Nigerian Producers and The Short End Of The Stick, By Akinyemi Ayinoluwa

“While it’s always more fun to spend time in the studio, it is advisable that producers do a bit of reading.”

Last weekend, I read an interview by Samklef, as record producer; he was instrumental in ushering Afrobeat dynamite, Wizkid, to prominence.

While he got credits for producing hit-songs on Wizkid’s debut album, he probably earned no royalties from mechanical rights and publishing.

Amongst other interesting thoughts expressed was his assertion that due to the music industry’s lack of a viable structure, record producers who do not approach the business tactfully will get broke in no time.

Ruminating on the interview and considering the peculiar nature of the music business in Nigeria, I attempt to contextualize how the foul-tasting status quo can be eased out to activate a new rewarding landscape for Nigerian record producers. To my mind, the music business is speculative – what is termed fashionable at an instance might just be considered obsolete the very next minute. It is therefore risky to approach same with indifference.

Oftentimes, record producers get lost in honing their craft; a serene mind and an ambience that boosts a creative surge is all they crave.

In addition, creative practitioners are not the best at minding their businesses, it is therefore crucial that they are aware of the trajectory of the value chains relevant to their craft.

In Nigeria, they suffer unjustly, in spite of the quantum of work committed to creating beautiful music. They never get the economic benefits or credits accruable. This malaise could be attributed to sheer ignorance, short-sightedness or the over-hyped lack of a

well-organized Industry.

The grim reality is that the artistes are the only profiteers of the success of a huge production; making huge killings off live performances, tours, endorsement deals, digital distribution and sales because these modes of exploitation are customary. On the flip-side, record producers barely exploit these productions beyond the lump sum received as initial payment.

It is safe to assert that record producers legitimately own rights fixed in their creations, and except same is assigned, they reserve copyrights in their works; the right to use, duplicate, perform, distribute, and sell.

Nigerian Copyright Laws And Ownership In Nigeria and globally, Copyright laws provide protection for original works of authorship by conferring certain exclusive rights upon their creators. The realm of music copyright is characterized by two types of copyright holders; the holder of the musical work and the holder of the sound recording.

The musical work copyright holder is typically the one who composes the piece of music while the sound recording copyright holder is the recorder of a rendition of the musical work. It is almost impossible to have both works (musical works and sound recording) without the expertise of a record producer.

The question that lingers then is why financial abundance is a rarity amongst Nigerian record producers as compared to their foreign counterparts?

Some Tips To Help Re-Invent The Wheel For Record Producers Nigerian record producers should consider the under-listed as condensed survival tips in an uncertain terrain. Incorporating same to their operations will bolster their prosperity as creative professionals.

Bracing up for the future: In this digital era, the Nigerian Copyright Act is still at the back foot as it is being rendered obsolete by daily technological advancement. Thus, record producers have to be pro-active via contractual documentations to optimize ownership of copyrights in musical works and sound recording.

This allows for exploitation of traditional streams of revenue (Publishing, Mechanical Royalties and Performance Royalties) and digital streams of income from sales of ring tones, ring back tunes, Spinlet, iTunes, YouTube, Vevo etc.

To assert ownership, they must keep a record book detailing all works produced in studio, name of authors, title of the works and the year of production. They should endeavor to register same with the Nigerian Copyrights Commission.

Education, Affiliations and Collaborations: While it’s always more fun to spend time in the studio, it is advisable that producers do a bit of reading. This helps to discover, befriend and collaborate with the power brokers of the music industry internationally and locally. A further step would be to read up on various aspects of the music business, technological advancement and how it affects the dynamics, as well as the new streams of income that accrue to every stakeholder.

Legal Threshold: When production work comes of age, big businesses will be bandied in tones of contract documents. Get help from an experienced Attorney, there is a steady rise in the number of Entertainment Lawyers wanting a piece of the action in the Nigerian music landscape.

Membership of Collecting Societies: It is advised that producers register with Performing Rights Societies in countries where their music gets considerable airtime. This would ensure that royalties stream in from radio plays and public performance of their music.

International agreements like the Berne Convention guarantees that Collecting Societies of member countries can collaborate in collection of Royalties and repatriate same to owners of the copyrights regardless of where authors are domiciled.

Management: Music remains a team sport; you need proven and trusted hands to mind your business and help develop it. A viable management in addition oversees administration, pricing, placements, marketing, branding and quality control. A well managed production house could help metamorphose into a record label.

Talent/Artiste Development: Seek and develop new artists and reserve rights from every work created, better still safeguard your rights with an Artist Development deal which ensures you benefit in the event that a major Record Label is interested in the talent you helped nurture to prominence.

Projects: Record Producers can executively produce career defining albums for their own benefits or exclusively orchestrate albums of artistes signed to other labels. Take a cue from ID Cabasa, Cobhams, Sarz and Maleek Berry.

Credits: Notwithstanding how much is earned as production fees, record producers should drum it to the heavens that they authored a production or co-wrote same. The brilliance and ingenuity expended on work should never be ascribed to someone else. Do you wonder why there are two versions of Wizkid’s Sexy Mama?

On a final note, the business of music in the 21st century is universal, it’s fluidity across geographic boundaries is occasioned by globalization and the super-imposition of technological advancement.

Record producers as well as other creative practitioners should be positioned to benefit from this new reality.

Akinyemi Ayinoluwa Esq. is a Lagos based attorney with interest in the creative sector/ entertainment sub-sector. Follow him on twitter


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