WE BEG YOU! Sarkodie – Sony Music Deal: Not Another Joke, Please!

He is yet to chalk ten (10) years in the industry as a mainstream artist but Sarkodie has achieved greater things in such a short span, and given the next ten, he is sure to create a bigger and long-lasting legacy in music.

He is the most decorated Ghanaian artist of all time, yes, of all time – annexing major awards across the continent and garnering the most recognition too.

With just days to the release of his highly-anticipated 5th studio album, ‘Highest’ – report making the rounds is that, Sarkodie and his Sarkcess Music imprint have inked a deal with international label, Sony Music UK, for the distribution of the album in the United Kingdom. That is such an awesome piece of news, but not so fast!

While many industry stakeholders and music lovers are tripping over themselves, obviously enthralled by the news, others are not too convinced, considering the fact that, details of the so-called distribution deal are disappointingly scanty and history of the artist and ‘failed’ international connections serves as a constant reminder.

Distribution Deal Is A Big Deal

Sarkodie has been rapping about getting into the Grammys since his debut album and with such a deal, the opportunity to get his music sold and distributed in the UK, gets him closer to that dream, but that’s just one of the many benefits such a deal brings to the table.

Finding a music distributor is crucial if you want to see your album in the interntional shops, whether you’re a band planning to self-release your album or a label trying to get several albums out there. The task of finding music distribution is not always easy, so, if the news of such a deal turns out to be true, then it presents a big step for Sarkcess Music and an opening for all homegrown artists in Ghana.

Sony Music UK, a subsidiary of Sony Music, is a highly recognized international music company, which is one of the “Big Three” record companies, being the second largest after Universal Music Group (UMG) and ahead of Warner Music Group (WMG), with offices in over 30 countries across the world.

If the report of the deal is true, what it means is that, Sony Music UK would distribute the ‘Highest’ album to stores, whether physical or digital, all in the United Kingdom –and with digital becoming the primary format, it can choose to release the album on digital only and bear the huge cost reduction of not having to create physical product.

If the deal includes the distribution in stores of the physical copies of the album, then Sony will copy the album onto CDs or pressing vinyls and have booklets, sleeves and cases made.

Sarkodie – Konvict Deal

The year 2010 was a Sarkodie year, where he achieved some enviable feat as a new artist under Dr. Duncan’s Duncwills Entertainment. He won the ‘New Artist of the Year’ and the ‘Artist of the Year’ awards at the VGMA; the first and only artist to ever make such a mark.

His legend obviously caught the attention of some associates of Akon’s Konvict Music, and in February of that same year, a press conference was organized at Rockstone Office, a senior executive of Konvict, Babs, told the whole nation that Sarkodie was on the label.

Just like the Sony deal, details of that association with Konvict were not forthcoming, but regardless; Sarkodie and his label strategically used the tag of a Konvict-recording artist as a PR arsenal for several years. In fact, in his 2012 hit song ‘Lay Way’, which was produced by JaySo and featured then Konvict-recording artist, Sway – Sarkodie sort of affirmed his connection to the international label.

Sark and Babs at the ‘unveiling’ in 2010

However, in 2013, during a radio interview in Ghana, Akon, Head of Konvict Music, revealed that, Sarkodie was never an artist on the label, albeit he was being considered.

Sark, Babs at ‘unveiling’ of Konvict Africa

Credit to Sarkodie, he rose to the Ghanaian music pedestal without Konvict, but a deal with that label could have catapulted him into international critical acclaim and recognition he’s yearned for all these years. That notwithstanding, the artist and his posse capitalized on a supposed Konvict deal and run a good publicity with it.

This distribution deal could have been struck as far back as 2010, and Sarkodie and his four (4) other albums could have been sold on the international music market.

Sarkodie – Roc Nation Deal

The Ghanaian is indisputably one of the best rap artists in Africa; so, any mention of him by any international record executive raises a stint of hope among his teeming fans and music lovers for a groundbreaking deal.

It was therefore not surprising that a year ago, when an executive with Jay-Z Roc Nation mentioned Sarkodie as one of a few African artists the label was looking at having a working relationship with – news spread fast and wide that, Sarkodie was going to sign to Roc Nation.

In an interview, Briant ‘Bee-High’ Biggs, Director of Mobile Strategies at Roc Nation  said;

“We are going country by country. I’m already talking to Sarkodie in Ghana to do something with him —talking about signing him. I got something in Gambia, Gabon and Senegal. We have it all spread out. Even in South Africa I am grabbing one artist out of there. This will give them proper distribution in the States and make sure that they are getting proper publishing dollars and royalties. So by using our platform that we already built, we are giving them access to everything we have at our office to help them do the same. Build their brands and their companies like we did ours.”

Nothing has been heard of any such deal again, making another potential Sarkodie international deal a mere talk shop!

Why This Sony Deal Is Crucial

Sarkodie will not be the first Ghanaian-based artist to have his works on an international label with a distribution deal; Stonebwoy, Blakk Rasta and Black Prophet are have distribution links with American and Caribbean label, VP Records.

Sarkodie, however, is the biggest of them all; arguably the poster boy for Ghanaian music and such an opening would serve a big trendsetter for the entire industry.

It is crucial that, this Sony deal does not add up to that long list of failed international deals for Sarkodie. It would be extremely disappointing if this also tends out to be another publicity stunt to help promote the ‘Highest’ album. For his sake, this deal should hold true to make nonsense of fable of his inability to land any meaningful international deal.

There’s been talks of Sony Music UK mounting big billboards and other advertorials across the United Kingdom to announce the partnership but that is all talk – for now, as this would put him in such an elevated position to win for his brand, his music and the entire industry.

Strategically, the Sarkcess team is yet to officially confirm or deny the widespread story. Just like the Konvict deal, they are keeping mute and enjoying the hype in pushing an album, solo joints and other ventures.

We sincerely pray that this deal is true and we ready to propagate the good news to all to see how far Ghanaian music have come and how Sarkodie, a talented battle rapper was able to become one of the commercial successes of African music.

Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo (www.entertainmentgh.com)

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