Listen Up: How to Avoid de Same Mistake
Listen Up is a series of articles focusing on tips and tricks for young artists across all artforms.
It isn’t Crop Over unless there is controversy. And one of this year’s disputes was unlike anything we have ever witnessed. Of course I’m referring to the song mix-up between artistes Nikita, DeeVine, and songwriter Jason “Shaft” Bishop.
A quick recap for the uninformed. Back in May, Nikita kicked off her Crop Over 2017 campaign with “Same Way” – produced by De Red Boyz, and written by Jason “Shaft” Bishop (co-writer credits were attributed to Scott Galt and Michael Hulsmeier (De Red Boyz) and Ms. Browne herself). But there was a problem. “Same Way” had the same exact lyrics as a song previously released two years ago by DeeVine, a UK-based Bajan artiste. Her version, a more down-tempo rendition titled “We De Same,” was produced by Dvinex HSE Studios and written by Jason “Shaft” Bishop.
A song about unity and togetherness was now clouded in confusion and speculation. Did Nikita and De Red Boyz knowingly go and lift another artiste’s song and hoped no one would notice? Or was Nikita such a big fan of DeeVine that she decided to do an updated cover to pay honor to one of her favs? Not quite. As producer Mikey Hulsmeier explained in a Facebook live video, him, his producing partner and the songbird were shafted.
After coming across the song’s demo, Hulsmeier asked Bishop if the song was available. “I made sure and asked him if someone had taken it before, because I know that he has had issues in this area, in the past,” he said. (This allusion could be with regards to, as reported by Loop News, Faith Callender and Dilena Diamond recording and releasing ”Take Me Out” – written by Shaft – one year apart.)
Shaft assured him the song had not been taken. Still, De Red Boyz did their due diligence, just to be sure. After it’s release, Hulsmeier said that “within, let’s say, half and hour, I got a call from Nikita saying we have a problem.”
Clarification On Nikita’s Song ‘Same Way’
Posted by Mike Hulsmeier on Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Shaft subsequently released a statement to explain the situation, saying he simply forgot. Not only was it egregious because it was published in Comic Sans, but it was insulting to DeeVine, because it states that “Shaft did not follow up with her and DeeVine released the song. Shaft was not aware that the song had been released and there was not much traction with it then,” despite him being paid in full for his services. It’s like because DeeVine and her producer didn’t have as much clout and popularity as De Red Boyz and Nikita., it was pushed to the back of his mind despite him receiving payment for it De small man gine always get squeeze. (He did, however, contact her to apologize.)
But in every messy situation, there is always something you can learn from it, and potentially avoid similar missteps in your own career.
The first thing is a basic understanding of music licensing. As per Mikey and Shaft’s statement, legally, he did nothing wrong. He owns 100% of the publishing copyright – which is the composition – and the artistes each own 100% of their masters – which is the sound recording – so he can exploit his publishing however he sees fit. If he wants to take the same lyrics and present them to another artiste and call it “Same One As De Last Two,” he can. They would be free to record it and he would have another stream of income. But, as Mikey said, it is unethical. Especially when you have presented it to another artiste as a new song.
Budding songwriters can learn from Shaft’s biggest mistake and the cause of this whole confusion: forgetfulness. Creatives aren’t usually good at the administrative side of the business, so it is common for a few things to slip their mind. That is why keeping a good system in place to track songs you give to artistes is essential. If you’re not too good at that aspect, have someone do it for you. You’re credibility is at stake here. And mix ups like this are bad for business. People may not trust you going forward.
Artistes and producers working with writers can take a page out of De Red Boyz book and make sure to do your due diligence when presented with material. But also be cautious of working with writers who may have a shady past, no matter how prolific they might be. It is hard, honestly, but make sure to do your research as thoroughly as possible. Because at the end of the day, you’re the face and voice of the song, so the egg would end up on your face, not theirs.
With that being said, however, even though 246Mixtapes is a big advocate of collaboration you can, as Bunji stated, learn to write for yourself, too. It would take a while, but eventually you’ll get the hang of it. In this business, ownership is vital, as it can save you from future headaches like this one.
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