Over the last three years, the label has faced a myriad of problems of different magnitudes ranging from artistes flouting contracts, to internal problems and a brand identity crisis caused by an inept attempt to diversify the music it produces. All of these have happened against the backdrop of an industry expanding at an unprecedented rate with new players and sounds breaking into the market.
The latest development in these series of events, is Vice President, Ice Prince’s bombshell reveal that his contract with the label expired two years ago, even though he still has an active working relationship with the label owners. This adds another name to the list of acts who have exited the label in recent times, the first being Khali Abdu’s VHS Safari and subsequently singer Milli. Other artists who remain with the label languish in either artist development hell or suffer from poor talent management that has stagnated their careers.
At the moment label president, M.I appears to be the only bankable artist from the label despite the top class talents signed in the past year. It doesn’t take a soothsayer to tell that the label is slowly shuffling towards a rough patch that will either require new strategies to be employed or suffer a steady decline into irrelevance. But if you’re still asking why all of this happening, we have theories that may answer your question.
Over complicated organisational structure
Agreed, if the continuing lack of structure in the music industry is to come to a visible end, effort must be put into the creation of sustainable organisation. Where the lines must be drawn however is where corporation interest clashes against creative control. Artistes should not have to go through miles of paperwork and record label politicking to put out music or get rewarded for it.
But between merging Chocolate City music with M.I’s independent Loopy Record imprint and the larger umbrella of the Chocolate City Group (which houses two other media and music distribution arms), Chocolate City Music appears to have a multiplex of organisational hierarchies the average Nigerian label rarely has or even needs. Even worse, the lack of autonomy of each arm means every decision must come to long tedious roundtable discussions that will only delay the growth of signed talents, which is ridiculous considering the label’s signed artiste count since the Loopy Records merger.
Poor talent management
The result of a long line of command is a problematic handling of signed talents who all require equal attention, promotion and management. Subsequently, timeline clashes between artist development will occur and valuable talent will be ignored at the expense of easily marketable ones. At the moment, save for occasional social media and blog posts, Chocolate City Music has not considerably pushed some of its most talented signed acts, a job even the smallest independent fronts would have pulled off competently.
Speculated internal problems
Earlier in the year, news of internal friction within the Chocolate City ranks broke into the media. A tabloid broke the news that Ice Prince and M.I got involved in an argument so heated it sent subordinates staff scampering for safety when both of them allegedly “started spewing expletives in Hausa.”.According to the tabloid, their daggers had been drawn over M.I’s management style and his handing over of critical management decisions and finances to his younger sister Sarah and girlfriend Erica. Of course, the report had sensationalist written all over it but there is no smoke without fire, especially considering Ice Prince’ decision to suddenly blurt his Chocolate City exit to journalists even though his contract reportedly ended two years ago.
Odd timing isn’t it?