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System for paying musicians to go digital

By Jacqueline Mahugu | January 25th 2020

Local artistes will enjoy better earnings once the government implements new measures of paying royalties.

Last year, social media was awash with complaints by artistes that they had been short-changed by the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK), when they each received a paltry Sh2,530 in royalties.

Their cry reached President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ears and on January 14, he announced measures aimed at improving the entertainment industry. A major change is to come through the implementation of a new digital system, the National Right Registry, expected to be in place by the end of the month.

The digital monitoring system will ensure more fair pay according to the amount of airplay the individual’s music receives. The involvement of multiple state agencies will also see collections increase by up to 10 times.

The ministry of ICT and Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) will implement the presidential directive.

“A memorandum of understanding has been signed between KECOBO and the three Collective Management Organisations (CMOs), which are Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP), Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK) and MCSK stating how collection, invoicing and payment of royalties will be undertaken through a digital system,” said Edward Sigei, KECOBO’s Executive Director.

Speaking to Saturday Standard, he said that musicians and their work will be uploaded onto the National Right Registry.

“The database will act as the repository of artists and their works and will help in monitoring the usage of the works and will determine the payment for the artists,” he said. Music users will also get their content from that database, which will be managed by KECOBO. The CMOs will be required to mobilise their members to upload their work in the database.

The various players in the industry, who are the CMOs, music users and KECOBO have agreed on the tariffs which will determine how payments will be made. The tariffs will take into account the users input.

Sigei allayed artistes’ worries on accountability regarding the collection of royalties. “The artists should have no reason to worry since the National Rights Registry will be a transparent online system where the regulator will be able to monitor and ensure they are paid for their content which has been used,” he said.

When royalties were distributed last year, every musician got the same amount of Sh2,530 regardless of the amount of airplay their music had received. This time, however, artists will be paid depending on the amount of airplay their music receives, as the system’s digital monitoring mechanism ensures fair distribution. It will also ensure that other contributors such as performers and producers get paid.

“The database will help identify everybody behind the works and pay all involved from the proceeds once received. It will help monetise for purposes of online markets,” he said. “Previously, it was difficult to monetise the work to online markets. When the online markets get the content from the digital platform, it will have the capability of tracking usage of the works.”

Sigei said that artistes will be required to upload their works onto the database and promote it so that it receives air play.  Artists who won’t have registered their works will not benefit from the system.

Collection of royalties is also going to become more aggressive as various state agencies have been tasked with ensuring that it is done the right way. 

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