Consider this scenario.
You are an up-coming musician who has written and recorded a song that has all the trappings of becoming a hit. You get informed that a very successful artiste who has heard a bit of your song wants the song. He is ready to pay you a five figure sum of money for it and put you on his shows plus a feature on a song.
You, as an up-coming artiste is in need of money. You’ve struggled to even pay for studio sessions. You know, even if you release the song, it won’t have the same traction as coming from a big named artiste because you don’t have the resources to push the song across to make it a hit. You are caught up in a dilemma: should you sell your sweat and toil to someone who would pay you a reasonable amount for it today whiles making millions from it later or you become selfish; put it out and watch how things go.
I don’t know how prevalent this scenario is in the music industry today with the power of technology and music making becoming a cheap art-permitting those with little or no talent to convince themselves they are artistes. However, claims or allegations of big name artistes stealing songs from underground artistes has been rampant within the Ghanaian music scene. Praye, Sidney, Ofori Amponsah, Nana Borro, Appietus, Stonebwoy have all been accused of ‘stealing’ songs from up-coming artistes.
The above outlined scenario was something I saw unfold a decade ago whiles an undergrad at Legon. I was in my sophomore year- resident at Mensah Sarbah Annex B (Okpo). It involved an up-coming artiste who came to solicit advice from his ‘boss’ on what to do since he was caught up in that dilemma. The young artiste was called Kyedomhene. And the big artiste was Tinny. Tinny at that time was one of the biggest artistes in the country.
So, in 2007, Kyedomhene with his backpack, baggy jeans (it was the era of baggy jeans and big tees thanks to G-Unit’s fashion sense), a black and white strapped Lacoste shirt with matching Adidas sneakers. It was a very good afternoon with a lot of arguments going on.
My roomie Tyga (who was also a ‘big brother’) was the one Kyedomhene came to solicit advice from. After minutes of chit-chats, Tyga invited me to listen to a song from his guest and to proffer an opinion on the song. Truth be told, the song was catchy, the delivery was spot on and the beat had same elements as Tinny’s previous song Obi Do Ba without the horns and heavy kicks which has been replaced by a Jay Q-esque jama drums. And when Tyga asked me who I thought should be featured on the song, I mentioned Tinny. It was a song made for Tinny.
It was after Kyedomhene had left that Tyga told me the full story. Tinny had heard the beat and wanted it. The producer had told Tinny someone had recorded a song to the beat. Tinny was bent on getting the beat so he contact Kyedomhene and made him an offer. Tinny was ready to pay 10 Million old cedis (today’s GHc 1,000). Kyedomhene was caught between two thoughts. Some of his friends had asked him to hold on to his creativity and release the song. Others told him to go for the money. He came to Tyga for a stamp of approval on which decision was the best.
Tinny didn’t mince words. He told him to sell the song since he, Kyedomhene at that point can’t push the song to become a hit even though it was a good song. 10 Million cedis back in 2006 was a huge amount which he could put to good use. Plus, Tinny had promised to feature him on one of his songs and pull him along to shows. Kyedomhene went and did the opposite. He held on to the song and let go the money. Tinny was so interested in the beat that he recorded a verse on the song.
Unsurprisingly, the song did not make an impact. It made a few rounds on Radio Gold’s Mid-morning show for few days thanks to some of Kyedomhene’s camp having friends at the station and because Aletse Tinny had a verse on it. That was how Kyedomhene’s ambition faded like a puff from a cigarette smoke. No one remembers the song, even Tyga, could not remember the song title. Kyedomhene, I understand from Tyga is now a successful businessman.
As stated in the earlier paragraphs of this article, I don’t know how prevalent underground artistes are faced with such choices – the temptation to either sell a song with the potential of lifting them to stardom and keeping the song to themselves unsure of how it would end. Unlike in the world of producers/beat makers who can give out or pass on beats to different artistes (I have a tale to tell about this), it’s very much an issue when it involves an up-coming artiste parting with his creation.
If you have a tale or experience, share in the comments section please.