Unpopular Opinions About Tiwa Savage’s Deal with Universal Music Group

L-R: Joel Katz, Sipho Dlamini, Efe Ogbeni, Adam Granite, Vannessa Amadi-Ogbonna, Sir Lucian Grainge, Tiwa Savage

It is indeed a double season of congratulations for Nigerian music icon Tiwa Savage, who recently hit 2 major milestones; the first being her Universal Music deal and the second, her Star Radler Beer endorsement. These come after her fantastic seven-year run as the first lady of the Mavin family and gems like Once Upon A Time, R.E.D. and Sugarcane all stand as concrete testaments to her now concluded chapter with the label.

This new deal is an exclusive global recording agreement that will have Tiwa Savage’s future music released through Universal Music Group’s operations in more than 60 countries. Her music projects will also be executively produced by Efe Ogbeni (an international music business mogul who has worked with the likes of Akon, Enrique Iglesias, Lady Gaga, Davido etc.) and Vanessa Amadi-Ogbonna (popularly described as a PR machine; has worked with Genevieve Nnaji, Destiny’s Child, Usher, Whitney Houston etc.).

Here’s how Digital Music News describes the basic terms of an exclusive recording agreement (although Tiwa Savage’s contract may contain different conditions depending on her team’s negotiation).

  • The artist is exclusive to the label.
  • The label pays the artist in advance with a signing bonus.
  • The contract is “work for hire”, meaning the label is the “author” and owns all copyrights.
  • The label can have up to two subsequent albums.
  • The label commits to a recording budget for the first and following albums. The money given is dependent on the success of prior albums. The artist keeps any money left over from production.
  • The artist receives a recording royalty.
  • The label gets back the advances and production costs from the artist’s recording royalty.
  • The label has the right to enter into an agreement with a major recording company (often with indie label deals). If this happens, the artist and label split advances and royalties paid by the major.
  • The artist allows the label to use any of their songs in exchange for a “mechanical royalty”
  • The agreement contains fair 360 provisions, based on how much the label contributes to the artist’s success.


Before anything, it is important to stress how wildly deserving Tiwa Savage is of these achievements particularly because of the storms she has had to weather through the course of her career. Show me another Nigerian female artiste who has gone through the motions of marriage, childbirth, a messy scandal and a divorce, and has still managed to retain the same astonishing level of relevance and grace. I will wait.

It is not news that major labels are both popular and notorious for making and breaking outstanding careers in the same breath (or at least, they are rumoured to be), hence the comprehension of the fears that Tiwa’s latest move has planted in the minds of her fans and industry watchers alike.

Worsening these fears, Burna Boy wrote a panic-inducing post on social media about the ills of international deals, barely 24 hours before Tiwa Savage big announcement.

Check This Out: NTBB: Was Burna Boy Referring To Tiwa Savage’s Deal With Universal?(Watch)


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 No one knows for sure if Burna’s statement was directly targeted at Tiwa’s new alliance with Universal (believing that he caught wind of it before the rest of us) or if it was purely coincidental, but, here’s weighing the scope of Tiwa’s deal, while sharing a few unpopular opinions.

What Value Does This Deal Hold For Tiwa Savage and For Universal?

This move to Universal seems to be the befitting next step in the trajectory of Tiwa’s career, as it is the home to front row acts like Drake and Ariana Grande, amongst others. Sony Music already have their hands full with the 2 most sought after Nigerian male artistes and Warner (which technically has Burna Boy via Atlantic Records) is still pitching its regional tents, making Tiwa Savage the perfect cake chunk for Universal Music. In turn, the next few years are expected to hold more global gigs and higher profile endorsements, as well as activities that will see her veer into the global fashion and film industries. While there are no particularly stated criteria for the Tiwa/Universal alliance, it definitely goes beyond her catalogue of hits and the numbers they currently do across major streaming platforms (because if it were, Yemi Alade would probably be the right candidate for this conversation). Her songwriting skills and her prior experience in the global playing field, however, may serve as some of the major scaffolds for this deal.

For Universal, this engagement could also be more of a lighthouse signing than anything else, to make a deeper foray into the African market and its projected potentials.

Nevertheless, it is soothing to know that Tiwa is in the company of seasoned music business veterans-Efe Ogbeni and Vanessa Amadi-Ogbonna, both of whom possess dual vision of the local and global industries and can be trusted to steer this ship in the right and harmless direction.

Will Tiwa Savage Lose her Authenticity?

The word authenticity may be somewhat relative in this context, seeing as one would expect that Tiwa has been drafted to deliver some of the Afrobeat goodness that the world seems to be yearning for. In the event that this is not the absolute case, Tiwa has shown enough fluidity to fit whatever capacity she is expected to perform within. On her Sugarcane EP, she explored a lot more with purer R&B sounds (which make up a large part of her musical foundation) but not without balancing it out with cuts like All Over and the Wizkid assisted Ma Lo. She has also assured her fans that she does not plan to lose herself in the process and that “things” will be much better going forward.

Is This The Ideal Deal For Tiwa Savage?

Yes and No. Yes because:

  • It opens her art up to more resources, better development and a much farther reach,
  • she has now been set upon a platform that will enable her secure more bags if the cards are played right,
  • this experience will deepen her music business knowledge for possible future enterprise,
  • it endorses her as the first Nigerian female artiste to sign a global deal,
  • and this arrangement works as the perfect swansong, helping her transition from a focal artiste into legendary status.

As for why this might not be the greatest deal for her, Tiwa Savage is undoubtedly at the twilight of her career. Having sustained remarkable momentum for nearly a decade (exceeding the projected span of a typical pop act), what are the chances that she would now be able to deliver exceptional results in a youth-driven industry? In a May 2018 interview with Channels TV concerning the arrival of Universal Music in Nigeria, South Africa and Sub Saharan Africa’s Managing Director- Sipho Dlamini mentions that the label is seeking to find the next Tiwa Savage, thereby acknowledging the need for new generation artistes who will drive the streaming future of the global music industry. Tiwa Savage will forever go down in Nigerian music history as a defier of odds, a breaker of stereotypes and one of the best to ever do it, but, is she currently well suited to be the future of Nigerian music business in the global setting?

In the absence of anything else, Tiwa Savage has set the bar very high by being the first Nigerian female act to attain this level of accomplishment and you can bet that all of us at Vibe will be right here in the media galleries, cheering her on, into this new season of greatness.

 Have any thoughts? Please do share with us in the comment section.


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