By Sam Anokam
IT is a rarity for a business in this part of the world to exceed 50 years and still counting, especially in the music industry. But it would surprise many to know that top music brand, Premier Records Limited is 58 years old and still waxing strong.
In a private chat with Mike Odiong, the Coordinator, Premiere Records, he insists that the Premiere brand is still relevant and is competing with other new labels in the competitive music business.
He says: “We are not in competition with any other record label. We have over the years acquired a large catalogue from the 1960s. That is what most of the new comers don’t have. We are in a position to work with the new record labels so as to help build content and encourage them to make use of our catalog. As far as we are concerned, competition is not necessary, music is creativity and creativity does not reside with one person but people.
According to him, the reason why the contemporaries of Premier Records Limited were successful back in the days was because every label respected their territory and even shared ideas and came together to help grow the industry. “This we still continue to advocate for. My late Managing Director, Mr. Toju Ejueyitchie, worked very hard for the industry to unite and do the right things that would benefit all stakeholders. Every company has its strengths and weaknesses, we just know how to relate to be stronger.”
Continuing, Odiong, “As a record label, we are keeping up with the pace of change and growth in the music industry. Though we have not actively been involved in discovering talent, we have been doing underground work in trying to understand the new norm in music business worldwide and how to key into it to make success for the benefit of all our stakeholders. Every day, we work hard and try to innovate and collaborate with other industry players, so we are still very relevant in the business.”
On the music company’s milestone in almost six decades, he said, “Our major milestone is the fact that we are still very active in the music business after 58 years. It is rare to find companies like ours still functional since 1963 when you consider the inherent issues that bedevil the music industry especially in Nigeria. You have issues like piracy, lack of political will by the government to enforce existing laws that can drastically reduce piracy. At every point, we find ourselves at loggerhead with each other instead of uniting to fight a common enemy. We have too many reasons to thank God who has always guided us. Unfortunately, we lost our managing director in January. He was the piloting captain who put the best brains together in order to continue to sustain the company with ideas and ways of growing the company.
“I can tell you that one of our biggest milestones is about to be unveiled. We are collaborating with one of the biggest entertainment outfits in Africa. This will lead new acts coming out from our stable featuring one of Africa’s biggest act presently making waves.”
With the advent of Youtube and streaming platforms which seem to offer up and coming artistes a platform to record and stream their music, thereby boycotting record labels, Odiong explains how this has impacted record label business.
“Technically, an artist still needs a record label to be taken seriously. Youtube is just a means to reach people but not means to the business and day to day growth of an artist. Yes, artistes are individually making money from those platforms, but most of them still seek record labels. The reason is simple, the artist does not know anybody in youtube, so if youtube packs up today, what will happen? We have artistes that have been with us for over 40 years and we are still doing business and exploring their works. They reach out to us to ask for their royalties and we are happy to say we pay them, even the estate of those who have died are still paid royalties, would those platforms be able to do that?
“We are not worried about Youtube because we also make money from them for our artistes. The sky is big enough for everyone to fly.”
He further gave insight why there has not been any form of issue with royalty and any musician on Premier Records.
“What makes Premier Records what it is, is the fact that we do not take lightly payment of royalties. My late managing director had a policy that we must pay royalties first before salaries if we are in a tight spot and have to choose what to pay. That is how much we value royalty payment because we believe that if the artist did not create the content, we would have no record label work in. As long as an artist’s work is selling, royalties are paid.
Every artist signed on the Premier Records platform has given their best and done well as at their time. Remember we controlled over 60% of the music space in the 70s,80s and 90s. They have all built their unique fans that still connect to them and share that nostalgic feeling. We hope to release new acts within two years.”