Brymo v. Choc City: My (not so legal) perspective.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Prince's Symbol

There is this hope in endless possibilities that every rising star - irrespective of the field of play - nurtures at the onset of their career; to become the most sought after person in their field of play. This doe-eyed enthusiasm is often tinged with naiveté, which makes such rising star susceptible to signing 'employment' contracts which, with the benefit of a little bit more time and experience, they would be wary of signing. Perhaps, this represents Brymo's predicament. 

Brymo no doubt joined the label of Chocolate City with enthusiasm, and the dividends of the ‘marriage’ were almost immediate. He became a house-hold name overnight with the mega-hit 'Oleku'. Other hits subsequently followed, and the name 'Brymo' had come to stay. And so, he had a very happy ending...or so everyone thought.
Earlier this year, rumours began to circulate that Brymo had 'left' Choc city, despite the pendency of his contract with the label, while citing (among other reasons) failure on the part of Choc City to protect his music. Rather than buy himself out or sue them for making him redundant (I'm not sure what exactly the contract stipulates), Brymo...left. Literally. He walked away from Choc City. But this was way back in April.

The more recent activity surrounding the conflict between both parties may be traced to the (then) intended release Brymo's release of his album 'Merchants, Dealers and Slaves' on 25th October. Choc City marched to Court to prevent the album or any other album release, until the expiration of his contract in 2016.

This drama brings a sense of dejavu, as it is a common occurrence in the entertainment industry all over the world. Prominent artists have fallen out with their record labels at some point in their career. E.g. Michael Jackson and Sony Music Entertainment, Prince against Warner bros Studios, and more recently 'Jojo' against Blackground Records. Even on the Nigerian front, similar splits have emerged in the past, such as the very ugly (and still very fresh in our minds) D'Banj/Don Jazzy rift, resulting in the death of Mo'Hits records. One thing remains the same: such dispute could determine the continued success or eventual death of the artiste's career, depending on how it is handled. 

I honestly understand with Chocolate City as to why they are not willing to allow Brymo breach the contract. Funds have been invested in him, plus it would set a bad precedent to let artistes just walk away. But then, what options did Brymo really have?? 

Option 1...Run to Lady Justice? Perhaps, Brymo should have been the one running to court, in which case though, he may (or may not) have been branded as 'ungrateful' and 'troublesome'. Besides, he probably knew the cost of litigation may (eventually) almost equal the cost of buying himself out. This takes us to Option two

Option 2...Buy-Out?  Brymo could have bought himself out, and saved himself (and all of us) from this drama. But then, it would appear he cannot afford this, as it is claimed he does not even possess a car.  

Option 3...Wait it out? Well, he could have just waited for his contract to expire, and then begin calling his own shots. But he probably was scared of extinction, as there really is no guarantee that he or Chocolate City would still be relevant by 2016, because entertainment demands change so rapidly (case in point, where are Modenine and Nigga Raw?)
Option 4...The man formerly known as 'Brymo'?? Prince pulled this stunt against Warner Bros Entertainment in the mid-nineties, when the latter refused to release him from his contract. He adopted as his new 'name' a symbol, which could not be pronounced. So the media rebranded him 'the man formerly known as Prince'. The subsequent publicity enhanced his image so much more, that Warner Bros was forced to re-negotiate with him. Brymo could very well have adopted this route of changing his name and pseudonym. But then, I doubt any Nigerian artiste is so fearless as to consider such move, or that Nigerian Courts are radical enough to accept this reasoning. 

Anyway, the matter is now full blown in court, and Brymo would be forced to spend the legal fees he was avoiding. On the bright side of things for Choc City, an Interim Injunction has been granted to stop his release of the album (or any music by Brymo), pending the outcome of the Interlocutory Injunction to restrain Brymo, until the matter itself is decided (sorry for the legal jargon. Google 'the difference between an interim and an interlocutory injunction'). The aim of these actions would have restrained Brymo from releasing any music, until the case is decided, which decision may not even be decided till 2016. Until then, what does he do for a living?

On the other side of things, the album was released two days after the interim injunction was granted. While it is in some sense an affront to the law, the good thing however is that it is already a completed act, and to that extent, the Court can no longer grant an injunction restraining this album. Unfortunately for him however, if the interlocutory injunction is granted in favour of Choc City, then it would mean that he would not be able to release any music subsequently until the matter is decided. If he disregards the court order and proceeds, then he would be opening himself to bigger legal woes, ranging from punitive damages to jail time for contempt of court.

My honest advice? I think Brymo should invest in hiring the best lawyers he can borrow money to hire, because this matter could mar his career, and his person, if not properly handled. From a business perspective, I think he should consider the cost-benefits analysis of settling out of court, because by the time the case is concluded - depending on whether it gets to the Supreme Court - and calculations are made regarding damages, cost of litigation (we lawyers too go chop!), time expended, etc., he may end up spending beyond what it would have cost him to buy himself out ab initio. In the alternative, he could proceed with the ongoing suit, while attempting the Prince option i.e. drop the names Shimi Olawale Ibrahim a.k.a Brymo and keep releasing music under a new name. It would be quite interesting to see how the Nigerian Courts would determine the outcome, if he eventually chooses this option. 

Irrespective of what happens eventually, we cannot help noticing the publicity this drama has created in favour of 'Merchants, Dealers and Slaves'. Kudos Brymo!



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