That We Have Not Been Making Noise Does Not Mean We Have Not Been Doing Things – Odiong | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe


That We Have Not Been Making Noise Does Not Mean We Have Not Been Doing Things – Odiong

Posted: May 30, 2015 at 2:45 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Despite the existence of other music companies, the repertoire of Premier Records Limited seems unparalleled. Speaking with Assistant Editor, Sam Anokam, the Project Manager of the music outfit, Mike Odiong, talks more about what the company is about at the moment.

What has been happening to Premier Records Limited?

Premier Records has continued as it was acquiring rights to music which it has been doing since it was West Africa records Limited to Phonogram Limited to Polygram Limited until 1991 when it became, Premier Records Limited, acquiring rights to music, exploiting it for the company and benefit of the artiste.

Mike Odiong

Mike Odiong

Over those years, there is almost no known popular artiste in Nigeria that has not in one way or the other passed through the company. We continue doing that. What has happened in recent years is that the way music is used or enjoyed by human beings have been changing. In the past it was on venal records then it became cassette, at one point, there was one called cartridge, it was not very popular, then there was CD and now its digital downloading. What we are doing is to make sure that we still make music available no matter what the carrier is for the public. Yes, we still exist and the important thing is that we exist to make sure that the artistes benefit from their hard work. On that basis, as much as we can, we make sure we pay royalties to the artistes whether living or dead. For artistes who have passed on, their estates, their family are still earning those royalties as long as they can prove that they are the legitimate administrators of the estate of the artiste. For instance, we are paying the family of Late Yusuf Olatunji family, same for late Celestine Ukwu’s family, Peterside Otong and so many others. As long as the company is earning royalties from their works, we pay. I don’t think any other company in this country has the repertoire that we have. It’s like a heritage. There are some works that are rare which are there and can still be exploited even now. Occasionally, we have people having interest from abroad to use certain tracks for works which they want to compile in an album abroad. There was one company that wanted calypso and luckily we were able to give them a number of works that have the calypso flair by Nigerian artistes when Nigerian artistes were playing calypso at a particular period. Some people have requested for things that are like funky, rock music.  We have also been able to give them some tracks in that line. There are albums which are compiled abroad and made available, largely abroad because some of those things are not selling in this country. For those who are connoisseurs of music of a particular type abroad, we do that. The joy we have really is that continuously these things are exploited and the artistes eventually get their pay. One thing we are trying to do now that the Central Bank is very fuzzy about the foreign exchange, the currency in which we earn the money is the currency in which we will pay the artiste so that there is no issue that we cheated them on exchange rates or whatever it is.

Some years back, one of the tracks of the late Stephen Amaechi, was licensed abroad and the money was sent to him in Onitsha then in foreign currency. Before then he has not received any money from this company for a while because his works were not been locally exploited because most people and maybe we too have not done enough to seek out those who want it. He wrote a small note back to the company saying he is so happy, that this is how it used to be in the days of Phillips and told us stories about how he was the first artiste that recorded in a studio on broad street and things like that. Those type of things give this company joy because it is satisfaction from somebody that I did my work eveaow, I am benefitting from it. It is also joy for us that the estate of dead artistes’ are now earning money. And why is that so? Because the company has created a method by which in itself has longevity. It is the structure, it is not a one man business. Even the current MD will one day leave but the structure will still be there. And contracts that were signed by artistes, 30, 40 years ago, the obligations the company is still meeting under those contractual terms. The other thing we have been trying to do is to make music publishing a very serious issue, that is using the musical works in ways that are more than just putting them on carriers and selling. One way we’ve try to do that is one, we have been in the forefront of fighting that the issue of collective administration is properly done because the artiste should earn income from the performance of his works wherever-on radio, television, in hotels etc. One thing that we recently did but sadly that has not been done enough is getting Nigerian music used in Nigerian films. If you look at some of the Hollywood films, you will see somebody tune the radio and music will be played and it will be music of that era in that scene. Those artistes whose works were used, it was not really radio, they simulated it, those artistes whose works were used are paid. Recently there are two movies that were used on screen in this country but one film is ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ and the other one was ‘October 1’ and the third one was ‘Cobra’. We have started that culture and people are now recognising it. In the past, some people will just take it and put it on their Nollywood movie but now things are being more structured. That abroad is a big source of money for artistes. And we want to exploit it in this country and I truly want to encourage people in Nollywoood to start looking seriously at heritage music from organizations like ours to be used in their films. It makes the film more authentic and sells it in a more cultural way especially those films that can be taken abroad. We’ve had people use our music also on films abroad. Music publishing is a major area which the company has started exploiting and its beginning to benefit more seriously from. Another thing is that we are one of the first companies that started making sure that our music was downloaded through portals like itunes, amazon and co and we are getting income from that and artistes are also getting their royalties when it comes. That we have not been making noise does not mean that we have not been doing things. In the recent past, the Olaiya Tuface music video that we saw was a joint project between us, Spinlet and Hypertek. We are going to do more of that using works of this company because we believe that, it’s an opinion this company has, that the music that was done before now has more depths in terms of lyrics. A recent example is Ras Kimono’s ‘Whats Gwan’. If you listen to the lyrics, though he sang it late 80s /early 90s, he talked about what is really going on in this country. That was when you have lyrics that have longevity and you have a rhythm that is good and deep. There was more professionalism then in terms of music production. I dare say that it is only recently you started getting better production of music by music producers in this country and that is good. We are now going to exploit some of our repertoires using contemporary artistes to again revive those tunes and make them applicable today. We believe that that it is going to earn more money both for the contemporary artiste and even for the artiste who sang the song long ago.


Premier had a lot of old artistes, is there no plans to discover new ones?

A couple of years ago, I think 2008, we did try to introduce a couple of new artistes into the market. It was not successful. One of the errors we made was trying and do too much at the same time rather than pick one by one and make sure that one is successful before we go to the next one. We are taking a second look of how we are going to do it for the future. Yes, really and truly, there is huge talent out there, how you get the right one and release it properly and make it worth it’s while is another thing. We have to do it properly this time and make sure it brings about true benefits for both the artiste and the company. We are not totally shying away from that. We are re-jigging our method of doing it. Once the collaborations we are currently handling are successful, it would truly be a stepping stone to attracting artistes. In fact, it is not impossible to use a collaboration of an elderly artiste or use one of his songs with a totally new artiste and use that as a means of launching a new artiste. Those are the things we are looking at. Do we get an artiste to do a totally new song and try to put it in the market or do we get a new artiste unknown to do collaboration with an old work? The artiste may not even be alive or use an old work for a new artiste. Some years ago, God rest his soul, MC LOPH did Osadebe’s ‘Osondi Onwendi’ even though he didn’t take permission from us and we were not happy about that but that song launched MC LOPH. We could also pick a new artiste and an old song to launch a new artiste. The collaborations that I am talking about will be this year, as for new artiste, it might be later on this year or next year, who knows? It depends on how things go.

Do you have any conflict with COSON on payment of royalties to artistes?

No. My boss/MD used to be on the board of COSON, he was a pioneer member of the board of PMRS before it became COSON. First of all, like I always put it, there is a bucket with two holes, no matter how you fill that bucket, it was leaking. The holes were physical piracy which people think Alaba was the only piracy depot. Even today we have digital piracy that people who are downloading on MP3 and things like that which is as devastating as what Alaba people are doing which somehow seem to be passing the radar of people. Not enough is been done to face it the way there was aggression in the industry against Alaba and what it represented. The second one was the collective administration-radio stations, TV stations, hotels, everybody was using music freely and they felt it was a raw material that they pluck from the air and nobody can do anything about it. It doesn’t matter. But the truth of the matter is that it is the major raw material. I recall, there was a particular negotiation we were having with a radio station at the very beginning and it was the first radio station that even paid royalties, then, they complained how much they pay for diesel, service generator and all that. We then advised them to put their microphone by the generator and let the noise of the generator substitute for the music, since they feel the diesel and generator were more important than the music and let’s see how many people will listen to your station. I think that was part of what started getting them more interested. Today for instance, I’m aware that COSON is now earning over N100m per annum which I feel is still very small, extremely small because the equivalent of COSON in the UK earns about 600 million Pounds per annum for artiste. Yes, I know it’s a different society, different earning capability and all that but the difference is much. We don’t have any problem with collective administration, the collective management organization but we’ve had problem with the fact that that whole process was not working well in this country because it is a huge amount of money lost to artistes and right owners. Just think about it. This company was not earning that money for so many years now, probably the MD of this company would have been riding a helicopter if those monies were earned all these years that it had been lost. There is no problem with the organization but there is a problem with the fact that the income from that source has been lost to artistes and rights owners for too long and it needs to be more efficiently harnessed and distributed.


What is the future of Premier Records Limited?

One certain future is that even if tomorrow you start putting music in a pen, this company will make sure that it is put on a pen so that it sells. We are going to continue to make sure that music heritage that this company has, is made available for people and we are going to do it more efficiently. We are going to make sure that the issue of music publishing is dealt with more professionally as an organization to earn money for the shareholders and for artistes. As I had said before, we are starting a process whereby we use the issue of collaboration as a launching pad to gradually releasing new artiste in the future. Investing in music is not a joke. Traditionally all over the world, it has been said that for every 10 releases maybe only one becomes the hit, and the hope is always that, that one hit will pay for the loses of the other nine and the organization will still exist especially with music videos these days. There are some which amount of money that they invest has become quite high and we would face the challenge. One thing I can say is that because we have experience and longevity, the future is always bright for us. There are organizations that have been in this same industry overtime and you don’t hear their names at all. They don’t even exist again but we are still here and we will be here for a very long time.