The MTN SAMA Awards - will your dreams come true?
Winning a coveted MTN SAMA may just be the best thing that could happen to a band or musician! You've finally arrived in the world of music! Or does it spell the beginning of trouble?
Not so long ago, Heinz Winkler, the winner of the first IDOLS competition in South Africa, remarked on his experience on winning the Idols competition. It was not all positive. Because the day after winning the competition, is the first day you enter the music industry as a professional musician. Suddenly you are on your own and a commodity waiting to be exploited. Lloyd Cele, Idols' runner up in 2010 (and nominated for Best Pop Album and Best Collaboration with Loyiso Bala for the 2012 MTN SAMA) said in a Twitter enquiry "...it is not all about music, it is a business".
Wise words indeed and borne out by his ongoing success in the industry. One thing that all musicians and bands must understand is that while your talent may open the door to a recording contract, but you need some sound business skills to survive in the music industry! After all, making music is only the first step, making a living is imperative.
The recording deal will be there, but one record does not guarantee a successful career. The music hall of fame is littered with "one hit wonders" who became disillusioned by the harsh realities of a career in music.
What should you do when you enter the music industry? Your job is to make good music, but you need to surround yourself with trustworthy advisors. But don't relegate your responsibilities to someone else. You have to take charge of your own career path and ensure that your rights are protected, and the sooner the better.
Even before you sign your first record deal, you're a brand and you have to protect your brand and identity. In today's world of line extensions and merchandising, the 2012 MTN SAMA winners could become the face of a cologne/watch/clothing label tomorrow! You may be offered the opportunity to endorse products. Unathi, the gorgeous (and only female) judge of 2011 IDOLS competition and nominated for Best African Album for 2012 MTN SAMA is already featured on the packaging of Five Roses tea. As a musician and DJ, she was already well-known to the public, but her appearance on IDOLS, has made her a household name.
Where should a band or musician start? Start with registering your brand in the category for recordings and entertainment on the trade mark register. Do not assume your record company or manager will automatically do it for you. Most of South Africa's well-known bands and musicians - even those who are very good at endorsements and licensing their brand, do not have these basic rights protected. Register your band name or professional name as a domain. If you don't, you may have to litigate to get it back from the unscrupulous wanderers of the internet!
Then, get advice on copyright. If you write own music, you will have to make sure that you are reflected as the owner of the copyright in the melody (musical work) and lyrics (literary work), when your album is released. Please do not be persuaded to give the credits to someone marketing your album. In the long run, you will regret it. Typically performing artists become a member of a collecting society to ensure that the royalties are collected on their behalf.
If you get a designer to design a logo for you that you may want to use on an ongoing basis, make sure you own the copyright in the logo (an artistic work). The same applies to the design of your album cover. Discuss the detail with your recording company. Do not assume you own all the rights.
Winning an award at the benchmark MTN SAMA or a prestigious competition like IDOLS can be an artist's ticket to international success and wealth. Many successful international artists like Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Lopez, Brittney Spears, Shakira, to name a few, understood the value of their brands and earn a substantial portion of their income from licensing their brand or endorsing products. However, many successful musicians have made and lost millions, due to their lack of business skills. The recent sad story of Whitney Houston springs to mind.
Dreams do come true, but you need to keep your feet on the ground and stay focused on all aspects of your music career to reap the benefits of winning an award. Best of luck to all the MTN SAMA nominees! You make the world a better place!
About the author
Mariette du Plessis is a senior partner at law firm Adams & Adams.
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