Arnold's Corner

When artists make record labels look bad – The Kaakie story

Dancehall artist, Kaakie, made the news over the week for breaking up or leaving her record label, Xtra Large Music (XLM) – granting her the opportunity to take our headline for this week – yes!

The fact that Kaakie has left the label should not have been such a big deal. She is not the first and won’t be the last artist to leave a seemingly robust relationship with a label but the fact that, some negative spotlight is being shed on the label, XLM piques interest.

The artist has embarked on a media tour, just for the split. No music, no video or any product to project but just chatter on her time with the label and how ‘badly’ she’s been treated for the 6-year period she was with the label.

Commentary in the media, both social and traditional – places XLM in some bad light, thanks to the sympathy card being strategically played by Kaakie on her media tour announcing the split.

But wait a minute, did XLM, just like many record labels treat Kaakie badly in an artist-label relationship? Let’s find out!

What XLM Offered Kaakie
It’s true the internet has been brilliant for artists in many ways, giving them an alternative route to make contact with and sell directly to fans (something Ghanaian acts are floundering with) but record labels do much more than distribute to retailers and Xtra Large Music did a lot for Kaakie in a spate of 6 years.

As an unknown contestant on music reality show, ‘Stars of the Future’, XLM gave the artist prominence, a voice, confidence, buoyancy, popularity, fame and money .With the help of the label, Kaakie is a household name – becoming one of the go-to female acts in Ghana. Under XLM, the artist has performed on every high-profile musical stage in Ghana, annexed major awards and commandeered a following.

She also projected a viable brand that got her many engagements outside Ghana – and these were the handiwork of all the hardworking personnel at XLM – persons who left their homes and family and worked their butts off to ensure that songs were heard, interviews were granted, flyers and posters were printed, shows were lobbied for, awards were won and monies paid.

That’s what XLM gave Kaakie and millions of ‘underground’ artists yearn for such groundbreaking moments.

Clamour For Sympathy
It is fine that Kaakie would make a lengthy social media post announcing her split from the label, after all, somebody had to break the news and especially when all her social media handles are purportedly not under control, the onus lied on her to yelp.

However, her galloping from one media house to the other, putting the label in such light, is just an indication of an artist who only wants sympathy over a good relationship she failed to maintain, and trying to pin everything on the label.

The talk of her not owning any of her songs, her inability to perform her songs until 10 years has elapsed, her inability to reach higher heights with XLM, and the fact that, many persons told her she signed a ‘bad’ contract – were orchestrated to make the label look bad and to also to rack up the sympathy votes.

She may have won the sympathy votes but she failed woefully to convince any ardent follower of arts that, the label was the devil in that relationship. Until it goes sour, the label is always held in high esteem, but whenever it goes left, the label is first to be called out.

Move, But ‘Shut Up’ About It
If Lord Kenya and Slip Music could split and if ASEM and Lynx could part ways, then Kaakie severing ties with XLM is nothing out of the ordinary; it happens all the time, but how both parties handle the situation have telling repercussions.

Interestingly, Kaakie is the only party talking and some of her statements makes one wonder if she really understands the enormity of the task XLM executed to place her brand in this position.

Let me remind her again;
XLM provided financial succor; an essential element any new artist needs to make it in a competitive music market. They spent millions on promotion and lined up TV appearances. They worked radio to get her singles played and streaming services to get her work featured. They hooked her up with songwriters, producer and music video directors who routinely make hits. They brought in famous artists to feature on her tracks and generated buzz, which gave her critical acclaim.

So, it’s okay if you feel you need a change, you need new challenges and need to break frontiers, but, it is advisable you shut up on remarks that smears dirt on the label.

Ownership of Songs & Masters
One of the major items that has emanated from the many Kaakie interviews is her admission of not owning any of the over 20 songs she has produced in the last 6 years and this is causing some confusion among music.

Before you go lashing out at the record label, you should know that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a label owning the Masters of the songs of its artist (s). Here is why;
What is a master? The ever-dependable Wikipedia says: “A master recording is the first recording of a song or other sound, from which all the later copies are made. Since sound recording was first invented, master recordings (usually called just “masters”) have been made on discs, tapes, and computers.”

So, at a basic level, a record label owns the master, the recording (unless you’re dealing with an unsigned artist, then the artist owns their own masters). The label owns the copyright to the actual file, the file that contains the music you want to place in your recording.

In 1992, Prince signed a $100 million contract with Warner Bros. and as part of the contract; the label owned the original tapes of his albums. Under the contract, Warner Bros. received ownership of Prince’s body of work that he had produced for the company. For his part, Prince received a sudden influx of cash to continue working on recording projects at his Paisley Park Records studio in Minnesota.

It is very simple; when the label is injecting so much money into your craft, paying for recordings to studio time to promotion and making you and your brand look good, it has every right to claim ownership of the Masters of your songs.

Learn To Understand & Respect Contracts
Kaakie claims she showed her contract to almost everybody and they suggested it was a bad one, yet, in her wisdom, she still went ahead to append her signature to a ‘dreadful’ agreement. How lame!

What is even more confounding is the fact that, she stayed in that deal for 6 years and never scoffed at it, and in most of that period, she was the top female artist in the country.

First of all, XLM did well by ensuring that the artist was presented with a contract. They gave her all the time to read through the contract, grasp all the nuances of the wording before signing. In deed, she did read through and even showed it to the Mother for perusal.

The label has every right to sue the artist if it was stipulated in the contract that she was supposed to do 3 albums but only produced 1.

It is extremely silly to blame a label that has done nothing wrong in investing in an artist by pushing her music and brand for 6 years, rather, blame your banality in failing to understand and respect a contract.

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