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Analysis

Shatta Wale calls on Ghanaian Music Industry to step up

The Award Wininng Musician responded to the Kenyan Government’s 100m Ksh fund for musicians – says Ghanaian Music Industry needs to have a better direction to receive the same support.

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Shatta Wale
Shatta Wale
4 min read

Story Highlights

  • The popular Ghanaian Musician responded to the Kenyan Government’s 100m Ksh fund for musicians.
  • Wale shared that musicians in Ghana need to have better direction if they are to receive government support.

Popular Ghanaian Dancehall Artist Shatta Wale has expressed serious concerns with the Ghanaian Music Industry. Responding to a story announcing the opening of the Kenyan government’s 100Ksh ($942k) fund to support local musicians and actors during the COVID-19 pandemic, Wale feels that the lack of direction amongst music professionals in Ghana is the reason why their government has not responded in the same manner.

In a very direct tweet, Shatta described Ghana’s music industry as a ‘disgrace to the world’ – stating government support, like what is being offered to creatives in Kenya and other nations, will not happen until musicians take their craft more seriously.

Though commended by Wale, the Kenyan fund was not met without local criticism. Patricia Kihoro – Kalasha Award nominee (Kenya’s equivalent to the EMMYs or BAFTAs) – questioned how the funds will be distributed and what qualifies as an “artist”.

According to Citizen Digital, the money will be divvied up by the Kenyan Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage. It is estimated that each musician/actor will receive around 5,000Ksh (Kenyan Shillings) – equal to just under $50.

Whilst this sum may not seem sufficient, it must be put in context. A number of entertainment professionals across Kenya have in fact seen it as a positive move.

Respected Kenyan Music Industry Executive Mike Strano (Director of PHAT! Music) said:

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On behalf of the creative industry, we want to express gratitude to President Uhuru Kenyatta. He has done more for the creative industry than any other president. We are grateful that he sees us as a serious industry that can create more employment for the youth of Kenya and also pay taxes and contribute to development of the country’s economy”.

Mike Strano, CEO (PHAT! Music & Entertainment)
Mike Strano (Director, PHAT! Music & Entertainment)

Whilst Ghana may not have announced a fund to support its musicians during the COVID-19 pandemic, the West African Country’s music industry does appear to have developed some over the past few years. Last October, high-ranking music professionals flew in to Accra (the nation’s capital) from over 50 countries (including Morocco, South Africa and Nigeria) for the Music In Africa Conference For Collaborations, Exchange And Showcases (ACCES) – a pan-african music conference.

Major music events such as Afrochella and Afronation have also been recently hosted in Ghana. 

With regards to the nation’s music revenues, collection society GHAMRO (Ghana Music Rights Organization) said it distributed 900,000GHc ($156,000) in royalties to Ghanaian musicians in 2019 – an increase of 200,000GHc ($35,000) from the previous year. Though this growth is positive, the operations of the society have been challenged by a few.

D. Black

In an interview on Ghana’s Hitz FM last year, Ghana rapper D. Black said: “In 2016 someone called me from there and told me all the A list artiste and producers had 600 cedis each with them so I should send my mobile money number“. 

That means if Sarkodie releases 10 songs in a year and I don’t, we are all A list artistes we still get the same amount of money, it does not make sense,” he continued.

It cannot be argued that the challenge of Ghana’s music industry is a lack of talent. With acts like Shatta Wale himself – a recent collaborator of Beyonce and Major Lazor on the ‘The Lion King: The Gift’ soundtrack – as well as internationally-known acts like Sarkodie, Stonebwoy and so many others, it may just take a stronger industry infrastructure for Ghana to see more progress.

The arrival of major labels such as Sony and Universal Music Group to West African regions over recent years may eventually funnel through to Ghana to help to solidify this infrastructure. But it can also be argued that calling on the Ghanaian government to assist with this process – by encouraging them to pass supportive laws and make collection society operations more transparent – would help excel the industry to new heights.

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Analysis

Twinkie Clark’s publishing catalog worth millions, says Attorney

Twinkie’s songwriter journey was recently depicted in Lifetime TV Biopic ‘The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel’.

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The Clark Sisters at the 19th Annual BET Super Bowl Gospel Celebration
7 min read

Story Highlights

  • The Clark Sisters’ story was recently depicted in a Lifetime movie biopic.
  • Attorney James L. Walker, Jr. recaptured Twinkie Clark’s publishing rights after she sold her catalog for a car.

Gospel Music Legends The Clark Sisters have recently seen a huge resurgence in interest and popularity. On April 11, the faith-based music icons saw their story told in more detail than it has ever been – as their first biopic ‘The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel’ aired on Lifetime TV. Produced by Dr. Holly Carter (alongside Grammy Award Winning Artists Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliott and Queen Latifah) – the initial broadcast captured an audience of a 2.7 million, and closed out with 11 million total (after repeat airs and DVR ratings came in).

The movie told the lives of sisters Denise, Jacky, Elbernita (otherwise known as Twinkie), Dorinda and Karen – their rise to fame, and everything in between. One of the highlights, from a music business perspective, was the sale of Twinkie’s publishing catalog.

It is unknown exactly how accurate the Lifetime movie depiction was, as a number of scenes have been disputed by Larry Clark (son of Denise) and Twinkie’s former husband Johnny Terrrell. However, with the Clarks themselves being listed as Producers – and Executive Producer Dr. Holly Carter already having a working relationship with the family – one can assume most of the events were not too far from the truth.

'The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel' Cast - From Left to Right: Aunjanue Ellis (Dr. Mattie Moss Clark), Kierra Sheard (Karen Clark Sheard), Angela Birchett (Jacky Cullum Chisholm), Raven Goodwin (Denise Clark Bradford), Christina Bell (Elbernita "Twinkie" Clark-Terrell), Shelea Frazier (Dorinda Clark Cole)

During their earlier days, Twinkie was the sole songwriter for The Clark Sisters – penning several hit songs for the group. The biggest of these was ‘You Brought The Sunshine’ – from the 1981 album of the same name. The single became a crossover hit, landing a Top 20 Spot on Billboard’s R&B Charts and a Top 30 spot on its Dance Club Songs listing.

It has been claimed that the single and album achieved a Gold certification – for sales in the excess of 500,000. Music Biz Nation was unable to verify either claim using the RIAA database – which lists U.S. gold and platinum certifications awarded as far back as 1958. We did, however, reach out to RIAA for comment, but had not heard back at the time of writing. At present, we can verify that the single had sold at least 200,000 within the two years following its release, according to a 1985 article in Billboard Magazine.

At some point during this era, according to the movie – Twinkie sold her publishing catalog to Michigan-based Bridgeport Music (which was given a fictitious name in the film) in exchange for a Lincoln Continental. Of course, the car selected for the scene may have not been the exact same as what was exchanged in the actual deal. However, if we are to assume it was of similar luxury status – that particular vehicle retailed for around $24,000 in 1979 – close to the time when Twinkie made the deal. In today’s money, that would be equal to $85,000.

The interesting part is, according to a calculated estimation by Music Biz Nation, the success of “You Brought The Sunshine” possibly made Twinkie’s catalog worth at least $400,000 to $450,000 from that release alone – more than 5x what it was sold for. It was later worth ‘millions’.

...artists and songwriters have lost millions of dollars by giving up their publishing

James L. Walker, Jr., Esq.

Music Biz Nation spoke with James L. Walker, Esq. –  the Atlanta-based Entertainment Attorney who worked with Twinkie to recapture her rights five years ago. Walker was not working Twinkie when she initially sold her catalog, but did say that “generally speaking artists and songwriters have lost millions of dollars by giving up their publishing“.

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When discussing the amount of publishing money made from record sales, Walker shared that “one song on a gold album is worth about $50,000“. Meaning, if it is true that the 8-song ‘You Brought The Sunshine’ album did achieve Gold status, Twinkie’s catalog on that release would have been worth $400,000 from record sales alone. This does not include additional income generated from the success of the lead single.

We also discussed the impact of the radio success and other types of revenue. Walker stated that “a hit song is worth well over a millions dollars, if it’s promoted right“. MBN asked if he would place “You Brought The Sunshine” (single) in that category – to which Walker confidently responded “oh, yes“.

'You Brought The Sunshine', The Clark Sisters

Later in the conversation, Walker was asked how he was able to get Twinkie’s rights back. He shared: “There’s what we call ‘the copyright act’, and with the copyright act the writer is allowed to reclaim their rights in the 35th year of the assignment“.

The world of publishing in gospel music slightly differs to that in the mainstream. Being a niche genre, gospel generally does not generate nearly as much as pop or hip hop music in revenue. To give context, it often takes less than 5,000 equivalent albums sales to land a #1 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums Chart. Grammy-nominated Artist Travis Greene topped the list last November, shifting just 3,000 units.

Though sales may not be where the money is at for the faith-based genre, Walker stated that ‘sampling’ is another income stream for many of its artists. Referring to Gospel Acts, he said: “Their music is used – people sample it. Jay Z sampled Twinkie’s song“.

Because Twinkie now owns her rights, she was able to claim 50% of publishing revenue when Jay-Z sampled her composition on his 2017 single release ‘Family Feud’. This 50% meant Twinkie owns a bigger share and made more publishing money from the record than lead artist Jay Z himself (and co-writer Beyonce, combined).

Twinkie Clark, the only BMI-registered composer on the song, owns 50% of "Family Feud" publishing share.

Outside of this example, Gospel Music has had a solid history of being sampled by mainstream artists. In the past year alone, Mary Mary’s most popular hit “Shackles” (a UK Top 10 and US Top 40) was sampled by BRIT Award Winning Rapper Stormzy on his UK #1 album “Heavy Is The Head”, and most recently by Lecrae and YK Osiris. Kirk Franklin was also sampled on Daniel Caeser’s ‘Freudian’ album.

Twinkie Clark now owning the rights to her work with The Clark Sisters means she will also receive revenue from her songs being used the Lifetime Biopic. The day following the premiere, the sisters received the largest amount of daily YouTube views since at least 2018.

The Clark Sisters, DEMAND - YouTube
The Clark Sisters received over 150,000 YouTube views on April 11, 2020. MBN research via Demand

There was also a huge spike in google searches for tickets to see them live, according to Music Industry Platform ‘DEMAND’.

The Clark Sisters, DEMAND - Google
Google searches related to live shows and tickets for The Clark Sisters reached its peak on April 12, 2020. MBN Research via Demand.

The Clark Sisters’ latest release ‘The Return’ was released on March 13, 2020.

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Analysis

A.R.M.S. has delivered $1.6m in unpaid royalties to artists since 2018

ARMS (Artist Royalty and Music Services) was launched in 2016 by producer David Salas.

MBN Staff

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Young Buck (of G-Unit), A.R.M.S. client
4 min read

Story Highlights

  • A.R.M.S. was launched in 2016 by producer David Salas.
  • The company has collected unclaimed royalties for The Chi-Lites, Young Buck (G-Unit), Fobia, Tierra, and Bobby Day.

Family-owned royalty collection agency ARMS (Artist Royalty and Music Services) announced today that they have successfully delivered $1.6million in unpaid royalties to artists and rights holders over the last two years. Founded by longtime music producer David Salas, the company’s unique model is one that favors the client. As opposed to paying any fees upfront, ARMS takes a backend commission on any royalties collected on behalf of rights holders.

According to the company’s website, David Salas (and wife Daphee) started ARMS to track down his father’s lost royalty payments. David is the son of Rudy Salas, former member of latin soul group El Chicano and co-founder of latin R&B group Tierra (along with his brother Steve).

Unaware to many, streamlining royalty payments – from processing to payouts – is not always as straightforward as what might assume it ‘should’ be. In many cases, artists never receive the royalties they are due – often referred to as ‘Black Box Royalties’. This occurs when a performer, writer, label or publisher cannot be properly traced – leaving their royalties unallocated.

It may be hard to understand how this can even happen in today’s world – but it does. One of the most common and substantial ways is with streaming services. Platforms like Spotify pay an upfront licensing fee to labels for the use of their catalogs for a limited period.

Spotify

If, however, the label’s catalog earns less in royalties on the platform than what was paid to them upfront before the contract ends, the ‘loose change’ ends up being unallocated.

Additionally, you still find cases where artists have not registered with the necessary collection societies, internationally – or the metadata on file is incorrect. In this case, the society does not know who to pay so the funds are held until they are sought out. This is where ARMS comes in.

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The company was launched in 2016, and has worked to collect royalties for The Chi-Lites, Young Buck (G-Unit), Fobia, Tierra, Bobby Day (“Rockin Robin”) and more.

ICYMI:

Most artists and even actors or voice over artists are not aware that they can receive royalties from their actual performance, like the hook, as a feature, as a band member etc”, said Salas.

Most artists and even actors or voice over artists are not aware that they can receive royalties from their actual performance

David Salas (CEO, Artist Royalty and Music Services)

Most royalties traditionally had gone to songwriters, publishers or the label but international streaming royalties are different and we help make sense of it all.”

To ensure artists are not shortchanged by their services, ARMS does not process any royalties they collect on behalf of performers or rights holders. Instead, the company has the collection society make the cheques payable to the client – who then pays ARMS a pre-agreed commission.

To that end, Salas added: “Being a musician myself, I know it’s hard to trust people in the music business, so I built this company with the premise that transparency would be absolute and our role would be hands-on. We are a small company with big ambitions.“

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