There was a common chorus as musicians and Kenyans converged for the burial of the popular Gikuyu musician John De’Mathew (pictured) on Saturday; that artistes have been getting a very raw deal.
Most of the musicians who rose to speak during the function in Gatanga, Murang’a County, complained they earned peanuts from their work. One of them complained: “We are famous, yes, but that fame does not translate into money.”
Another added: “We are supposed to be millionaires, but we live like paupers.” The bitter truth is that some people have been benefiting more from music than the musicians. This, as President Uhuru Kenyatta rightly pointed out, is absurd.
For a long time, some of the Collecting Societies, the organisations that collect royalties on behalf of artistes, have been suspected of fleecing the musicians. That was the reason Kenya Copyright Board, the industry regulator, declined to licence Music Copyright Society of Kenya in 2017 and 2018 after it failed to account for the monies collected.
Luckily, Uhuru seems to understand well where the problem lies. That’s why he directed the DCI to investigate the Collecting Societies. He also asked that mechanisms be established to ensure broadcasters pay for the music they air and that companies that offer calling tunes services give artistes better terms.
These are good measures if followed through.
The entertainment industry has a huge potential to provide employment for hundreds of talented but jobless youths. This, however, cannot happen when the bulk of artistes’ proceeds end up in the wrong hands.
No one should ever be allowed to call the tune again in so for as artistes’ cash is concerned besides the artistes themselves.
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