When artists make record labels look bad – The Kaakie story

When artists make record labels look bad – The Kaakie story

Dancehall artiste, Kaakie, made news over the week for leaving her record label, Xtra Large Music (XLM).

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

The artiste 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 six-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, like many record label, treat Kaakie badly in an artiste-label relationship? Let’s find out!

What XLM offered Kaakie

It’s true the internet has been brilliant for artistes 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 distributing to retailers and Xtra Large Music did a lot for Kaakie in a spate of six years.

As an unknown contestant on music reality show, ‘Stars of the Future’, XLM gave the artiste 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 artiste 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 her control, the onus lay on her to help.

However, her galloping from one media house to the other, putting the label in such bad light, is just an indication of an artiste 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 have 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 falters, 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 make one wonder if she really understands the enormity of the task XLM executed to take her brand so high.

Let me remind her again: XLM provided financial succor, an essential element any new artiste needs to make it in a competitive music market. They spent millions on promotion and lined up television appearances. They worked with radio stations to get her singles players 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 artistes 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 smear dirt on the label.

Ownership of songs and master recordings

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

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 recordings of its artiste(s). Here is why:

What is a master? Wikipedia says: “A master recording is the first recording of a song or other sound, from which all the later copies are made. Since the 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 artises, then they own the 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. 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 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 and 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 six years and never scoffed at it. In most of that period, she was the top female artiste in the country.

First of all, XLM did well by ensuring that the artiste 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 need, she did read through and even showed it to her mother for perusal.

The label has every right to sue the artiste if it was stipulated in the contract that she was supposed to do three albums but only one was produced.

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