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Business ethics lacking in music - Artistes shun contracts

Published:Friday | September 8, 2017 | 12:00 AM
The mixing board and other equipment inside a music studio.

Record producer Michael Bell has launched a stirring rebuke of the unprofessional behaviour of local artistes as it relates to their business ethics and management decisions.

According to the producer known for his work with Gyptian on the song My Girl, Jamaican artistes are less concerned about the quality of their art and the business aspect of music.

"They are raping and short-changing the industry and producers, because they don't want to sit down and spend time to write proper songs. They charge you US$2,500 to voice songs that will never sell well, because they are poorly composed and written. They want your money, yet rather they freestyle instead of writing a good song," he said.

Bell also said some artistes have put so little effort in the recording process that even entourage members and producers are contributing to the development of the final product.

"Sometimes the producer or members of the entourage have to contribute lines for the song. Oftentimes, the entourage members don't get any publishing for their contribution, so are exploited as well. After the song is done, some of these artistes refuse to sign publishing split sheet. That happened to me recently and it is a regular thing producers face, but no one is complaining because they are afraid of being sidelined. It is hard to do real business with them (artistes) and that is why international acts are benefiting more from our music than us ... our artistes are too shifty, dishonest and selfish ... and then they make the hype get to their heads and kill their careers," Bell told The Gleaner.




A publishing split sheet is a document that states who wrote what percentage of the song(s) recorded by a band or artiste. The release is a production agreement, which states that the production company has entered into a recording contract with a label, after which the label will expect the artiste to sign an 'inducement letter'. This has the effect of cementing a direct contractual relationship between artiste and record label, whereby the artiste promises to adhere to the terms of the agreement between the production company and the label.

Jamaican artistes are often averse to signing these letters.

"It is standard business practice, nothing shady, but they don't want to sign anything. Being a producer is not what it used to be, you need to be familiar with the legal and contractual side of your business, if you're to stay in the game and get paid for your efforts. But our artistes don't want to cooperate, they only care about what they can earn right now," said Bell.

No excuse for poor business practices

Music industry insider/consultant Cara Vickers, believes Jamaican acts ought to have no excuse for poor business practices since information is readily available.

"We hear too often of music that is leaked, released or stagnant, due to either party not being able to negotiate, communicate or comply to an agreement. The truth is, producers and beat makers must sign off on a publishing split sheet, agreeing on terms, percentages and release conditions, along with a plan of execution. Unfortunately, very few people conduct business in this manner and so we are left with many people disgruntled because of several reasons," she revealed.

Vickers also believes that it is incumbent on the producer to also explain the terms of the agreement to the artiste to avoid confusion or future entanglements.




"After recording for a label, an artiste has the legal right to sign off on the release of the song. If the song is released without such, it may result in a lawsuit and removal of content, depending on the approach of the applicant. In Jamaica, legal fees are expensive and most do not have the capital or know-how to pursue such action. It is unfair when music is published without the right protocols observed, and artistes need to stop recording without agreeing to terms. Likewise, producers need to stop recording acts before outlining the release contract plan. A song must be signed off by both parties prior to release," said Vickers.

For reggae artiste Khago, he says some producers are unfair and refuse to distribute money from songs objectively. The singer also disclosed that in his more than seven years in music, he has never seen a publishing split sheet.

"You don't get nothing when these producers sell your song, that is why artistes should start do like the 'Yankees' and start make their own studio and release their own work," he said.