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Mohbad: What He Could Have Done Differently

The long-gone but ever living feud between Marlian Records and the late Mohbad exposes a deficit in industry thinking.
November 12, 2023
7:19 pm
Mohbad formerly Marlian

When the president of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), Pretty Okafor, claimed that the dispute between the late musician, Ilerioluwa Oladimeji Aloba popularly known as Mohbad, and his former record label, Marlian Records would have never swelled into the cancerous tumor that it currently is had the deceased been a member of the trade union, some erroneously deemed it to be yet another attempt at attention-grabbing or the good old-fashioned blame game.


Given the strong emotions involved in this sensitive case, it would not be out of character for the Mohbad faithful and netizens alike to perceive it this way.


However, even if it were the case, which it certainly isn’t–considering that Mr. Okafor’s remarks weren’t unsolicited since he was addressing the House of Representatives panel investigating the singer’s demise, his assertion doesn’t become less true.


Nigeria is home to many guilds and associations such as the Music Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN), the Association of Music Artist Managers of Nigeria (AMAMN), the Music Publishers Association of Nigeria (MPAN), and the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN) that advocate for the interests of musicians in the country.


Pretty Okafor

The Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), in particular, was authorized by the government under the Trade Unions Act and remains the only trade union in the entire creative sector.


Guilds like these serve more purpose than given credit for. They enforce industry standards and guidelines such as promoting fair business practices and addressing critical issues like copyright infringement. The networking platform they provide for artists and industry professionals, while ignored at face value, is no less important.


A noteworthy facet of music associations lies in their involvement in royalty collection. These organizations typically oversee the collective licensing of music across diverse platforms, guaranteeing that artists are justly compensated for the utilization of their creations. Additionally, they play a role in managing the collection and distribution of royalties to their members. Legal assistance, particularly beneficial for independent artists with limited resources, isn’t left out as well, which is what should be obtained–and is somewhat–in Mohbad’s case.


Contractual issues like Mohbad’s, says Mr. Okafor, form the locus of PMAN membership because “…the record labels are also registered certified carriers of PMAN certificate to operate the record label. Then the artists are members. So, the burden is on PMAN to now call the record labels to the table and call the artist and his or her management to the table and address it. Because we have a legal team, they handle that,” he claims.


Yet, the obvious perks of affiliating with these associations has failed to convince creatives in the industry that it’s something worth trying. Thus, it is not unusual for artists and producers, especially the youngins, to reject the idea, often citing a desire for “independence” – an ironic stance, given that these associations specifically aim to foster independence. Their disdain for all things “association” is also rooted in the obsolete belief that they are only of use to veterans with little means to seek redress.


This could clarify why, as mentioned by Mr. Okafor (referenced in the link), PMAN has a combined membership of 1.6 million instead of approaching nearly eight million if all stakeholders collaborate.


Naira Marley

Such viewpoints indicate a lack of comprehensive understanding of the music industry, including crucial elements like copyright and intellectual property, which is a dangerous trend that threatens to impede the industry’s growth. Regrettably, instances of perplexing unprofessionalism, such as artists resorting to engagement with pirates for publicity and marketing, are not uncommon, leading to blunders they inevitably come to regret.


But Mr. Okafor suggests that it may not be entirely their fault; the record labels themselves contribute to the other half. According to him, “…the younger ones maybe their managers and record labels were not passing positive messages to them and that is why it was difficult for them to join the union…for some of them, the record labels manipulate their psyche not to make them stay under the authority of PMAN which is why this kind of crisis emerged.”


It is easy to see why the record labels would prefer to maintain the status quo. A lone wolf would be easily intimated into signing unfavorable contracts which would eventually benefit the record labels. The anemic industry guidelines in Nigeria for fair contractual terms and other income-sharing aspects make life more difficult for the average upcoming musician.


Had Mohbad anticipated the challenges he would face with Marlian Records, it’s likely he would have reconsidered joining PMAN. Even when things went awry, he opted to navigate the situation alone, a choice that ended up being fatal to his case.


No, being a member of a music association wouldn’t have guaranteed a smooth experience for Mohbad. Numerous artists, both locally and internationally, who were affiliated with various associations, have faced similar challenges. Besides, simple human nature suggests that disagreements are never in short supply.



But the raison d’etre of these associations extends to their passive effectiveness: deterrence. Their mere existence discourages unprofessionalism in the sector, preventing potential issues – like Mohbad’s – from arising. Consequently, there is every reason to believe that Marlian Records would have second-guessed any alleged attempts at contractual bullying if the affected artist were a member of such an association.


Although internal struggles within Nigerian associations and other challenges–such as a shaky internal dispute resolution mechanism as pointed out by MPAN board member, Justin Ige and trust issues from the public – significantly compromise their efficacy, it still retains formidable weaponry in the fight for copyright protection and artist independence.


With the recent reminder by Pretty Okafor, all indicators are – anecdotally – that young artists would start reconsidering towards these associations they have so long scorned.


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