AN Intellectual Property lawyer, Kwame Koduah Atuahene, is entreating artistes to seek legal advice to have better understanding of contracts they sign with record labels.
The legal practitioner said many young artistes are “duped” of their intellectual property, which is their talent because they failed to do due diligence of the demands of the contracts they sign.
Speaking with Graphic Showbiz on how Ghana’s creative industry has huge disregard for the importance of documented contracts, Mr Atuahene pointed out that many artistes were likely to lose out badly when they settled for anything just because they were hungry for fame.
“I can understand that the hunger for fame is really high and that pushes many artistes to agree to every contract they are presented with at the beginning of their career.
However, both parties are expected to have a written document that serves the interest of all parties involved.
“For instance, what is going to be the role of the artiste manager/record label? As the manager, what do you also expect?
"Generally, artistes will come to the table with their talent. That is the property they have. It is like having a property in a prime area, you may need a property management team.
“So the property management team must agree with the property owner (Artiste) and the terms of the relationship. For how many years do you intend to work together? What are the obligations, what do you expect from the other side?
"Those things must be spelt out from the get go. They must be expressed in a very clear language and not put anybody in doubt,” he said.
Lawyer Atuahene’s legal guidance have come in handy, particularly at a time when the career of Kwaku The Traveller hitmaker, Black Sherif, is being threatened by a legal suit from his former record label, Waynes Chavis Consult, for breach of contract.
The legal suit by CEO of Waynes Chavis Consult, Shadrach Agyei Owusu, requested the Second Sermon hitmaker to desist from performing songs he released under Waynes Chavis Consult.
The law suit has resulted when Black Sherif signed a distribution deal with Empire, an American distribution company and record label. And this didn’t go down well with Shadrach Agyei Owusu who claimed Black Sherif did so without his permission.
The suit mentioned that the action breached a clause in their contract requiring Black Sherif to carry out all activities through him (Agyei Owusu).
Black Sherif’s case is just one out of the many legal cases that seem to have upset the blossoming careers of artistes.
In 2017, for instance, Dancehall artiste, Kaakie, was seemingly forced to walk out of her music career following a court injunction restraining her from performing songs she recorded with record label, Xtra Large Music, owned by Jah Masta Jay (JMJ).
Responding to the issue at the time, Kaakie mentioned that she didn’t understand the content of the contract and seeking further legal clarifications showed that she had been short-changed. However, that was after she had signed the contract.
Lawyer Atuahene mentioned many young artistes were likely to experience the same fate as Black Sherif and Kaakie, if the issue of contracts were not treated right.
“It is quite unfortunate that the issue of contracts is not really managed well in our creative industry. We mostly ride on relationships with friends and even relatives but that should never be the case.
“Expectations must be spelt out from the beginning to avoid potential conflicts in future. The parties must agree from the beginning and the artiste managers must know their requirements right from the beginning.
"Friends and family will surely turn into enemies when the venture becomes productive and that is why a contract binding both parties is important,” he said.