Record label was never there for Thami: Shobede's friend tells memorial service

Thami Shobede's life was celebrated at a memorial service held at the Assemblies of God hall in Sandton on Wednesday.
Thami Shobede's life was celebrated at a memorial service held at the Assemblies of God hall in Sandton on Wednesday.
Image: Twitter/TshisaLIVE

“I’m happy everybody is here.”

Those were singer Thami Shobede’s last words to close friend Themba Humana on Monday –  just two days before he died last week.

Humana said Shobede was in high spirits and gave them hope that he will fully recover on the day before he slipped into a coma.

He said on Sunday, Shobede had asked for him to buy him lilies and he did. “He gave us hope that he will be fine. We brought him the flowers on Monday,” Humana recalled.

Humana was speaking at the memorial service for Shobede at the Johannesburg Hall on Thursday.

“Everyone was there and he was happy. Happy that we got him the flowers.”

Shedding light on the depression that is said to have led to Shobede’s death, he blamed most of it on his battle to get out of his contract with his record label Gallo. Shobede signed with Gallo in 2017.

“Thami was a breadwinner; taking care of his two sisters and mother. It happened that when we saw that the situation was getting worse [at hospital] we called Gallo.

“Gallo never responded and was never there for Thami. Thami had a contract with Gallo and wanted to get out of the contract,”  Humana said.

“These are the words [from Gallo] when Thami wanted to get out of the contract ‘We have five years with you and you can’t go anywhere.

“If you want to go anywhere we need between R350k –  R500k on everything we have done for you.’

“I have been to many of Thami’s shows and we never saw Gallo there. Gallo would say, ‘Thami you had a gig, we need 20% from the money you got’.”

“Thami, from whatever he’s getting, he would share the money with his band and management.

“On top of that, he still needed to take care of his sisters and mother.”

Humana said Shobede had never received his royalties pay from Gallo since he signed with them.

However, General Manager of Gallo Rob Cowling has in a statement denied most of the allegations. They said when Shobede was admitted to  hospital, the company’s representative spent the whole day there “lending support and assistance to the family”.

'One of our employees was informed late on Wednesday that Thami was in hospital. There was also a request of assisting to move him to a private facility. We were unclear at the time of the state of his condition but visited the following day', Cowling said.

'A Gallo representative, also a friend of Thami’s, spent the entire day there lending support and assistance to the family'.

Cowling said although Shobede had requested to leave the label, the two parties had reached an agreement afterwards.

“It is true that Thami contacted Gallo requesting to leave but he was still under contract, and after talking to him, we agreed to release a new single with him,” Gallo said.

'He agreed to stay with Gallo and was positive about working again and the new single. The request for any payment is false'.

Humana also said that Shobede has independently recorded a song with DJ Maphorisa and Mlindo The Vocalist. But under contractual agreement, Gallo refused to release the song. He urged Gallo to release the song.

“Thami’s mother doesn’t work. Pay that song for his fans. Thami’s mother needs that money. They need a home. We are begging you,” Humana said.

Artists such as Vusi Nova, Karabo Mogane, Musa Sukwene, Rorisang Thandekiso and Buhle Mda were in attendance.

Shobede will be buried in his hometwon Mtubatuba on Saturday.

Gallo's full statement: 

Following on what was supposed to be a day of remembrance for Thami, Gallo would like to issue a statement regarding some of the allegations thrown out during the memorial service.

It’s unfortunate that it has come to this, but these are the facts

 

Accusation 1 – Gallo issued a media statement and let media know before the family Unfortunately Gallo, as Thami’s record label, was in the public eye and was inundated with media requests for more information Thami was a public figure and it is understandable that people were concerned and looking for answers.

Gallo merely supplied a very brief statement of some facts, and expressly and specifically mentioned that “We don’t have any other specific details or facts at this time, and kindly request that everybody please respect the wishes of Thami’s family who will be issuing a formal statement shortly” .

Accusation 2 - That Gallo only bothered to visit Thami in hospital on the final day.

One of our employees was informed late on Wednesday that Thami was in hospital. There was also a request of assisting to move him to a private facility. We were unclear at the time of the state of his condition but visited the following day.

A Gallo representative, also a friend of Thami’s, spent the entire day there lending support and assistance to the family.

Accusation 3 - Since 2017 Gallo hasn’t paid Thami any royalties It’s easy for those who are not involved in the music industry to get emotional over these matters, when the facts or inner workings are overlooked.

Recordings cost money. Marketing costs money. Video’s cost money. As part of recording contracts there are certain expectations of the record label, and the upfront costs they bear, and also the artist contributes to the risks involved and investment into their career. There are recovery elements involved where income contributes to costs before profits are paid out.

Gallo paid for all recordings and marketing costs upfront. Thami received statements and reports of his incomes and account status and always knew where he stood. If his portion of recording and marketing costs were not yet recovered (“ under recouped”) then he would not receive payment, although that does not mean the income was not recognized and credited to his account.

This included a portion of live performance revenue, as is standard in these types of record deals, although since leaving his booking agent, Gallo did not partake in any of that income.  Any decision to book his own shows was Thami’s decision and we respected that.

In an industry that has moved to digital, streaming generates very little income, unless you are generating millions of listens. This is a global standard not a Gallo standard. If people supported his music more through radio play, purchases and digital, there would be more revenue.

Accusation 4 – Thami wanted to leave Gallo and Gallo said he must pay 300k-500k to “ get out”  of his contract It’s true Thami contacted Gallo requesting to leave but he was still under contract, and after talking to him in fact we agreed to release a new single, which was to be a collaboration with top house artists.

He agreed to stay with Gallo and was positive about working again and the new single. The request for any payment is false.

Accusation 5 – Gallo refused the release of a track featuring Thami and Maphorisa Not true. We encouraged this and actually signed the contract for him to feature on the song on 24 July, 2019 He went into studio and recorded.

It is only because one of the other feature artists, not associated with Gallo,  pulled out of the deal that this hasn’t materialized, and any breach of contract will be handled by the parties concerned accordingly.

Accusation 6 - The family hasn’t received money from Gallo for the memorial or the funeral or “ only R5000”

Firstly, anybody who gives money towards a remembrance should be thanked.

The memorial – was primarily put together by friends, family and Gallo, with support received also from the music industry at large. Funds were raised by Gallo and friends, and interested parties who kindly contributed.

Gallo’s focus was always more on ensuring a funeral and in order to assist in getting Thami a proper burial.

We thank everybody who contributed financially and came forward financially to help.

The funeral in Mtubatuba is going ahead and Gallo is waiting for the next phase of costs for consideration.

There are processes and systems in place and this is assistance and should be appreciated and not seen as an opportunity to attack the record label or its employees.

In closing, it is important for our artists to make sure they have a proper will, succession planning, are registered with relevant societies that have facilities like funeral plans to support our creators, and realize, like all of us, that there will come a time where our loved ones will require a proper send off.

The music industry is bigger than just Gallo and we should be supporting each other. It’s one thing to suddenly support , but let’s support them when they are still alive. Buy their music, stream their songs, play their songs on radio, go to their concerts. This is how we help them, and let’s channel that into remembering and let’s please honor his memory, instead of looking for somewhere to lay blame.

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