By Ayo Onikoyi
Edo State-born but US-based Godfrey Eguakun is a Mechanical Engineer who has his hands in many business pies including two record labels, namely; Monkey Media House Records, popularly known as MMH Records and TRONIQ Inc.
In this interview with AYO ONIKOYI, Entertainment Editor, he takes a look at the Nigerian entertainment industry and proffers solutions to many issues arsing from friction between artists and record labels as well as letting us into the affairs of his two recording companies. Excerpt:
Can we start by introducing yourself; details about you and what you do?
I’m Godfrey Eguakun, I’m Nigerian first, then American. Both my parents are from Benin City in Edo State. I’ m a Mechanical Engineer by day working on jet engine designs and manufacturing and a businessman by night, managing and running multiple businesses. I’m happiest when joggling 10 projects simultaneously
Can you specify the multiple businesses you handle and how come you run them only at night?
When I said night, I don’t mean that literally. But with businesses in different time zones, sometime it takes that. Anyways, I’m the proprietor of two record labels. Monkey Media House Records, popularly known as MMH Records and TRONIQ Inc. They are both digital record labels with the bulk of the operations conducted in Nigeria.
Monkey Media House, the parent company to MMH Records also does branding/advertising, digital marketing, project management and video productions (Music videos, TV commercials and documentaries).In the US, I own a multi-location Dry Cleaners and Laundromats soon to cover every state on the east coast.
What’s the story of Monkey Media House;what does it have under its belt and its general outlook?
Monkey Media House is centered around Akaycentric. I usually say, if it wasn’t for him, I might have not been in the music business. As everyone knows, Akaycentric is a very talented young man. I don’t think I’ve heard a song yet, that I’m like “needs work”.
So back in 2016/2017 I believe, he approached me to sponsor his music career. I did that for a bit and at some point decided, “why don’t we make this formal, why don’t we start a recording company? and the rest is the story of MMH Records from inception to date. From over 9 singles released, working with producers like Del B, Spellz, E-Kelly amongst many others, with collaborations with artists like Patoranking and Runtown to name a few, to multiple video shoots using locations from around the world. I don’ t think there’s any music playing TV or radio station in Africa that hasn’t picked up our songs yet.
As for outlook, Afrobeat is taking over the world, everyone wants to be part of that wave. Take for example, Beyonce’s Afrobeat album ‘The Lion King’: The Gift or the fact that I can’t drive from a point A to B without hearing “banana fall on you” or Afrobeat’s Joanna in Atlanta or walking into a club in L.A. So I want our artists to be a major part of that wave the world is currently riding and we will
Is Akaycentric the only artist signed to your label?
Akaycentric and Kreatunez, working on a third for MMH Records and Oxlade the only artist signed to TRONIQ Inc.2 different record labels… MMH Records and TRONIQ Inc. MMH Records currently has 2 signed talent with another one to make it the 3rd, on the other hand has only one talent…. Oxlade
What do you think is the future of afrobeat in the world, will it die out the way reggae and makosa did?
Reggae music was from the 60s, got really big in the 70s and 80s, which was before me or when I was a toddler. What I do know about it is the fact that it was a sound widely perceived as the voice of the oppressed, addressing social and economic injustice. At the time, there’s some sort of musicianship needed as a reggae artist/musician. They can actually hold keys and sing, maybe play instruments… today, all that has been replaced with technology. Makossa on the other hand was a great feel good music but was arguably one dimensional.
Afrobeat, Afropop, Afrofusion, Afro-soul or whatever we want to call it is relatively new and we don’t quite know it in its entirety, so I think it is too early to ask if afrobeats will die or not, but one thing we have learnt about afrobeats so far is its ability to adapt to other genres of music and create something novel, create genres that in fact don’t exist as far as our prior knowledge of music goes.
We have seen this play out in several cross continental collaborations of some of the biggest afrobeat artists. So, the question I think should be if afrobeat will evolve into unknown and novel genre, and how soon this transition, or this evolution will take. But in the sense of “dying”, that is not happening anytime soon.
Why is there so much mess between record labels and artists and what should both parties take cognizance of to have healthy relationship?
I think one of the bases of this divide between the record label and the artist has in a large way to do with the provisions of the artist recording contract. Over the past decades we have seen the artist contract evolves into what it is today in a bid to fit into the present reality of the music industry.
However, the provisions of these ever-changing contracts is unable to keep up with the spontaneous change in the way music is being consumed and the way independent artists are continually having unprecedented access to resources to produce and market themselves on a global scale. These artists simply have resolved that they no longer need a record label to sell themselves, or in other words, the label needs to bring to the table something extraordinary for them to sign on to a recording contract. This is not to say artists don’t still actively and consciously chase after these record labels in the early stages of their career, but in the long run, they tend to realize “Hey, I can actually do this myself”.
On the flip side, the labels are of the opinion that their action form a very large part of the artist success so in return they deserve the biggest piece of the pie, of course in the normal sense and in actual fact considering the time, finances, administrative cost, goodwill and risk they input into growing the artist’s career one would say they do deserve the lion’s share, so labels feel that the evolution of the recording contracts from simple record deal to more complex 360 deals isn’t quite all encompassing in making sure the record company is making the most profit from its investments and are insisting that stricter, broader rules and provisions should be included in these contracts going forward and in which they actually do apply to the greatest extent that they can, these stricter and broader rules and provisions that we see in many recording contracts today.
I think this conflict can be resolved by continuous overhaul and review of what we know today as the recording contract to introduce and adjust certain provisions that would be more flexible, more profitable and more favorable for all parties in the recording contract, in respect to the knowledge and technological advance we have in today’s music industry.
However, the recording contract provisions between labels and artists aren’t the only reasons for the chaotic mess between label and artist in this age, but it is definitely a major problem that needs to be addressed.
We need to have more open-book discussions between all the concerned stakeholders of what the recording contract should really be and what provisions should be allowed or disallowed in today’s present day recording contracts. Labels should see artists more as partners to the business and vise versa.
So, what should an artist consider before putting pen to paper?
There is no standard rule or standard terms to consider before signing a recording contract, but just like getting a new job, I think a few things they should ask themselves is; does this contract allow me to express myself creatively? Is there room for growth and development in this contract? Does this contract allow me explore new markets and genres of music? Is this contract the end goal or a means to an end goal? Does the goal within the provisions of the contract align with my career goals? Is the contract what can be considered a slave-contract?
What are the exit terms and provisions of the contract? The artist also needs to ask themselves administrative questions like; can this record company finance their marketing need? Does this company have other talents and how successful have these talents been?
What is the overall reputation of the label Etc? At the end, is really about what the artist wants, what he is comfortable with and what is permissible within the laws of the artist recording contract
What do you think the Nigerian music industry really needs now to grow?
A judiciary system that works and effective. If we have an effective and realible judiciary system, creatives will be able to protect their creative work more in terms of copyright and infringement on those rights, as well as exploit it properly to make more financial gains than they currently do right now in Nigeria, and just as I mentioned earlier, in terms of litigation for recording contracts, labels and artist alike will be able to enforce, negotiate and apply the provisions contained within the contract amongst other benefits.
What do our artistes need to do to corner more international collaborations and does the quality and message of their music influence foreign collaborations as well?
First they need to be more professional and develop a strong work ethics, very few artists have this. What in layman’s term we refer to as hard work, in the industry is simply an artist exhibiting a very high level of professionalism in their career, and in instances like this we have seen “hard work” outshine talent.
Artists also need to not only know the music, but also familiarize with the music business. They don’t need to be experts but know the basics, take courses and develop their music business acumen. To roll with the “big boys” requires the artist themselves to become some sort of “PHOSITA (Person having ordinary skill in the art)” to the music business. It’s a totally different playing ground out there than what we are used to here in Nigeria.
Obviously, quality music is a prerequisite to more international collaborations, the message on the other hand has little to do with the music, as we have seen people and even music professionals enjoy music they literally don’t understand the lyrics or what the artist is saying, but I think the message in this instance should be more about the emotions the artist transmit to his audience through his music, what his audience perceive when they listen to his music and really less about the fixation and use of those words that make up the lyrics.
Lastly, can you give more details of your record labels and plans for your artistes?
Monkey Media House Records is an indie Record Label founded in 2017. Outside making and selling records, we offer Talent Development, Talent Management, Artiste Promotions/Media Management and digital music distribution.
TRONIQ Inc on the other hand was founded in mid 2019, it’s a digital indie recording company, shaped around traditional models.
At both companies, we are about the passion for music, musicians, and the creation of music. Our people have strong diverse knowledge of the industry and we are all unified by the love of the art.
Though today we are all about music, in the nearest future we hope to branch out into films, television and interactive technology
Personally for me, from a business standpoint, I want us to become a paragon of African business
Plans for our artists remains the same… to continue to build them into brands, with forward-thinking approach to streaming, digital distribution, and meeting our audiences in the places they discover music.