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An Evaluation of the Socio-Economic and Legal Effects of the Proliferation of Record Companies in Nigeria

The 21st Century has witnessed a boom in Nigerian music. It is obvious that unlike in the 1980’s, when Nigerian music were rarely played in parties, clubs or public functions even within her borders, the songs of Nigerian new generation artists are not only aired in Nigeria but in prominent radio and televisions stations across the world. In recognition of this, Nigerian artists have gained constant nominations and won several international awards. Inevitably, the popularity of Nigerian artists both home and globally has impacted positively on the nation’s economy. The music sector has created job opportunities for many Nigerian youths and is fast becoming a major driving force in Nigeria’s transformation.

The recent music revolution was spearheaded by record companies such as Kennis Music, Storm Records, Tribe Records to mention but a few. These record companies took time to discover budding talents, invest in them, raise the standard and charted a new course for Nigerian music. However, as these artists became popular, they released themselves from their record contract with the record companies to form their own record company. For instance, 2 face and Eederis Abdulkarim left Kennis Music to form Hypertek Entertainment and La Kreem music respectively, Sound Sultan left Kennis Music to form Naija Ninjas and Faze left Westside Music to form Independent Entertainment.

This trend has become a constant recurrence as Nigerian music evolve; Wizkid left EME to form Star Boy Entertainment, D’banj left Mo’ hits to form DB records, Wande Coal left Mavin Records to form Black Diamond Entertainment, Olamide left Coded Tunes to form YBNL Nation, Jesse Jagz left Chocolate City to form Jagz Nation and the list goes on and on. It appears the aim of forming a record company in Nigeria today is no longer to maintain professionalism in the industry and high quality music but simply to make profits for its owner.

Though an artist who owns his record company has the advantage of fully owning his album, maintaining his autonomy, giving his album top priority and becoming an entertainment expert, the risk involved in running a successful record company is damning. This explains why most new record companies still find it difficult to make headway or sign a single artist after many years of its formation. Apart from the task of starting up without a solid marketing and distribution structure, grooming an efficient record company in Nigeria is capital intensive and time consuming. Except the owner of the new record company is buoyant, patient, persistent and fortunate, the record company may fall by the way side and with it in most cases, the career and credibility of a once promising star.

Moreover, if the proliferation of record companies continues unabated, Nigerian music would gradually lose its art and soul. This would impede the growth of the sector and delay the development of its legal framework. Except for artists with genuine passion and the wherewithal to groom their own record company, it is more economically and professionally viable for artists to renegotiate the terms of their record contracts with the record company as their fame increases, instead of venturing into the murky waters of establishing their own record company. Nevertheless, if the owners of one record company fails to agree on favorable terms with an established artist, other record companies may be dying to have the artist on their record label on a better deal.

Therefore, forming a new record company must not be the only option to thwart the gimmicks of a greedy record company. Experience has shown that being popular as an artist does not necessarily translate to having an efficient record company. The way around this is for budding artists to not only insist on a periodic review of the terms of their record contracts to prevent the record companies from taking undue advantage of them, they should also seek the advice and possibly retain the services of a good entertainment lawyer to represent them in negotiations with the record company.

The Nigerian music industry will develop more rapidly if there is a proper utilization of individual core skills; songwriters should be patronized to improve the content of the songs, sound engineers for better sound quality, artists should concentrate their best efforts on their music and the record label should bear the risk and responsibility of handling the business aspect of the music. This way, song writing would develop as a profession of its own; the artist would gain in credibility, high productivity and profit; the record company would gain in expertise and the general growth of the music industry will in no small measure increase the nation’s jurisprudence on the entertainment sector and improve the Nigerian economy.

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