Nigeria

Most entertainers still don’t understand value of industry lawyers —Salami

With over five years of experience as an entertainment lawyer, Tope Salami, in this interview by FAITH ADEOYE, discusses the roles of an entertainment lawyer and his views on the new finance acts.

What role(s) would an entertainment lawyer play in the industry over other lawyers out there?

Well, we should note that an entertainment lawyer possesses requisite skills and knowledge in the field of entertainment law, its procedures and practices, while other lawyers might not possess the skills of an entertainment lawyer. An entertainment lawyer thinks about the talent of his client and the way to convert same to cash-energy though every sustainable means. The possibility of an entertainment lawyer driving his skills in the direction of a creative and entertainment industry generally brings up the distinction between an entertainment lawyer and other lawyers. Trust me, you wont even dare to compare.

The role of an entertainment lawyer amongst other roles include the preservation of creatives talent and making sure same is properly protected and monetized. In all ramification, an entertainment lawyer who knows his onions in the industry is more valuable than any other lawyer. Also remember that creatives are the hardest to deal with.

What types of cases out there make your job necessary in the entertainment industry?

The funny thing is that all cases and activities in the entertainment industry make the job or need for an entertainment lawyer mandatory. Note the word mandatory, not necessary.

These range from contract disputes, licensing of materials of intellectual property, negotiations, enforcement of general rights of creatives, giving proper structure to entertainment outfits, royalty claims, and other numerous forms of transactions in the entertainment industry.

We serve as blueprints to the entertainment industry at large.

Are all entertainers represented by only entertainment lawyers?

No! And generally that’s the  mistake some of our entertainers make. It will be too much of a risk to hand over your entertainment legal portfolio to a non-expert in the business or field. Creatives or entertainment stakeholder that ever got into troubles had lawyers in their team but not entertainment lawyers. There is something distinct about us.

However, I am not ruling out the fact that other lawyerS in other fields can carter for their other legal needs.

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How has entertainment lawyers made the industry better?

In our little way, we have been trying to sanitize the whole industry and preaching the gospel of professionalism. I would not rule out the fact that we still need input from the government in terms of giving us 21st century laws to cater for our 21st century happenings in the industry, Not our archaic laws

 What influenced you studying this particular aspect of law?

Well, as a matter of fact, entertainment law isn’t studied in the university, though from my own little end I have been trying to push certain things to the National Universities Commission. I hope they accept and see the importance of diversification of courses in our Nigerian universities.

So, what influenced me in building an interest and pursuing this aspect of law would be the lack of structure in the industry in all ramifications, the weak/old legal framework and the need to build an industry with that standard difference.  Our Industry is such that is filled with many untapped trillions of naira which need to be tapped into as soon as possible.

Is the publicity out there for your job strong enough?

Publicity is a continuous process. We keep pushing till the gospel reaches all entertainers, investors and those interested in the industry.

How do you convince artistes to ensure they have an entertainment lawyer when they have their management already?

The two positions are different. They don’t even conflict. But generally, convincing artistes has not been easy and things will not be as we all want till entertainers wake up to the realisation that entertainment lawyers are actually helping them see the business side of their craft. You obviously cannot compare our Industry and the need for entertainment lawyers with countries like the USA.

How tedious can your job get and what keeps you going?

Our job is tedious. Late night meetings, trying to catch up with entertainers admist their busy schedule and meeting up with crazy deadlines. It’s tedious but we are coping because we believe nothing good comes easy. The bright future of the industry and the need for survival keep me going.

What’s your take on the new finance acts vis-a-vis entertainment outfits?

The new Finance Act 2020 is a welcome development. It has further increased the ease of doing business in Nigeria and you would agree with me that most of our entertainment outfits are still with the level of startups, safe for a few who are enjoying foreign and governmental partnerships.

Do you think the entertainment industry is enjoying enough attention from the government?

Well,  I hold the view that the Nigerian entertainment industry is not receiving the needed attention from the Federal Government. However, state governments are doing their bit but how far can they go?

The Federal Government needs to realise the prospects in the industry and see it as a national and economic builder. It is our latest crude oil and if care is not taken, the advanced world will milk our industry dry.

Many things are wrong with the industry and the earlier the government intervenes by way of proper legal framework, easier access to loan devoid of connections, etc the better.

I wish our entertainment industry well.

What is your take on the current global pandemic ‘coronavirus’ pandemic vis-à-vis its effect in the entertainment industry?

This is a very unfortunate event in the world and not only would the entertainment industry suffer, other sectors will suffer same fate. The pandemic is already breaking down and crashing the world economy and trust me it might take a while before we all recover.

Most entertainment engagements around the world are currently being cancelled or postponed till the world reclaims its sanity. This will obviously in return affect the economy. Once the economy grinds to a halt, the next thing is a drastic drop in its value.

Generally, I respect the decisions of various  entertainers at this trying time, it shows their level of sensitivity.

Can you tell us a bit about your growing up?

Growing up was just like a conventional way an average Nigerian child grows up. Things were tough, but I thank God for the grace and strength He bestowed upon my father and mother to train myself and my siblings. I graduated from Ikolaba High School and proceeded to the University of Ilorin to study law. After graduating from the University of Ilorin in 2013, I proceeded to the Nigerian Law School and graduated in 2014.

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