezvous, we proffered the following solutions;

For a while now, the OG Ruggedman started a campaign on his Twitter and started tagging us. He started a campaign to support Hon. Abu Abdullahi’s quest to ensure compliance with the laws law govern royalties accruing from artiste intellectual properties, long term royalties and halt artiste exploitation by Telcos all for incredible economic benefits to Nigeria. For this, we credit you sir. You’re more than a legend now, you’re creating a legacy. Keep it up, we’re happy to support you however we can. If you need any support system intelectually, we’re happy to contribute.

If there was ever a time Nigeria needed her citizens to rise up and support a positive movement, it is now. This Law will not only change lives, it will transform Nigeria’s future. It’s effects will lead to great positive transformation in our artistic sector.

Now though, we have the following additions to make to the already existent movement and we hope they will matter. They are;

2. Shelf artist exploitation through 360 deals — but this might require some planning considering that most 360 deals. are a product of contract borne out of inequality of bargaining power. If they need help crafting a Law with the awareness of dearth of sales in Nigerian and the need for record labels, quintessential aritist support structure in Nigeria’s need for profit making in mind, they can give @OneMotolani, @WordsbyAG, @stedbe, @CloverDaddy, @Hassani, @PrinceOfPentos and @Emarged a call or shoot us DMs. We’ll be happy to assist in coming up with a Bill. Most of us are Lawyers. Asides that, we have a passion for music and revolutionary development in the Nigerian music industry.

3. Create a legal way to exploit Alaba for growth in Nigeria — for solutions on this, they can also give the aforementioned people a call or shoot us DMs.

4. Make those laws of serious economic benefits to Nigeria. Our entertainment industry is worth billions. Some provisions exist in the Copyright Act but so far enforcement has been abysmal.

5. Make the Law broad enough to also govern movies and other art forms like paintings and photography. It’s a vision and it’s execution requite meticulous thought process and awareness of serial weakness to Nigeria. Once again, if any intellectual support is needed, the aforementioned people are happy to help.

Please, rise up and change lives.

You can sign the petition to implement the right royalty sharing ratio by clicking here or following this link:

By PennedMusingsNG for Urban Central @OneMotolani on Twitter

Remember you can also follow us on Twitter @TheUrbanCentral

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Urban Central

Urban Central is the Internet Magazine for the millennial mind, focused on the issues that matter for an evolving generation. Do follow us, Urban Central.