#AskSJ: Merry Music Edition
Looks like this week y’all are really pushing it with music industry questions. I’ll remind you of “your book” I Deserve to Be: Self-worth Is a Silent Killer that y’all are hounding me for. I hope to have a 2018 release date in due course.
Hope you are good bro! I want to invest time and resources on an artist who has nothing but himself/herself.
- How do I account for all the money/time that goes into the artist?
- How do I fairly share whatever revenue that comes in through them? For example, say if someone wishes to sponsor that artist’s album/video or cater for any of the artist’s expenses. How do I value my time and services on the artist so I can claim the money from the sponsor?
- Is there a need for contracts? I fell like they scare people away though they might make conflict resolution better.
I hope this makes sense. Please help.
–Wanna-be Suge Knight.
Dear ‘Wanna-be Suge Knight’
Quite a lot of questions. I do private consults you know… And I don’t come cheap. Aren’t you glad for Enthuse?
Zimbabwe is a very small country and I consider it to be a village. Oliver Mtukudzi has over 60 albums to his name in over 60 years of his life! That shows you how tiny the industry is because that’s a lot of records for a career. Your artist/s better be damn talented or else you may waste your resources. That’s why in standard industry terms, a typical contract has an artist expected to deliver close to 10 studio albums to the label.
The question is do you want to be a record label or an artist manager? Those are two different things. Suge Knight is obviously a record label owner. Not everyone can be a record label owner. It’s a business. The market is quite non-existent for record labels in this (tiny) country.
Q3 – Contracts are absolutely essential. If you are a member of ZIMURA they should be able to assist you. Register as a label. If your client – the artist is your client – doesn’t want one, they are not yet serious.
Q2 – That’s a very difficult one to answer because I’d actually have to whip out a whole book about Copyright and Intellectual Property law. However, as a business rule of thumb, make sure you are getting the biggest chunk if you are explicitly doing record label duties for the artist/s. I mean it! Don’t mess around and try to be “nice” about it. If you are doing management duties only, make the sharing split the other way round. Google the number of contracts and labels involved in the business of Drake. The guy who discovered Justin Timberlake made over US$150 million and gave JT a modest US$2,000. Modest! I think every living artist except for Beyoncé has been through such.
Q1 – That depends on whether you choose to be a label or a manager. Either way, keep a good old profit and loss book. And no, having a studio does not make you a label or a manager. That’s another business on its own.
Hot tip: Niggas gotta read! Niggas just don’t read! Most of your favourite artists have books. Don’t watch the movies – read. Zack O’Malley Greenburg has the best books and articles about music. I can’t wait for his 3 Kings – Diddy, Dr. Dre, Jay-Z and Hip-Hop’s Multibillion Dollar Rise which has been delayed for years – because writing books is hard and then y’all don’t read. Niggas gotta read! Grandma’ or mommy’s Bible does not count as reading.
How do I go through the process of negotiating the use of someone’s song (vocal sampling) like the Seeb remix of Mike Posner’s “I Took a Pill in Ibiza.”
– Mix Meister.
Dear ‘Mix Meister’
- If you are a hot producer of note, the record label approaches you for an official remix. That’s rare because labels are simply not in the business of making remixes. The Seeb duo was approached for that remix by Posner’s label. The money is little because the label makes sure they get the largest chunk and it doesn’t matter that their remix is Posner’s biggest hit.
- You can enlist ZIMURA to negotiate a fee for you/your label to pay the label to do so. It doesn’t come cheap. If you can afford to do this, you are a bad music business person.
- You can do your mix anyway without asking for permission and throw it out there as a bootleg. If you sell it and actually become a millionaire, expect the label to come after you for their share of the bucks. Sam Smith nicely and quietly shared the profits for “Stay with me” when some unknown guy kindly knocked at his door (in my mind) saying “Hey dude – that kinda sounds like a remix my song you know…!” Basala bengasela nkani umunt’ ongaziwayo esethe “qoki” ecel’ imali yakhe epheth’ icassette yengoma yakhe! (They were left stranded when the guy demanded his money playing a cassette tape of his song!)
That’s why you “throw it out there.” If it becomes incredibly popular, the label will approach you with a deal like Fragma and their Toca’s Miracle. That is even rarer than being approached to do an official remix. To show you how small Zimbabwe is, if Msiz’kay’s Ngiyakukhumbula sold a few records, you’d see Majaivana come out of retirement fast.
Sonny Jermain is an award-winning public health, maternal, sexual and reproductive health rights facilitator and a traditional psychic. This column appears Thursdays on Enthuse. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp +263 77 274 8454. Follow @SonnyJermain.