Femi Kuti Speaks on the Business of Music at Midem African Forum

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Femi Kuti

Vanessa Obioha

During a media parley at the recently held Midem African Forum, Afrobeat musician Femi Kuti spoke on the importance for artistes to be involved in the business of music today.

Drawing from personal instances which included a contract signed with American record label Motown Records, Kuti advised that artistes should be wary of the people they surround themselves with.

“Growing up around my father, I saw the conflicts around the music business. I never wanted to be involved in the business of music. It’s so frustrating. I was on tour and things didn’t go as planned. I was in a mess. I couldn’t pay for my hotel bills and Motown presented a contract to me.

“My sister was very angry with me but I was more concerned about how I was going to pay the hotel bills. So I signed it. The album became a hit in Nigeria, that was the album with ‘Wonder Wonder.’ But as God will have it, Motown crashed and owed me USD20,000. If that contract had succeeded, I would have been in big trouble today.”

He continued, “the thing is that most artistes today just want to play their music. They don’t want to be concerned about the business. That is why it is very important to find the right manager around you who knows where the money goes and where the money comes from, who can sign you to the right record label, who knows the right PR management for you and who can help you harness your musical talents.

“At a point, you need these people because the business side of music can be very consuming. The artiste needs to surround himself with people who share the same vision with him, that will protect him from signing the wrong contracts. It is very important that the artiste has these things in place before he takes off because he won’t really have that time.

“You also need a lawyer to go through your contracts, protect you and guide you. The music business is a very complex one and which needs attention. The artiste needs to surround himself with the right people unless he will quickly be overwhelmed and frustrated. Most importantly, to know when to break away from those not contributing to your success.”

Midem Director Alexandre Denoit also echoed similar sentiments. “Artistes should be concerned about their rights, about their business because at the end of the day, it’s a business. As a professional musician, you should know that music is an art and a profession. So you have to take it seriously, you must have the right talent manager, you need to know where you are going, need to find out the right record label and approach it as a profession.”

Returning for its second edition in Nigeria, Midem, a global music community, which aims at assisting music professionals, encouraging business development and discovering new talent around the world, held discussions with industry professionals which culminated to a live music performances at the New Afrika Shrine.

The focus for this year’s edition was on how to move the Nigerian music forward and as Denoit argued that the digital space will make Nigerian music easily accessible around the world.The initiative aims to strengthen the exchange between national and international executives and sectors in order to facilitate the structuring of high-potential markets.

Industry professionals who took part in the panel discussions included Waje, Thibaut Mullings, Tosin Sorinola, Oye Akindeide, Bizzle Osikoya, Chidi Okeke to mention a few while Moeazy, Martin Feelz, Brenda Adigwe, Ceeboi, Akin Brown, and Kafayat Quadry provided musical entertainment.