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Understanding Music Laws in Nigeria

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Understanding Music Laws in Nigeria

Yemisi Falaye
music laws

‘Yemisi Falaye is the Head of Entertainment Law Group at Adepetun, Caxton-Martins, Agbor and Segun (ACAS-Law), a top law firm in Nigeria. In this interview, she discusses the music laws in Nigeria and why the game players in the music industry cannot do without them.


– By ‘Yemisi Falaye

Q: What is music law and why is it a significant aspect of law?

A: Music law is essentially a part of entertainment law that guides specific issues in the music industry such as music publishing, music licensing, copyright ownership, amongst others. Music law is a highly significant aspect of law because, as I said earlier, it guides the affairs of the stakeholders in the industry and it regulates their conducts accordingly. Like every other aspect of human endeavours, the entertainment/music industry is governed by laws. Music law basically provides protections for players in the music industry.It governs the activities of musicians, producers, record labels and their employees.In order to guarantee sanity in the industry, music law is extremely significant and important.



Q: Artistes and Producers in the space are more concerned about making good music. Why should they understand the laws that govern their work?

A: As an artiste or a producer in the music industry, it can never be overemphasized that understanding the laws that govern the industry is compulsory. The truth is, the music business is actually a complex one and so it is important for the game players to at least understand the basic legal aspects of the industry. A lot of artistes, producers, record labels and other people working in the music industry face complicated legal troubles that on the long run, ruin their career. This can be avoided by simply understanding the different basic laws related to the music industry; such as copyright ownership, performance, licensing, contracts and other common music industry practices and regulations. Most importantly however, it is best to hire a well-grounded entertainment lawyer who is not only an expert in music law, but also very conversant with the practical aspect of the music industry.

Q: Please share some of the most important laws that must not be ignored, even by newbies in the industry.

A: Copyright Law, Merchandising Law, Trademarks Law, Law of Tort, Contract Law, Tax Law. All these laws, amongst others, aid the regulation of the music industry. Therefore, every stakeholder in the industry must get acquainted to the laws.

Q: What common issues can be faced due to ignorance of such laws?

A: The most common issue faced by artists in the music industry is the record label and recording agreement. Ordinarily, the main role of a record label is to manufacture, distribute, market, promote and sell its artiste’s songs. An agreement is usually entered between both parties, where the duration of the agreement will be stated; number of songs to be recorded by the artiste; territory; ownership of copyright and catalogue; royalty split, etc. will also be stated. A lot of times, artistes usually sign these agreements without understanding the nature of the same and also without consulting an entertainment lawyer. They therefore sell off their intellectual property rights (and more) in perpetuity in exchange for nothing.

Another common issue in the music industry is music sampling. This is an act of recording a part of an already existing song with or without the permission of the owner of the existing song. The problem usually arises when an artiste samples a song without the permission of the original owner. This amounts to infringement of copyrights and may end up being a litigation issue if not properly managed. It is therefore advisable for an artiste to legally sample a song by seeking the permission and approval of the owner(s) of the existing song. Permission from copyright owners is required before sampling, no matter how little the portion of the song is.

Music publishing is another major issue faced by artistes due to ignorance. As far as I am concerned, music publishing is the core of music business. I tag music publishing as a copyright owner’s pension. It is what a copyright owner relies on as his/her source of income as long as he/she is entitled to the copyright of the work (musical and/or literary). Music Publishing is simply the business of exploiting a song and generating revenue for such exploitation. A lot of artistes do not realize that publishing income is not derived from copyright ownership in sound recordings. It is actually derived from ownership of the copyrights in the lyrics/songs. Therefore,songs writers typically own the copyrights in the lyrics and should earn from the use of the songs. It is advisable for artistes to sign with a publishing company that can assist with keeping a track of the use of the songs and also collect the revenue generated accordingly. There are several agreements that can be entered into between a publishing company and an artiste; it is therefore important to hire the service of an entertainment lawyer to ensure proper negotiation.



Q: As an artiste or producer, what basic legal documents should they have in place when getting started? Many just start off without having solid legal foundations.

A: As an artiste or a producer, once you have decided to commence business in the music industry, the first step to take is to hire an entertainment lawyer. The lawyer will assist in providing the requisite agreements to hire other experts required for the business, such as a personal manager, business manager, booking agent etc. It is also important for the artiste or producer to be conversant with industry agreements such as split sheet, producer agreement, performance agreement, recording agreement, management agreement, publishing agreement, amongst others. By doing this, the artiste or producer will develop a solid foundation and chances of making costly mistakes will be reduced, if not totally eradicated.



Q: The government has requirements from businesses in all industries. Are there any ones peculiar to the music industry?

A: There are no specific or peculiar government requirements for businesses in the music industry. Other than the usual business requirements such as incorporating the company at the Corporate Affairs Commission, paying taxes etc, there are no other government regulations governing business in the music industry.


However, I must mention that the federal government recently granted pioneer status to companies in the entertainment industry, specifically for music production, publishing and distribution etc. Pioneer Status is granted by the government to exempt beneficiaries from paying corporate income tax and withholding tax from pioneer profits for an initial period of three years, which may be extended for another year or two.



Q: How are businesses in the industry (such as labels, Producers) taxed?

A: Music industry businesses are subject to several taxes like other types of business in Nigeria. All businesses are required to pay income tax on the profit of the business; value added tax on consumer of goods and services; employment tax for employees; personal income tax for individuals etc.

See Also



Q: What legal advice(s) do you have for up and coming musicians?

A: Be patient. Never be too much in a hurry to sign deals or agree to any.

Get a lawyer :This is extremely important; a lawyer will help ensure that you build the right foundation.

Be original: You may have mentors/idols but never aspire to be anyone else; carve a niche for yourself, build your own brand and be committed to it. It will pay off eventually.

Build a formidable team: Hire a good entertainment lawyer, business development manager, personal manager, accountant etc.

Seek advice: Always check with your lawyer, fellow artistes and other industry stakeholders if you are in doubt of anything.

Learn to be professional and hardworking: Good etiquettes will give an artiste a higher advantage over the one without the same.


Need legal advice? Send in your questions. See page 33.


Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.