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Royalty? Not for our artistes

With the unending royalty wars still ongoing, and battle for industry top dogs continuing, artistes are paying the price, Manuel Ntoyai writes

Last Friday, members drawn from the three Collective Management Organisations (CMOs); Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK), Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP) and Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK) held peaceful demonstrations where they petitioned several high-ranking government officials on a bill titled, Kenya Music Council. The three CMOs claim if the bill goes through, it will be a complete disregard of the core of the music bodies.

The nitty gritty

According to MCSK Chairman, Bernard Mukaisi, the CMOs are member bodies whose sole purpose is to serve their members through collection and distribution of royalties. “The members of the three CMOs whose rights are administered by organisations have neither been consulted nor included in the formation of this bill, which is unacceptable considering it is those same rights that the council proposes to administer,” he stated.

According to MCSK Nairobi region director Henry Njenga, the CMOs have been facing challenges being mounted by the Premium Rate Service Providers (PRSPs), some of which are owned by members in the government. “When we won against them, it was a big blow. They were enjoying the fruits of artistes labour without fairly compensating the creators of the works.

Change of the status quo caused unrest amongst the bigwigs. It is because of this they are pushing for the music council to be established,” he added. The long feud between music bodies comes as a section of artistes claiming that they have had enough of the CMOs, especially MCSK, which they accuse of mismanaging their welfare.

Last week, a number of artistes came together under the umbrella of the newly-proposed Kenya Secular and Gospel Federation, and are hoping to recruit members also fed up with the manner in which the CMOs are being run. Already, lobbying for the new bill has begun and a delegation has visited Sports, Culture and Arts CS, Hassan Wario, and presented the bill.

This is not the first time that the CS has received a music policy document. Last year, at a pompous ceremony held at a city hotel, the National Music Draft policy was presented by key stakeholders in the music industry. This was lauded by many who saw the act as some light at the end of the tunnel.

The battle rages on

“Our artistes are losing millions of shillings to piracy and this costs the economy. Piracy is our greatest challenge, but it must come to an end now. It’s a good thing that the music policy has finally been launched, but I wonder why it took 10 years to finalise a 34-page document.

To reinforce the importance and our commitment to the music industry, we are going to the next step of drafting a music bill, which we shall then present to parliament,” he said on that day. Among the changes being proposed in the bill include establishment of the National Institute of Music to spearhead the development and exposure of music talent.

The music council will also coordinate in consultation with the Communication Authority of Kenya the progressive implementation of the 60 per cent quota of the airtime for the Kenya music in all the national broadcasting stations.

But why would the right holders cry foul?

“It is a fact that some artistes have had their silence bought. When they make noise and create some little unrest, they are usually bought off and given a huge cheque to either convince others to keep quiet or simply join the establishment,” an artiste seeking anonymity told Spice.

Sometime back, Elani publicly made complains about royalties. They had received only Sh31,000 for their work. Lingala ya Yesu hitmaker, Pitson, received Sh5,000 while recently rapper Abbas astonishingly got Sh89. But changes seems to be in the offing on the Skiza Tune deal.

Previously, Safaricom would get 85 per cent of Skiza money, with PRSPs and artistes having to subdivide the remaining 15 per cent. This would leave the right holder (artiste) with 7.5 per cent of the earnings.

Under the new Skiza deal, 80 per cent, the artiste getting 15 per cent while the PRSPs whose role is now content acquisition will walk home with 5 per cent. Currently, Skiza rates in about Sh152 million, which is being distributed in three phases, with hopes that more negotiations will see artistes smile after putting in the hard work.

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