Issues between artists and record labels are a common occurrence in the Nigerian music industry.
Out of desperation for success and fame, some Nigerian artists make the mistake of signing contracts with their record labels without the counsel of a lawyer, which sometimes comes back to haunt them.
After a few years, the artist has risen to prominence and is no longer content with contract terms that seem to benefit the label.
They sometimes demand renegotiations, sometimes the label accepts, and everyone is satisfied. Sometimes it doesn’t end that way. Often Nigerian record labels insist that they have invested a lot of money in the artists and that they are entitled to every cent.
This deadlock results in lawsuits being thrown around and in some cases, physical battles.
We compiled a list of Nigerian Artists who have had issues with their record labels.
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Kizz Daniel Vs G-Worldwide
Nigerian singer, Kizz Daniel came into the music scene in 2014 with his hit song, “Woju“, he was signed to G-Worldwide Label as of that time.
In 2017, he was embroiled in a gruelling battle with the record label. The reason for the dispute was reportedly over the singer’s breached the terms of his 7-year contract which he signed in 2013 and was supposed to expire in 2020 but he exited the label without fulfilling the terms of his contract.
Meanwhile, the singer was going through a lot as he had several restrictions when it came to collaborating with other artists and he ultimately took off.
Due to the dispute, an injunction stopped him from performing throughout the festive period of December 2017.
The singer had to change his stage name from ‘Kiss’ to ‘Kizz’. Though, he released his critically acclaimed and commercially successful Headies-winning 2016 debut album, New Era when he was signed to G Worldwide. The album contains hit singles ‘Woju’, ‘Laye’, ‘Good time’ and ‘Mama’.
In 2017, the singer started up his own record label, Flyboy Inc Entertainment and he started releasing out music again. The singer released his sophomore album, ‘No Bad Songz’ under his new label.
The duo however has been in and out of the court trying to resolve their issue.
Runtown Vs Eric Many Entertainment
Years before becoming a household-name status, Runtown signed a record deal with Eric Many Entertainment, owned by Prince Okwudili Umenyiora, billionaire CEO of Dilly Motors in 2014.
A few hits later, their relationship deteriorated and situations escalated after his label accused him of signing for and attending events without their knowledge – a breach of contract.
Runtown then attempted to terminate his contract in May 2016, claiming that there were payments he never received – from live performances, recorded royalty income (MTN Music Plus, caller ring back tunes), etc. He also alleged death threats were made to him by the label.
The label retaliated by obtaining an injunction barring the singer from performing at any event or making any kind of recording until their case was resolved. They also obtained another injunction against him in the USA, where he was billed to kick off a US Tour.
Eventually, both parties resolved their issues out of court and Runtown remained on the label for one more year. But his contract was improved as the new deal gave him more control.
Brymo Vs Chocolate city
Brymo got signed to Chocolate City in 2011 and under the label released his debut album, “Son of A Carpenter.”
The singer exited the music label in 2013 shortly after the release of his debut album. He had also accused the company of failing to promote the record and sidetracking him.
The music company then came out to say that the artiste had breached a five-year contract that required him to release three albums between 2011 and 2016.
They also said they fell out with Brymo because he was stubborn, had an active passion for promoting Indian hemp on his Social Media accounts and lost a potential N20million endorsement deal with a telecoms company as a result.
Brymo quit the label on Twitter and called out Audu Maikori, founder and then CEO of Chocolate City.
Provoked, the label sued the artiste, got an injunction to stop him from leaving the label and claiming every one of his recordings and for a long time, Brymo couldn’t put out any material or make money.
A judge lifted the injunction in 2014, and he started releasing music again. But by this time a lot of damage had been done – to his brand, and his finances.
In 2016, the year his contract was supposed to end, The Chocolate City Entertainment Company reportedly said it invested almost N20 million on him but failed to recoup up to N3 million. Hence, this led to a legal battle with Brymo being sued for 100 million Naira.
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Vector Vs YSG
The problems between Vector and YSG (a division of Young Shall Grow Motors, run by Obiora Obianodo, first son of the transport guru – Chief Vincent Obianodo) began in 2013.
Before that, Their romance lasted for about four years and it seemed like a match made in heaven when they were together. In all his songs, the hitmaker always made it a point of duty to call the name of his record label, yelling, YSG.
According to sources, problems arose after the rapper expressed dissatisfaction with his pace of development and the label’s casual attitude toward his career. He suggested that they employ more professionals and when they refused, Vector hired people and was paying them personally.
Issues escalated after Vector took a self-sponsored vacation to the US and returned to his record boss’ anger who claimed he went to the States to sign a record deal.
Although Vector denied the accusations, he received an invitation letter from the Commissioner of Police of Lagos State and was summoned to the Area-E Command in Lagos.
On getting there, he was presented with a “breach of contract” petition, claiming that he had engaged external hands to work for him. His parents got involved, as his dad is a retired police officer, and it was settled amicably.
Feeling unsafe and threatened, Vector surrendered the car and apartment YSG had provided for him and went about his daily life, until – at a video shoot for a song he was featured on – he was arrested and detained till his lawyers came through.
The label went ahead to file an injunction against Vector at a Federal High Court, stopping him from recording, composing or releasing any material as a recording artist. For 9 months, his career stalled as he battled the injunction until both parties decided to settle out of court – with Vector buying out his contract, at a discounted rate.
The whole debacle ended with the artiste writing an open letter where he apologized to the label for ‘everything’.
The whole incident evidently affected the artiste’s career till a few years later when he was able to wriggle his way out of the mess.
Asa vs Question Mark records
In 2002, Asa competed in the first season of Star Quest but did not advance beyond the preliminary stage.
She went on to develop a working relationship with Cobhams Asuquo who became Question Mark’s in-house music producer and together they made her first major single – Eye Adaba. This launched her career, and some will say the Question Mark label.
The relationship did not last though. Alleging threat to her life by Kevin Luciano, and claiming the label was trying to sign her onto a foreign deal without her consent, Asa left them in 2006, without releasing an album.
Question Mark retaliated by saying she was contractually bound to them and that they owned her materials. They claimed they had spent over N14million on her, bought her a car and housed her, but were yet to get their money back.
They released her songs in an album titled The Captivator but that did not stop Asa from moving to France, where she signed a multi-million-naira deal with Naïve, a French record label.
In 2007, she released her official self-titled debut album, and it featured some of the songs in the previously released The Captivator.
The beef will go on for a while. In 2012, Asa called Question Mark criminals on Twitter, after an album titled “Down on Me” was released. She sought legal action and even though sales did not stop immediately, promotions for the album did not continue.
May D vs Square Records
While some of the acts on this list attempted to end their contracts with their record labels, Square records, in a twist, were the ones who sacked their artiste, May D in 2012.
Label exec, Jude Okoye made the announcement, in a terse statement that cited irreconcilable differences as the reason for the ‘sacking’.
It has was reported that the label dropped May D because he was not as profitable as they thought he’d be. But it must have gone beyond that because they went a step further to delete his music from YouTube – sparking outrage from fans of May D, who thought they were being wicked.
May D on the other hand claimed he wasn’t given prior notice, and saw the news of his sacking online as well. For a while, he faded into the background until 2020 when he came back into the spotlight to call the Okoye brothers (Jude and P-square) for abandoning him despite him writing part of their award-winning “Invasion Album.”
He also released a song, “Lowo Lowo” and a remix with Davido. Sometime in that year, he announced a partnership with Davido’s DMW Label.
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Cynthia Morgan vs Jude Okoye
In 2013, Cynthia Morgan signed a recording contract with Northside Entertainment Inc. owned by Jude ‘Engees’ Okoye. A few months later, she released two chart-topping singles “Don’t Break My Heart” and “Lead Me On” which got positive reviews from fans; the latter went on to be nominated for “Best Reggae/Dancehall Single” at The Headies 2014.
After releasing a few hit songs, Cynthia went into isolation until 2020 when she finally returned to social media and she trended heavily after she claimed that Jude Okoye, the owner of the record label, Northside Entertainment, took everything she owns away from her.
The singer made this known during an Instagram live session where she mentioned that she lost her name, VEVO and Instagram account due to a bad contract. The singer also claimed that Okoye owes her an undisclosed amount of money.
Okoye, in a bid to vindicate himself, released a copy of the contract between both parties. The last known news on their issue was that Cynthia had taken Jude to court over their unresolved issues.