OPINION | Musicians, what is so hard about having a contract for your collabs?

It’s 2021 so get a lawyer, draw up a contract and avoid being played

19 July 2021 - 09:00 By deepika naidoo
Dear artists, sort out your contracts before you release your song.
Dear artists, sort out your contracts before you release your song.
Image: Instagram/Nomcebo Zikode

Contracts should be preventing the music industry from blowing up in smoke, but recently we have seen many artists suffer due to “injustice” in their collaborations.

My school of thought is that either nobody cares about contracts or people are, uhm, full of good faith in the industry because the rate at which collab feuds are popping out signals something is not right.

The nitty gritty of what belongs to who when collaborating should never be an after thought. It should be the starting point, but Mzansi celebs seem to have a hard time understanding this.

As fans we love our artists. In a country where it seems like everything is actively working against the prosperity of the arts and entertainment industry, Mzansi has been cheering its artist through it all.

So it’s heartbreaking to see talented people fight over the legalities that come with producing music, or anything.

Jerusalema, which is arguably one of the most iconic songs to come from SA, by Master KG and featuring  singer Nomcebo Zikode has been embroiled in scandal over who owns what part of the song. This sullies the success story of the “peace anthem”.

Nomcebo recently took to social media to allege that record label Open Mic Productions had sidelined her, and claimed she has not received a single cent in royalties. Master KG responded to accusations, implying the vocalist was greedy and wanted more than agreed upon. Master claimed Nomcebo wants a 70/30 cut even though they originally agreed on going 50/50.

Open Mic Productions addressed the issue, saying after a contract was drafted last year, Nomcebo and her legal team reviewed the agreement and asked for a more significant cut, which has sent both parties through a back and forth on terms and conditions.

OK, at least there was a contract in the conversation but it seems like it was an after thought. If Open Mic is correct, that means the drama started well after the song was topping charts and racking up hundreds of millions of views on YouTube.

Which also makes one ask: Would this dispute exist if the song didn’t blow up the way it did?

Anyway, if there was a contract in place and things discussed and penned beforehand, the current situation would be non-existent.

Another dispute from Open Mic that had fans up in arms was Makhazi vs King Monada. After their song Ghanama was projected to make waves and show Mzansi Limpopo is a force to be reckoned with, it was revealed the two were in dispute over the rights and ownership of the song.

With each side alleging it is theirs, things grew messier when they released two different versions of the song without the other’s parts participation.

What’s even worse about all this fighting is that to cover up their feud, King Monada and Makhazi agreed to say it was all a publicity stunt to pour cold water on the matter. 

This isn’t OK and, again, all they needed to do was have a contract in place.

This “he said” and “she said”  business has rushing towards a misunderstanding and feud, and then bringing your legal issues to the TL is just messy. Neither you nor I need that. 

Since the shift in the music industry to more digitally-driven revenue, recording artists are making significantly less than did in the past when world tours and CD sales determined success. It makes sense to fret over the royalties because every cent counts.

However, the root of the problem lies in the disregard by artists to sign contracts and invest in legal consultations  to sign “good” contracts.

Musicians need to sort their affairs before they even think about getting into the recording booth or considering collaborations.  Contractual messes should be the last thing the world remembers about your music.

It is 2021 so get a lawyer, draw up a contract and avoid being played!