Olayemi Oladapo is the licensing officer for Mavin Records in Nigeria where he deals with intellectual property and licensing issues. As an entertainment lawyer, with one of the Africa’s biggest labels, he works to protect the rights of artists and the company in an industry growing faster than all predictions. In this Q&A, with Africa Legal’s Carol Campbell, Olayemi describes the opportunities in entertainment law and how it is only through niche lawyers that the continent’s artists will reap their just rewards.
Could you give an outline of the entertainment industry in Nigeria?
It would be a Herculean task to try to capture the sheer size of an industry that has, for decades, influenced popular culture across Africa and, as recent trends show, the world!
Projections have it that between 2017 and 2021, Nigeria will be the fastest-growing entertainment and media market in the world.
For instance, Nigeria’s music industry is set to hit $86 million (£66.59m) in 2020 compared to $47m (£36.39m) in 2015.
And, it has all been built through the efforts of independent creatives making the best of substandard technical infrastructure with little or no support from government or established organizations.
Where does Mavin Records fit into this?
Mavin Records plays a key role and is, arguably, the biggest record label in Nigeria. This claim takes into account the number of artists, producers, DJs and songwriters on the label’s roster and the number of administrative staff tasked with roles like branding and communications, label partnerships, licensing, legal works, etcetera. This is not to mention Mavin Films, the arm of the label consisting of a team of filmmakers tasked with producing visual content for the artists and also working on some film productions. One can’t box the label into a particular genre or style as our roster boasts of artistes with skills cutting across various genres.
Our founder and chief executive, Don Jazzy, has proven time and again that the difference between an upcoming artist and an A-list pop-star is the team behind them and their devotion to bringing out the best from the star. Over the years Mavin Records has grown in its commitment to being such a team and this is why we will remain an inextricable part of the Nigerian entertainment industry.
What is the nature of your work?
I work as in-house counsel and licensing officer at Mavin. My work involves handling all the legal affairs that come with conducting the label’s business. I also work with the label’s licensing department to handle all the intellectual property licenses of the label and its artists. My responsibilities include negotiating, drafting and reviewing terms of various types of licensing and publishing agreements, performance contracts and also giving legal advice on these issues. My office also handles intellectual property infringement claims, works with the accounts department in the analyzing of royalties received to identify possible underpayment and taking necessary legal steps in rectifying these issues. The scope of work is vast.
What are some of the challenges you face?
One major challenge is dealing with artists and industry professionals who do not understand the importance of legal work in the entertainment industry and the implications of neglecting legal due process.
Another challenge is sorting out tangled legal issues that were initiated before I started working with a client, and having to solve problems that only came about because my client hadn’t involved me from the onset.
As good as I am with damage control, I prefer peaceful resolutions that are usually the case when my clients follow due process and involve me every step of the way.
How did you become interested in this line of law?
I have always been passionate about the creative arts, especially music. For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with music of different genres and wondered about the creative processes that birthed them. By the time I was in secondary school, I had become convinced that I was going to be involved in the entertainment business, although it wasn’t quite clear to me at that time which part of the business I would be involved in.
As a university undergraduate, my interest in entertainment began to meld with my growing passion for law and it felt natural to gravitate towards the point where these two loves of mine met. This new direction led me to do a lot of research about the Nigerian entertainment industry, which then opened my eyes to the numerous problems plaguing entertainment industry practitioners due to piracy and other related issues that could be avoided if the intellectual property laws are properly enforced. I also learnt about several opportunities and potential income streams which were lying fallow due to widespread ignorance in both the entertainment business and entertainment law practice.
After my call to the Nigerian bar and gaining experience in a general practice law firm, Agbaje, Agbaje & Co., I had was convinced my next career step was to pursue a career in entertainment law.
Can you give some examples of the work you have done?
I have had the privilege of working on a number of important projects as both legal and licensing officer. This includes all the music and visual projects released under Mavin Records since January 2017, as well as collaborations and endorsement deals featuring the label’s artists. My work has included putting together all necessary legal documents to ensure proper rights clearance with the creators and also organizations or labels which may have legal and or commercial interests in these works.
I have also worked with the licensing team in ensuring proper music license of the label or its artist’s songs for films, adverts, mechanically etc.
In the course of my work I have dealt with a number of popular companies some of which includes Sony/ATV , Universal Music, Roc Nation , Ebonylife TV, Viceland, Google, Boomplay music, Wema Bank and Total.
What is your view of entertainment law in Africa?
It is no longer news that African entertainment is fast growing and catching the attention of the world. The rate at which our music, films and other creative arts have travelled is nothing short of spectacular. Now South African DJs like Black Coffee are a fixture in Ibiza and Nigerian pop stars like Tiwa Savage, Wizkid and others are in many pop culture conversations in America, not forgetting authors like Chimamanda Adichie dominating global discussions on feminism. Price Waterhouse Coopers Entertainment and Media Outlook estimates are that South Africa’s total music revenue will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.4 percent to R2.4 billion ($178 million or£137.83m) by 2020. Nigeria remains one of the world’s fastest-growing entertainment and media markets with overall growth of 15.7 percent in 2015, reaching $3.8 billion (£2.94 b). Similar to Nigeria, Kenya will enjoy strong growth in the next five years as a result of its strong mobile music sector. Kenya’s total music industry revenue is projected to rise from $19 million today (£14.71m) to $29 million (£22.46m) in 2020.
It’s ironic that despite these giant leaps forward, the industry is still heavily plagued with challenges like poor distribution channels, poor accountability, intellectual property infringements, bad contracts and inability to properly enforce intellectual property laws.
For a lasting solution to be brought to these pertinent issues, several laws need to be reviewed, other existing laws need to be properly enforced and some new laws need to be created to place Africa on par with her global counterparts policy-wise. Collective societies and performance rights organizations with a good knowledge of local problems and equal appreciation of global standards need to be established. Entertainers need to get educated about their rights, business and the importance of hiring the right legal counsel.
Furthermore, with the number of lawyers being produced every year in Nigeria, diversification has become more important. This includes embracing emerging areas in law and identifying them by studying which industries are growing at any given time and how the legal society can provide value.
Developing niche lawyers for the entertainment industry is of mutual benefit to everyone. More opportunities are created for young legal counsel and the rights and businesses of original work owners are protected, their profits maximized.
On a personal note, where do you come from in Nigeria?
I am from Ila-Orangun in Osun State. As a child, I lived with my mother and siblings in Ibadan, Oyo State, where I attended the All Saints Church School.
How do you find living and working in Lagos?
I’d say Lagos is a land of creativity and unlimited opportunities. Working in Lagos is an experience that never gets boring. There are days where I review legal documents till about 11pm, after which I head out to a social event where I might run into a client and all of a sudden a social event transforms into a business meeting. The idea is that, in Lagos, business can meet you anywhere and anytime, so you always have to be ready.
Why did you become a lawyer?
For most of my childhood and teenage years, I never thought I’d become a lawyer. I had thought about quite a number of careers including being a performing artist, video director, and even a career in mass communications. As fate would have it, at the point where I was to make a course choice for university, it was also a point in my life where I felt the need to take up certain challenging tasks and one of these decisions was taking a law course. For most of my university days, I was in doubt as to whether or not I’d practice law after being called to bar. But, when I attended my first intellectual property law class, it came to me like a vision that this is the area of law where I’d love to practice and make a career. So, I guess it is safe to say that to an extent, I decided to become a lawyer because of how intrigued I was with IP and the endless possibilities of IP law in business.
Who are the people who have inspired you in life?
Asides my parents, I’ve had a number of people I consider inspirational figures in my life. People like the Nigerian musician, Fela Kuti; the businessman and motivational speaker, Fela Durotoye; and entertainment entrepreneur, Jason Njoku.
Is there anywhere else in Africa that has caught your eye, where you would like to live or work?
Lately, the eastern part of Africa has caught my eye. There are loads of opportunities there yet to be exploited and, although I can’t make a decision yet as to whether I’d live and work there, if an opportunity came up at the right time, I could consider it.
What do you do to relax?
I just hang with friends; we chit-chat, laugh, and sometimes attend social events together. Many of my friends are creatives or work within the creative community so there’s always one fun activity or the other. Other times, I just stay indoors and listen to good music. And, as weird as it may sound, working can be relaxing, depending on certain circumstances.
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