Femi Kuti, son of the legendary Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, though making his own waves over the years has stuck to speaking the raw truth like his father did in his day.
In a recent tete-a-tete with journalists, Femi Kuti took out time to dissect some of the pressing issues affecting Nigerian music, artistes and much more.
In an industry filled with gory cases of artiste/label conflict, the veteran gave his 2cents on possible solutions to avoiding more of such occurrences;
“The artiste today should be concerned about the business of music. Most artistes today just want to play their music, without being concerned about the business. That is why it is very important to find the right manager around you who knows where the money goes and where the money comes from, who can sign you to the right record label, who knows the right PR management for you and who can help you harness your musical talents. At a point, you need these people because the business side of music can be very consuming. The artiste needs to surround himself with people who share the same vision with him, that will protect him from signing the wrong contracts,” he said.
“It is very important that the artiste has these things in place before he takes off because he won’t really have that time. You also need a lawyer to go through your contracts, protect you and guide you. The music business is a very complex one and which needs attention. The artiste needs to surround himself with the right people unless he will quickly be overwhelmed and frustrated. Most importantly, to know when to break away from those not contributing to your success.”
With successful decades of doing music, Femi Kuti has also had his fair share of bad deals and deceitful contracts, which little or no understanding of the music business at that time had made him put pen to paper for. All added experiences as he now states, he shared, adding that he ‘knows better now’.
“Growing up around my father, I saw the conflicts around the music business. I never wanted to be involved in the business of music. It’s so frustrating. I was on tour and things didn’t go as planned. I was in a mess. I couldn’t pay for my hotel bills and Motown presented a contract to me. My sister was very angry with me but I was more concerned about how I was going to pay the hotel bills. So I signed it. The album became a hit in Nigeria, that was the album with ‘Wonder Wonder.’ But as God will have it, Motown crashed and owed me USD20,000. If that contract had succeeded, I would have been in big trouble today. Another incident happened and I signed the contract in haste, luckily for me, I was able to scale through that one too.”
He adviced that artistes employ services of the right lawyers, to allow for better understanding of all contracts and a good manager to help deal with when mere passion turns into unimaginable fame. He also emphasized continuous romance with your talent, as a form or way to stay sane, even when the chips are down.
“I know how to play my saxophone very well and I love to perform, so the artistes must have the passion to perform. That will protect you even when you are disappointed, you will not spend your time fighting over a contract. Don’t sign any contract you are not sure off, no matter how appealing it is. Don’t be that desperate to sign any contract. Some people sign contracts without including the termination clause. If you don’t have a good lawyer, you might end up fighting over trivial matters.” Femi noted.
In his words, as much as he won’t stop artistes from dreaming big, he also adviced that they keep in touch with reality, knowing that just one hit song is not going to shoot them as far as they want. But an understanding of the business and experiences drawn from many years of continuous involvement, knowing what battles to fight and which ones to sit out
“Not everybody is buying music. You believe that people are buying your music, waiting for the cash to drop and when it doesn’t, you start fighting. That’s not right. First of all, you must know that with the internet, nobody buys music. The worst industry to do business now is the music industry. Nobody buys music. So what do I do with my career. I have a band, if we don’t sell albums, we can sell concerts. Artistes should not be greedy, love your passion for music and make it more important than your passion for fame. Give yourself a decade, that breakthrough will just come in one moment.”