Last month Davido signed a new global record deal with Sony Music for a reported $1 million. He announced the deal on his Twitter page highlighting the fact that it is a global record deal along with some pleasantries for his non-fans. The deal sounds promising but fans will have to wait to find out exactly what this means for Davido going forward. Afrobeat has grown in popularity over the last decade and while I didn’t expect Davido to be the first to sign this type of deal that he reported, he has the talent to meet the expectations established in the contract. Deals are usually announced with the financial impact made prominent but the intricate details of the deal missing. There are clearly pros and cons with being the first to do this contract and since we don’t have any additional information, we can do an exercise in hypothetical and assumptions to analyze the deal for Davido and artists who will be signing similar deals in the not to distant future.
Lets assume the $1 million is an advance, it means that the cost of production, marketing, travelling and other costs associated Davido’s record will be covered with the money. One way artists have been compensated is to receive partial payouts to get the rights to his upcoming album. If it is the former, the cash upfront is similar to an interest free loan for an artist. Artists have been burned with the cash advance they receive from labels if they don’t recoup through record sales and it would be a disadvantage for Davido if he has to share other revenue streams with the record label to recoup deficits in record sales.
Sony tweeted and recognized Davido as its newest signee. Prior to Davido, we have seen that signing with an American record label such as Sony, Universal or Def Jam gives you mainstream connection that you might not otherwise obtain independently or with a smaller label. 2face Idibia had the best chance of crossing over with his “African Queen” track that resonated greatly with many music fans. In the short past, Iceprince was on Power 105 in New York hanging with the best Hip Hop Morning show after talks of him dealing with Roc Nation**. D’banj also got more recognition through his signing with Kanye West’s Good Music imprint. Davido will get the same treatment as many of these artists and it is up to him to take advantage of the opportunities that others failed to capitalize on.
Distribution channels continue to expand at record pace and the opportunity increases significantly for artists on major record labels. Sony can negotiate better distribution deals for their artists due to the catalogue of artists and music produced through its music arm. The problem the deal poses is the fact that Afrobeat is a relatively new genre for the company and finding the most optimal way to market and distribute the music will have to be revised to fit an artist like Davido. Sony could focus strictly on the African market and just building his name in the continent rather than trying to get it to crossover to the American market. These are all speculations because the deal will not be disclosed but it will be a tough task to distribute his music on wide scale in North America because the genre is still fairly young and still in in its growth phase. Ultimately, what the deal does is allow Davido to usher in a new sound for the label and potentially provide other upcoming artists better distribution deals as the genre continues to grow.
It is highly unlikely that Davido will continue to have unilateral right to record and promote any song that will be on an official release through Sony. Record labels tend to interfere with the artists they are in contract with and this restriction has forced many artists to go independent. Davido had a collaboration with Meek Mill last year and while the song works up to a point, the collaboration did not seem like a natural fit. The fear is that with the interference that is known from record companies, there is a possibility for Davido to collaborate with other artists that don't fit his style and vice versa. This is what artists will endure when they sign with major labels because the primary objective of these companies is to make money and this means pairing artists that are hot for the moment to collaborate with other artists just to boost the bottom line. Davido can do some of these tracks to appease the label but collaborating on records that are not great will only hurt his presence in the long run.
On his twitter, he had a few words for his “haters” and I understand the frustration of having to address negative opinions on a day you should be celebrated. But that is what you get for being the first artist to sign such a significant record deal. You get the glory and the negativity. Davido and his associates will have to find a way to keep him from reacting on social media and to avoid a similar perception that was endured by Wale earlier in his career as an artist that complains and gives time to those who do not support his music.
Overall, the deal appears to have more positives for Davido and it is worth following over the next few years. The transition from a domestic market to the international market is not without problems but if Davido is able to succeed in his deal, it will provide more opportunities for artists that follow his path in Afrobeat music.