In October 2016, singer and rapper Ycee who at the time had fairly gained attention with his hit tunes ‘Jagaban’ and ‘Omo Alhaji’ signed a deal with international music company, Sony Music. Beyond the fact that Ycee’s debut EP, The First Wave was to be released under Sony Music, no one really knew the details of their deal.
Frankly, there wasn’t so much for fans to know. Ycee was the third Nigerian artiste to sign a deal with Sony Music after Wizkid and Davido. From our end, it was a major achievement that was pregnant with international collaborations, world tours, cash flow and everything else that characterised such deals.
So it came as a shock when barely a year into the partnership, Ycee used a Twitter rant to air his grievances with Sony and went as far as naming names and throwing pointed shades at the company’s General Manager for West Africa, Michael Ugwu.
He tweeted, “Ever wondered why these execs running digital sharing companies live like they signed all the artistes?Cos they eating everyone’s
Ycee accused whoever it concerned of “reaping completely of his hardwork and sweat” and “milking” artistes. He also dragged online music distribution service, Freeme Digital, which has been said to be associated with Michael Ugwu, into the matter.
The message was clear. Ycee’s relationship with Sony Music had been strained, there was an undisclosed issue with the contract and for reasons we may never be able to explain, Ycee went on what can be safely termed as a misguided social media rant.
When Michael Ugwu replied, he ascertained speculations that something had gone wrong with Ycee’s contract and suggested what he called “appropriate methods of contract dispute resolution”.
Controversies of this kind have almost become the normal corollary when artistes get into these bad deals that are clothed as tickets to success and fame. To help understand this matter, YNaija spoke to a number of entertainment lawyers in the industry who attempted to make sense of all of it.
“Although what we’re hearing is that Ycee signed a distribution deal with Sony, one cannot say for sure what the details of his contract are so weighing in on this one is a bit tough for now. Whatever it is though, this seems like another badly negotiated deal between both parties and as we’ve seen over and over, the artiste is the one who’s left to suffer. One cannot completely blame Ycee for calling out Sony but maybe he could have done it formally and fought for his rights legally”, said this Insider.
Another Insider said, “It’s one of two things: Either Ycee did not get the required legal advice before entering into a contract with Sony or he did and disregarded it. But one thing is certain: He got into a bad deal. From what I see, Ycee was hoping the Sony boss would have his back in the event of a misfortune such as this but it turns out Ugwu is more loyal to his job than Ycee. He wouldn’t negotiate against the company he works for. This explains why Ycee hasn’t pointedly addressed his contract terms in his entire rant thread”.
“Artistes usually complain of discrepancies on their logs, and they sometimes feel like distribution companies don’t pay what they are entitled to. Many times, they don’t have proof but they get the feeling that they are being shortchanged. It’s also what happens when telcos rip artistes off by using their songs as caller tunes without paying them anything. But what I fear for is if Ycee’s accusations turn out to be untrue, he could be sued for libel just as Ugwu clearly stated and that has a huge potential of rubbishing his (Ycee) reputation”, this Insider opined.