Uduak Oduok started sharing African Stories and perspectives around Fashion and Entertainment before it became a mainstream trend across Africa. Clearly an accomplished thought leader, she effectively positions herself as an authority with her feet planted firmly within the detailed left brained practice of Law and the effervescent growth of the right brained Entertainment industry in Africa.
She is the editor-in-Chief of Ladybrille.com which talks about the growth of Fashion and Entertainment in Africa, owns Africa Music Law, which remains a brilliant and authoritative blog bringing a fresh & intelligent perspective on the growth of the Business & Legal side of the entertainment industry in Africa.
She is also partner and co-founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. which focuses on contract drafting, negotiations, business litigation, entertainment and fashion law. A journalist and former model she has written fashion and entertainment stories that have been syndicated on Yahoo News! and USA Today, as well as served as a legal analyst for New York’s WBAI, and Al Jazeera, among many.
Today she shares her thoughts on African Fashion, Entertainment and the business side of it.
Deola Kayode: It’s great to have you on Social Media Week Lagos. To what degree has the boom in the entertainment industry owed its success to the emergence of digital, social and mobile technologies? Or are Africans just that talented?
Uduak Oduok: Africans are indeed talented but the boom in the entertainment industry has largely had to do with the digital media revolution. Sites like Ladybrille, Bella Naija, Not Just Ok, Linda Ikeji, among others, were largely responsible in pushing Africa’s fashion and entertainment statements to the world. The emergence and focus of social media took what these sites were doing to a whole new level, placing the power directly in the hands of the user/consumer of entertainment news.
Deola Kayode: You have once described Law as “a balance between starting & putting out fires (litigation) and preventing them from happening (contract, negotiations and agreements).” How has the limited understanding of the legal side of business impacted the growth of entertainment industry in Africa?
Uduak Oduok: Yes, as an attorney, I do describe my job as predicting, preventing and protecting my client’s interests. Predicting and preventing is where a lot of the transactional work comes in i.e. the contract negotiations et. al. you mentioned. Protecting is the litigation i.e. putting out fires. I believe the lack of understanding of basic contract and business law principles as well as intellectual property law has hindered even more growth in the industry and could also potentially be the industry’s demise.
For example, the great Mo’Hits legacy came tumbling down and at the heart of the breakdown of that contemporary music dynasty, we saw that there was simply a gentleman’s agreement with nothing else to protect the business owners Don Jazzy and D’Banj, their artists and also Mo’Hits as a business itself. On the intellectual property side of things, it was disastrous. Don Jazzy and D’Banj had not thought through the issue of joint authors in their intellectual property works. What resulted was a messy fight on who owned Mo’Hits music catalogue and that of the respective artists that did not even sign a contract with Mo’Hits yet produced music for them. Thankfully, the parties decided to resolve their issue in a settlement agreement.
In recent times, the case of Celebrity blogger Linda Ikeji whose blog was subjected to a shut down by Google illustrated the issue of intellectual property (copyright) infringement, cyber-squatting and the need to own one’s domain name on a self hosted platform. Linda averages almost $1 million a year, yet in one second, we saw how she could have lost it all because of the lack of the necessary legal safeguards to protect her and also her alleged copyright infringement. We’ve seen other hardly fought battles and breakups: from the Brymo breach of contract case with Chocolate City to Wizkid’s falling out with and ultimate reconciliation with EME. All of these examples illustrate the need for entertainment talents and industry professionals to understand business and law 101 in helping to grow and sustain their careers and entertainment businesses.
Deola Kayode: I think most of this happens because they need to take advantage of every and any opportunity. Many talented people with creative skills and potential destroy their careers due to failed and slave contracts, what advice do you have for the young creative entrepreneur?
Uduak Oduok: Get an entertainment lawyer. In most key African countries with a thriving entertainment industry, you can find an entertainment lawyer. Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya. In recent times, I established the Nigerian Entertainment Lawyers group on Facebook. While membership is by invitation only and for lawyers and law students in the entertainment industry, the public can still view our roster of members. Look these lawyers up, figure out who best fits your needs and then reach out to them for a legal consultation. If you cannot afford a lawyer, get on your mobile devices or computers and research the topic you have an issue with on google and You tube. There is an answer for practically every question you may have. This will give you a basic understanding while you search and acquire the funds for a lawyer to help you.
Deola Kayode: With several leaks and outbursts on Twitter by celebrities, with one another and with their fans, has social media exposed the limitations of our artistes or strengthened their popularity ?
Uduak Oduok: I think it has done both. For many, it has really diluted their brands and makes them seem like they really lack self-control. For others, it has even affected caused sponsors to pull out, a very bad situation. Nevertheless, a few have been able to pick themselves up after an outburst, apologize to the public and gain more following. Overall, talents need to “think” before they share on social media. Brands should also protect their investments, especially in the case of endorsement deals, with a morals clause that delineates acceptable conduct on social media and what is unacceptable and will undermine the purpose of the endorsement deal, therefore permitting immediate termination of any endorsement deals.
Deola Kayode: Ok unto another question. With the emergence of start-ups like Iroking, Spinlet, My Music, hoping to take advantage of the move towards digital music. Is the connected African ready for that yet?
Uduak Oduok: I believe so. Africans in the diaspora have certainly shown they are. Africans on the continent need just more education and awareness of these brands, how their services work and what is the added value of doing things the new way versus the old way. There is still the debate whether digital rights management (DRM) of content helps curb piracy or inconveniences the customer. Most digital companies stated above believe it helps curb piracy. To that end, they need to carry a lot of weight in also educating the public and providing incentives for a shift in the mentality of Africans. But, yes, I do believe the connected African is ready for the likes of Spinlet et al.
Deola Kayode: Our fashion and music is gradually making incursions into the Western world and we are already getting some attention from the global space. Is the future promising yet or we still have a long way to go?
Uduak Oduok: I think the initial fashion and entertainment revolution spent more time de-stigmatizing the image of Africans in the West. We wanted to say we are just as smart, we are not as primitive and do not live in the dark ages. I think Africans now control their own narrative and do not feel as much of a need to make that point. The focus is now on monetization of our content. Do we have a long way to go, yes. But we have made some significant strides.
Deola Kayode: Any final words of advice for African creative entrepreneurs on the rise?
Uduak Oduok: Know your values and don’t’ compromise them,
trust that you can do it, believe in yourself and go for it.
Deola Kayode: You’ve been fantastic Uduak! Thank you for your time.
Uduak Oduok: It’s been a pleasure!