After the record company failed to meet their demands, the beat producers have now approached a Durban lawyer to launch a lawsuit.
An ongoing dispute and alleged music theft involving renowned performer Babes Wodumo and her record label, West Ink Records, has highlighted the need for meticulous musical audits by stables outsourcing music productions from producers. Durban-based producers, the Distruction Boyz duo – Thobani “Que” Mgobhozi and Zipho “Goldmax” Mthembu – and their affiliate Woza Sabza, co-produced a beat that was used on Babes Wodumo’s song Intombi Yesgebengu. The beat was allegedly used without the creators’ permission, and they have now sought legal advice.
But the situation could have been avoided had the label carefully perused the metadata and history of the original files of the beat – if unauthorised use was unintentional, says an expert in music production.
“These young producers normally come to me with music. We normally ask for file folders and written consent [from the creator] to make sure that the beat was produced by that person before the music is published. This step is critical because it protects everyone involved,” said the producer, who has been part of the creation of many local hits over 30 years.
Distruction Boyz co-producer and manager Magnificent Tshabalala said he recalled them handing the beat to a mutual acquaintance. That person has access to West Ink Records’ recording studios, a common denominator for both sides. The beat was for other use and was allegedly not distributed on digital platforms.
Tshabalala took a swipe at the stable, accusing it of “stealing” their beat. He felt so aggrieved that he went to a nearby police station, where he tried to report the matter, but was advised to go the legal route because it was a civil issue.
Wearing his management hat, Tshabalala subsequently sent an official demand on behalf of all three co-producers involved in making the beat.
“When we first approached them by email and WhatsApp, they ignored us. So I had to escalate the matter. It’s not like we did not try to talk it out with them first. We still have the original Fruity Loops [music production software] file projects and the metadata of the beat. So they can’t deny that we made it,” Tshabalala said.
Three weeks ago, the producers sent West Ink Records a letter of demand, which City Press has seen, alleging that the stable obtained the music illegally and used it without their consent.
The letter reads in part: “Your artist, Bongekile ‘Babes Wodumo’ Simelane, had released the album Intandokazi on July 24 2020.
Distruction Boyz, and on the behalf of Woza Sabza, would like to enquire about her track titled Intombi Yesgebengu.
“The soundtrack used in the song mentioned above was done by Distruction Boyz and Woza Sabza in June last year. We regret to inform you that Babes Wodumo has been unprofessional by not giving the necessary accreditations as she had promised.
“Hence, we declare this matter to be stealing our beat. To fix this issue, we therefore ask one of two things be done: pay R50 000 for the beat; or pay R10 000 for the beat, in provision for a single track with your artist/s, and which will then be properly credited.”
The record label was given a week to meet the demands, but it failed to do so. Asked what would happen next, Tshabalala said they were now “essentially in the process of suing them for stealing our beat, performing it illegally and not crediting it properly”.
However, the label’s management said they were willing to meet one of the demands – to share ownership of the songs with their accusers by giving them the rights to the beat and keeping the text rights.
This means the producers could get the ownership of the mechanical rights of the song, while the record company keeps ownership of text rights for the lyrics.
West Ink Records manager Sbu Ncube said they had proposed a peace offering to Distruction Boyz – sharing 50% ownership of the song.
Ncube also spoke on behalf of Babes Wodumo and Mampintsha (Mandla Maphumulo) as the company’s artists and performers on the song.
“We offered them half ownership of the song. We suggested that we do a split sheet with them where we will share 50% of the rights to the song. We even told them that if they thought they’d have problems doing the split sheet, we would help them. When we proposed this, they told us they already spoke to a lawyer, who is still to contact us,” Ncube said.
“We offered them their rights and they don’t want to take them. The way they are acting now, it seems as if they want attention using our name,” he said.
A split sheet is a written agreement between creatives involved in the making of a musical recording.
Asked if this meant that West Ink Records acknowledged that the soundtrack was indeed produced by Distruction Boyz and Woza Sabza, Ncube said yes.
According to Ncube, the aggrieved musicians’ demands are coupled with a “lack of the understanding of how the music industry works”.
However, Tshabalala was adamant that they wanted the money mentioned in the demand as well.
The producers have sought legal advice from a Durban-based lawyer, whose name is known to City Press.
“I have an agreement in principle with the gentlemen, but they haven’t signed the power of attorney yet.
“So I think it would be premature to mention my name as I haven’t received formal instructions from them. We have a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, where we will know how we are going to proceed,” said the lawyer.