Recording Label Deals In Nigeria: Issues And Safeguards

Adeola Oyinlade & Co


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When musicians sign contract with record labels, they agree that the labels will receive a percentage of the recording's revenues. As a reward, artists may well receive a wide network...
Nigeria Intellectual Property
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When musicians sign contract with record labels, they agree that the labels will receive a percentage of the recording's revenues. As a reward, artists may well receive a wide network of professional connections, targeted advertising campaigns, and a number of other advantages. Basically, recording labels market the artist's brand and tracks they create. It is important to bear in mind that labels sign musicians in order to sponsor them and generate money for the record label.

Recording label deals in Nigeria could pose a number of legal challenges that labels and artists should be aware of and guard against. This article throws light on some of these legal problems and possible solutions.

Definition of terms

Record labels

A record label, often referred to as a recording company, is responsible for the production, distribution, marketing, promotion, and sale of an artist's music. The artist and the record label sign a written "recording agreement" that defines their relationship. Some of the key provisions in recording agreements include the term or duration of the agreement, the number of songs or albums to be recorded, the royalties to be paid to the artist, the places where the record label can release or sell the record, the budget for recording, marketing, and promotion, and the general rights granted by the artist to the record label.

Record deal

A record deal is a contract between a record label and artist or a music group by which the artist or group agrees to record a specific number of songs for publication by the label.

The contracts between labels and artists often stipulate the specific nature of agreement being signed, restrictions, period or duration of the deal, the amount of money exchanged and when it will be reimbursed, and any conditions that the artist must satisfy before the deal expires.

Recording agreements

Recording agreements can be broad and complex, affecting artists' rights, obligations, and compensation. As a result, any time an artist receives a recording contract, they should consult a lawyer to study the document, explain its provisions, and negotiate with the recording label in order to achieve the best possible deal for themselves.

Artists should have a clear understanding of the current state of the recorded music business and the record contract before signing a recording agreement to avoid disappointment.

Legal and Regulatory Framework

The Legal Framework

The key legal provisions regulating the entertainment sector, comprising the music industry, is the Copyright Act, which prompted the creation of the Nigerian Copyrights Commission. This Act protects creative works and guarantees fair treatment of stakeholders in this industry.

Furthermore, the Trademarks Act plays an important role with regard to the registration and use of trademarks, protecting brands and unique insignia in the entertainment industry.

The Regulatory Framework

The National Broadcasting Commission, as well as the National Film and Video Censors Board, govern the music industry. These institutions play an important role in ensuring that music content is appropriate.

Collective management organisations such as the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) and the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN) help collect and distribute royalties on behalf of musicians, songwriters, and other rights holders in the Nigerian music business. These organizations help to ensure that artists are fairly compensated for the use of their protected works.

Legal Issues and Safeguards in Record Label Industry

Legal Issuesin Recording Label Industry

The key legal issues prevalent in the Nigerian recording label industry are:

  1. Unfair Contracts: The increasing number of unfair and severe contracts executed by some labels on musicians leads to disagreements when artists attempt to avoid such contracts. These contracts can abuse artists by preventing them from obtaining their due share of royalties, damaging their estate even after their death.
  2. Lack of Artist Awareness of Rights: Many Nigerian artists are unaware of their legal rights, copyright regulations, and collective management organisations leaving them exposed to label exploitation.
  3. Piracy and Copyright Infringement: The widespread piracy and unauthorised replication of protected content encumber artists' ability to profit from their work.
  4. Imbalanced Bargaining Leverage: Recording labels have big negotiating power over artists, resulting in unjust deals that provide labels access to many revenue streams beyond record sales. This may deprive artists of their rightful portion of earnings.
  5. Absence of Effective Copyright Protection: Although Nigeria's copyright laws provide a legal framework for safeguarding musical works, enforcement remains a challenge.
  6. Inadequate Regulatory Oversight: Although regulatory authorities such as the Nigerian Copyright Commission exist, their ability to effectively monitor and enforce compliance in the industry is limited. This leaves gaps in preserving artists' rights.

Legal safeguards:

The legal remedies to safeguard the rights of recording labels, artists, and other stakeholders within the music industry in Nigeria include:

  1. Breach of Contract: Legal action can be brought against labels or artists that violate their contracts, including seeking damages and specific performance.
  2. Contract Review and Negotiation: Artists and labels must have their contracts reviewed and negotiated by legal professionals to guarantee that the terms are equitable and fair.
  3. Royalty Disputes: Conflicts over royalties can be settled by legal proceedings, ensuring that artists receive their fair portion of earnings.
  4. Protection from Exploitative Practices: Artists have the right to be protected against unfair and repressive contracts, and labels who engage in exploitative activities can be legally held liable.
  5. Education and awareness: Promoting education about entertainment laws, copyright laws and the significance of intellectual property rights can foster a culture of compliance and respect for creators.
  6. Intellectual Property Protection: The Nigerian Copyright Act protects creative musical works, and anyone who violate these rights may face legal consequences.
  7. Collective Management Organisations (CMOs): CMOs collect and distribute royalties on behalf of artists, ensuring that they are fairly compensated for their hard work.
  8. Licensing and Royalty Collection: The Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) is responsible for approving the establishment of Collective Management Organisations (CMOs) and supervising their operations to ensure equitable royalty collection and distribution to artists.
  9. Human Rights Violations and Abuses: Artists and labels can seek legal remedy for human rights violations and abuses, including the use of intimidation, sexual harassment, and unlawful conduct.
  10. Legal representation: Efficient legal representation is essential for dealing with the complexity of the music industry, such as contract negotiations, royalties disputes, and intellectual property issues.


Contracts between labels and artists must be equally advantageous, comply with the provisions of law, and ensure just rewards for intellectual efforts.

To develop a mutually beneficial relationship based on trust and fairness, labels and artists must carefully negotiate recording agreements with the assistance of legal experts in the field.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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