Artists have responsibility to educate themselves before signing with record labels - Zakes Bantwini

Zakes Bantwini speaks at the WOKE panel discussion at Roof Garden Bar
Zakes Bantwini speaks at the WOKE panel discussion at Roof Garden Bar
Image: Makoena Mdia

Artists, specifically in the music industry, have a responsibility to educate themselves about contractual agreements before signing with a record label.

This is the view of SA musician and record label owner Zakes "Bantwini" Madida. He was commenting on the recent spate in conflicts between some SA artists and record labels over contractual disagreements, among other issues.

The "Clap Your Hands" hitmaker was among several speakers at the WOKE  panel discussion which focused on the business of music, at the Roof Garden Bar recently, in Port Elizabeth. 

"There is no artist who gets exploited unknowingly and there's no record company that decides only today that they won't give you [an artist] your money.

"They [pay] you according to what you signed two, three or four years ago," he said.

Madida said artists often overlooked the importance of understanding contracts and simply signed out of desperation to get their name known.

Artists needed to approach music or entertainment lawyers who are able to break down legal jargon so musicians know what they were getting into, he advised.

"I understand that when you have nothing, you will agree to and sign any opportunity that comes your way but when you succeed and make it big years later, people start coming to you with the right information and you cry foul," Madida said.

The Mayonie Productions owner further warned artists against depending on friends or family members who were not legal professionals to study contracts for them, saying record labels were also not obliged to educate artists about the legal nitty gritties of the industry.

"Record companies give artists contracts and advise them to go and ask lawyers to help them but unfortunately we don't have entertainment lawyers in SA so you'll give it to your brother or friend who will say it's fine, you can sign it," he said.

SA has seen a number of musicians hog headlines over contractual disputes with record labels, with one of the most recent disputes between Emtee and Ambitiouz Entertainment.

The "Manando" rapper recently left the record company following rumours of him wanting to leave but being held up by contractual obligations.

When he eventually left in August, the rapper had lost his house and car but insisted the possessions had nothing to do with his contract with Ambitiouz.Emtee left the company after the dramatic exits of artists such as Amanda Black, A-Reece and Fifi Cooper, some of whom also endured contractual battles with the label.

"To be honest, record labels are there to make money and not to babysit artists...[so] the relationship between artists and labels is business and that's why I advise any artist to have a reliable team around," Madida said.

Madida spoke alongside SA Music Performance Rights Association representative Palesa Kgomo, Nelson Mandela Bay Arts and Culture portfolio representative Nonceba Tshoba and Absa financial advisor Kyle Timms.This was the year's final installment of a series of educational panel discussions held by WOKE on various business fields throughout the year

.WOKE co-founder and student entrepreneur Vuyo Tutu said the initiative was aimed at bridging a gap and allowing for a transfer between experts in various business industries, and budding entrepreneurs.

"The goal is to introduce both the youth and local community to industry leaders both locally and  nationally for the purpose of equipping people with knowledge on entrepreneurship and social issues," Tutu said.