LEGENDARY producer and honcho of Highly Spiritual Music (HSM), Kaywa has, in the last month lost two budding artistes from his label, Mr. Drew and Lasmid. It is not the first time artistes are exiting the label since its inception and it won’t the last.
Artistes sign on and exit labels all the time, some in a cordial and mutual manner while others, in such an acrimonious state – and life goes on.
On Mr Drew and Kaywa, it is clear that regardless of the circumstances that shrouded their split, both seem to have moved on: Mr Drew releasing new music while Kaywa and his imprint have unveiled new acts—Cadeen, Joe Vibe, Shuga Lord and Joe Verse.
There’s been varied commentary on the Mr Drew exit especially with observers divided on who did what in that Record label- Artiste relationship but what piqued my interest is an interview Mr Drew granted GhanaWeb on the situation.
In that interview, among other issues discussed, the artiste asserted that, the idea of artistes struggling to make it after exiting labels is a myth.
Mr Drew in that interview stated that, a record label is not doing the artiste any favours when they sign them. Technically and candidly, he is right!
When a label discovers any artiste and preps him/her for pursuit of critical acclaim, prominence, fame and popularity – it is not for charity.
The Record label- Artiste relationship, aside everything else is a business venture, guided by contractual agreement. The label is a business entity that is engaged in music business and one of its clients is the artiste.
As part of that relationship, the label has its mandate and responsibilities and so has the artiste. Depending on deal, the label is supposed to provide the resources and wherewithal for the recording, marketing/promotion and distribution of the works of the artiste. The artiste is expected to show up; be present in his/her elements to produce songs, go on tour and sign endorsement deals.
It is therefore the reason why, when one party fails to live up to their responsibilities; the other party has the right to opt out of the deal. It is the reason labels drop artistes for lack of performance or ability to sell or vice versa.
“You are there (on the label) to work, don’t see it like the label is giving you a platform or an opportunity, because when money comes, the label will take its cut,” Mr Drew told Ghana Web. Here, he is dead wrong!
The purpose of the record label is to offer the artiste the platform, the opportunity to thrive, blossom and shine—regardless of whatever monetary benefits is there for both parties. The provision of platform and opportunity is critical.
Mr Drew would be nowhere, probably nothing if Kaywa and his label did not give him the platform and the opportunity. The fact that, he doesn’t realise this is quite worrisome and such a mindset could derail any form of healthy talk between the artiste and his label.
A person yearns to do business but lacks the resources to kick-start that venture. He flounders to look for investors or a bank to offer him a loan to inject into that business. When he finally gets a loan or resources to ensure that his dream of commencing a business is realised, he should be eternally grateful to that platform, for the opportunity that saw to him venturing into a business that makes him and his venture a household name, regardless of whether he paid the loan back or not.
The fact that the label figured the talent and resolved to inject its resources and succour in order to give that talent the opportunity and the platform to thrive in the pursuance of achieving fame, popularity and financial independence should never be taken for granted. It’s a big deal!
In that same interview, Mr Drew stated that, the widely held opinion that artistes struggle or fail to hit the mark when they leave their respective labels is a myth.
He failed to realise that the interviewer was asking that question based on a pattern—a trend of seeing artistes who were at their peak under record labels struggle to hit the same form when they leave the labels.
How is that occurrence a myth when there’s enough evidence, facts and figures to show that a lot of musicians, who were well off under labels seem to struggle when they go independent.
How is it a myth that his former label mates, Kurl Songz and Yaw Berk are still struggling to realise their full potential as mainstream acts after exiting the label? How is it a myth that he has become almost a household name under the aegis of Highly Spiritual Music?
There are so many artistes across the world that were successful under labels but got it torrid after going independent, so it is never a myth that some artistes struggle after exiting record labels.
Success After Label Not Easy
Mr Drew opined that, all over the world, there are artistes who left one label to the other or went independent and have been extremely successful in music and other ventures. He is right but he failed to mention the conditions that come with such feat.
Record labels have plugs; power, structure and the money to see artistes do well. They have a solid foundation and well-connected module that ensures the production, marketing, promotion and distribution of the music.
If an artiste under a label is very successful, it means the label has done its work of ensuring that the product and brand of that artiste is out there.
Most artistes struggle after life under labels because they lack the structure and foundations of a label. They lack that structure which would see to the smooth recording, marketing and distribution of their songs.
Being independent means freedom; the free will to be your own boss and do whatever you want with your music and your time but it is not an easy road.
MzVee could be happy as an independent artiste; she doesn’t need to answer to anybody but the truth is that, she has been unable to reach the same heights as she did under Lynx Entertainment. It’s such an unfortunate situation, especially when she is still one of the most talented artistes in the country and in Africa.
So Mr Drew should not be delirious in thinking that, becoming successful or maintaining your prominence after exiting a label comes easy. You need resources, personnel and the plugs to see you thrive, otherwise, you are back to zero and that’s a fact!