- May 27, 2020
- Posted by: Chester Odagwe
- Categories: Entertainment, Opinions
If there is an industry the Nigerian economy is to be proud of, it is definitely the entertainment industry. While every other aspect of our lives, to a great extent, defiled all works and prayers to improve, the Nigerian entertainment industry has grown from the proverbial grace to the Tu Face’s kind of grace, drawing attention of every ninety-degree part of the globe. Incidentally, and perhaps like every other success story, the Nigerian entertainment industry has drawn fair-weather friends with each soul, talented or not, making frantic efforts to blow on the screens of Lagos. Many of the super talents are trudging the walls of the Gidi Island and new media seeking attentions from OBO to Baba Fryo. Some have been lucky while many find without favour, not because they did not pray for grace nor God wanting to shame them but time and space has not shown light on them, so they continue to wallow from Abule-egba to Lekki.
In recent times, a rather disturbing trend has surfaced from the performing artiste side of the entertainment space with successful artiste jumping the ship of labels that nurtured them from unknown to ‘blown’ artiste and in some cases, to superstars. From Tu Face’s ‘awol movement’ to Wizkid’s disconnect from hailing EME down to Iyanya’s ditching of MMMG to Runtown’s Lagos parade with Eric Many Entertainment, even the entertaining WWE presented by Kiss Daniel and G-Worldwide to name a few. The Nigerian media are usually on a steady alert for such stories, they make the blog go gaga. The spate of issues surrounding artiste and their management has no doubt become a terrible reoccurring decimal within the music space. The exact causes of these issues are both complex, diverse and dynamic, ranging from negotiating power imbalance, exploitation of a weaker party, insensitivity of management, crass stupidity on the side of upcoming artiste, short sightedness and ignorance, greed on either side, most importantly lack of regard for quality legal representation.
Cynthia Morgan on the Scene
The Nigerian air waves have been awash for some days on the recent revelation by our darling springer of german juice, Cynthia Morgan or may be, Madrina of the latter days and the label she signed on to in 2013, Northside Entertainment anchored by the recently ‘gored’ Jude Engees Okoye. The parties have traded phantom blames with the many fans dishing debates, questions, answers, suggestion but mostly catching the trips of the moment.
In my many years of dealing with non-lawyers seeking to engage in any form of business, I reprimand them that the beautiful side of any contractual engagement lies in the turbulence that comes with the business. Agreements must therefore be negotiated keenly with each party putting their best foot forward. In the very least, contract favourably to the extent that you are very much contented to deal with the worst of the contractual nightmare. Admittedly, in the entertainment space, the case is usually one of disproportionate fates, a money bag seeking ways to spend and reap in the future (investing labels) and an often time, some low-end talents standing on nails to hit the screen and come to limelight (the artistes). In desperation, anything goes. Unfortunately, the sanctity of contracts must always be maintained.
Cynthia Morgan’s Contract – The Dilemma
A minute glimpse of the contract between Cynthia Morgan and Northside Entertainment reveals either a poor or zero legal representation for Cynthia Morgan. To be exact, the artiste’s (Cynthia Morgan) obligations to produce records are captured in a terribly confusing manner thereby blurring the lines of her major obligation under the contract. More so, the negotiated commercials to many non-lawyers may be a 50:50 profit sharing as can be easily seen on the contract but a detailed review of clause three providing for cost and the revenue sharing clause will result in a 75:25 revenue sharing ratio across board. Well, Northside may not even appreciate or enforce the contract to this extent, whatever was the real case is between the parties. The agreement provides that Cynthia Morgan will invest 50% of the cost of all major expenses, this will however be loaned to her by the label. At any profit-sharing interval, the label will first deduct 50% of the profit (whether commensurate to loan given to Cynthia Morgan or not) before the remaining 50% is shared on an equal ratio. Thereby leaving Cynthia Morgan with 25% of the profits.
The contract did not acknowledge that Cynthia Morgan is investing a scarce resource into the relationship which is her talent. In the revenue sharing split, this talent was not compensated or may be was not economically deemed adequate to warrant such investments from the label. It would have been a different scenario if the parties contracted outrightly for a 75:25 split while the label shoulder all the expense and costs. The ‘darkness’ in the contract would have flashed lights on the seemingly negligent mind of Cynthia Morgan. Again, it takes a good lawyer to trim these edges.
Another interesting part of the contract is the label owning the copyright to all works done or produced by Cynthia Morgan during the pendency of the contract. This usually is the practice but a Cynthia Morgan that is investing 50% of the major financial commitment to the contracted business and 100% of the raw material (talent) is ceding 100% ownership of the finished good to Northside Entertainment that invested 50% of the financial commitment and 0% of the raw material. This is totally off the standard game in the industry. Labels take sound and full financial risk on upcoming artistes with a view to gross up revenue from ownership of produced works while the artiste leverage on the financial commitment of the label to deploy his/her best craft to hit the limelight, make good Naira while the contract last and beyond. This was not the case of Cynthia Morgan. Surprisingly, Cynthia Morgan’s claim of being denied use of the name ‘Cynthia Morgan’ though debatable but surely not out place. Cynthia Morgan licensed the name to Northside Entertainment exclusively for the promotion and distribution of the recordings done by Cynthia Morgan. In the unlikely event that Cynthia Morgan promoted the songs in any manner which may even cut deep to stage performances (challengeable though), the label may rightly defend its exclusive license to use the name “Cynthia Morgan” for anything relating to the recordings which it (the label) also copyrighted.
If I am to trade blames, I would shove all through the german juice back to Cynthia Morgan’s negligence in procuring quality legal representation before signing off the contract. Northside Entertainment is just about the business and whatever brings the ‘kpali’ is good business. These are interesting times in our entertainment industry movement and it is very convenient that we are all learning through these events. The cumulative impact of these events would spring a better entertainment space for every player in the industry.
In the final analysis, artiste (upcoming or not) should seek good legal representation before signing a page or a hundred-page contract. It is okay to ask the label to pay reasonable legal fees that the artiste would procure in the process; it is equally fine to disagree at the contracting phase. The label identified talent hence the proposed relationship. When engagement at the initial stage is carried out on lawyer to lawyer basis there would most likely be a mid and mutually favourable ground thereby leading to a healthy relationship. Again, agreements are not only beautiful when the goings are good, they are super awesome when the balls roll south.
Featured image credit: BBC