I think Steph Kapela should have stuck with Atwal Music. I’m at the airport and I’ve just missed my flight., so I have some time to pass till the next one. My mind is always quick to entertain me with cynical thoughts and random guesses about the lives of the strangers around me, but only thing is on my mind at this point, that post that Steph Kapela made announcing his split from Atwal Music.
It read something like:
“There’s no denying Atwal’s talent and ear for great production and engineering, he continues to set the bar for the Kenyan Music Industry and elevating the standards of great sonics. Being great however sometimes comes with a great deal of hubris and ego, which in Atwal’s case drives him to lack empathy and a true desire for fair collaboration. After months of stress and duress, back and forth wrangling our musical relationship is over. I’m out.” (Read full post at the end)
Now don’t get me wrong, I definitely do not vouch for Atwal’s alleged ego and self-importance. In fact, I’ve never met the guy. On top of that, every conversation I have about him, with people who have met him, always involves some shade thrown about his colossal ego. So I am talking from a very objective view(arguably). I am also viewing it from an outsider’s perspective, so as much as I may not have the full picture, I have enough information to form an opinion.
Most of my arguments are usually based on the bigger picture and so I will start there. Let’s take a trip to 5 years in the future. When you look back at the scene on this very year, what do you think are some of the highlights that you would definitely say shaped the culture? If you would be sitting on bar stool somewhere with your friends talking about this period of time, what names would pop up? What songs would take you back to this magical year? I can guarantee you that some of the names will be the likes of EA Wave, Tunji, Camp Mulla, Shrap etc By leaving Atwal Music, Steph Kapela has greatly reduced the chances of being in that conversation.
Steph Kapela and Atwal Music was the match made in heaven that we all needed. Not many people knew Steph Kapella before he joined Atwal Music. Likewise, not many people knew Atwal Music before Steph Kapella joined them. Just with that split, one of the most promising acts may just fizzle away from our memories.
First of all, Atwal, who is an amazing producer, no one will want to sign with him again. We’re talking about probably the best quality music in the scene, second only to Supersonic Studios. This guy knows his shit. Sonically, he brought something that scene lacked; world class mixing and mastering. He challenged the bedroom producer who, however artsy their music was, was not high fidelity enough to compete on a global scale. That’s what Steph left behind, and in effect robbed the scene of that high quality finished product we were just getting used to.
On top of the music that they made, which was great, the duo brought something even bigger to the picture. They created a bridge to a wider crowd that the scene is struggling to reach out to. I’m talking about the music lovers who are not hippy enough to go to those bourgeois events at Alchemist. The music lovers who are not hippy enough to rock a Bongosawa tee. The music lovers who love music just as much as the people who are more privy to the scene, which to be honest is a bit close-knit. The music lovers who are not friends to the artistes, because let’s face it, most #nunairobi fans are actively involved in the scene as creators, directly or indirectly. Steph and Atwal broke that ceiling, drawing wider crowds to the party, something that would have a ripple effect and uplift even more artistes. Key word: would have, the saddest phrase in human language.
Finally, I will talk about a specific part of the post:
“I signed to make money, not to have every single shilling that I have generated (from shows, sales, merchandise, collabos, and royalties) recouped to cater for debt that was racked up without my knowledge nor consent.”
This is rather disappointing to hear from an artist in this generation. Signing a music deal automatically puts you in debt. Why? First of all, the label caters for recording time. Recording time is not free. The label caters for mixing and mastering, not free. The label caters for mainstream promotion, which Atwal Music was good at. Promotion is not free. Graphic designs, artworks, music videos, promotional videos; all these things are NOT FREE. All you have to do as an artiste is create and show up. Sometimes, the label in helps in the creation process. All these things will have to be repayed and the NET profit is split. Now, realistically in the current industry, you cannot expect to be profitable and make money from just a few singles, which is why I think if Steph would’ve stayed, he would have ended up a very rich man.
It is going to be extremely hard for Steph to find another label which will believe in him as much, and worse, which will have the resources he enjoyed at Atwal Music. On the other hand, I think it will be extremely hard for Atwal Music to find another artiste at all. Both of them made mistakes, however, with a good lawyer, some tough boardroom meetings and some bluffs, I think Steph would’ve negotiated a better deal, and Atwal would curve, eventually rethinking his ego. A Facebook rant was not ideal in this scenario, it was immature.
That being said, I wish them all the best.
Here is the full post:
*Long post alert*
There’s no denying Atwal’s talent and ear for great production and engineering, he continues to set the bar for the Kenyan Music Industry and elevating the standards of great sonics. Being great however sometimes comes with a great deal of hubris and ego, which in Atwal’s case drives him to lack empathy and a true desire for fair collaboration. After months of stress and duress, back and forth wrangling our musical relationship is over. I’m out.
I signed to work with Atwal Music, not for Atwal.
I signed to make great music, not to be bullied into signing away all ownership rights to music that I create.
I signed to expand my platform and social media reach not to have my social media accounts confiscated without notice
I signed to make money, not to have every single shilling that I have generated (from shows, sales, merchandise, collabos, and royalties) recouped to cater for debt that was racked up without my knowledge nor consent.
I signed to unleash my creativity not give up creative control.
I signed to open doors so that I could grow, not to be limited by someone else’s pride and need for complete control and obedience.
When a label signs an unknown upcoming artist, it is because they believe in his/her talent, consistency in putting out great content and marketability. They’re willing to spend a lot of resources to make this happen because they know down the road it will be very profitable. But when the label requires the artist to contribute a sizable amount of time and money into that process (that’s right, no advance, instead I put money in), knowing damn well they’re keeping 100% of all income the artist is generating, how do they expect the artist to do it? It’s simple math, you cannot take all the money and be mad that he/she can’t give you more.
When all’s said and done, Atwal isn’t like Birdman Baby Williams (CMB CEO) he’s worse. He wants to own it all, your hard work, creativity, ideas, etc. He wants everything and I mean everything to be his way, his standard of quality is the only one that counts, his interpretation of great content is the only one that matters. Many people we have worked with can attest to this, including some of your favorite videographers, photographers, radio hosts, producers, artists etc. To anybody that’s considering signing with Atwal Music, now you know.
The above post are all in tune with the writer’s opinion and do not in any way reflect blackdiversity 254’s stand.