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Artistes’ royalties ‘to shoot up soon’

By - Austine Okande and Mkala Mwangesha | October 15th 2012

By Austine Okande and Mkala Mwangesha

Regarded as a musical hub in East and Central Africa, Kenya is host to some of the most diverse and ingenious musical genres in the region.

On the flip side, the music industry has for a long time been a loss-making venture, with most artistes opting for alternative careers, while the few diehards who choose to remain in the industry languish in poverty.

This is attributed to systemsic failure in institutions charged with the responsibility of enforcing Copyright Acts as stipulated in the Constitution.

According to John Okinyi, a renowned Benga musician who is also popularly referred to as Osogo Winyo, the Music Copy Rights Society of Kenya (MCSK), the umbrella body charged with the responsibility of revenue collection in form of royalties and curbing privacy in the country has been a toothless dog.

Foreign content

To redress the matter that has impeded growth, MCSK has resolved to change tact. 

“Over the past one year MCSK has been engaged in consultative meetings with local and international music consumers. Being the body mandated to protect the welfare of artists, we will be adjusting licensing regime and tariffs in the country,” says Maurice Okoth, the MCSK Chief Executive Officer.

While welcoming the new tariffs and licensing rates, Hubert Nakitare, a popular genge musician going by the stage name Nonini says if implemented, such a move would revolutionise the Kenyan music industry.

“This will see artistes earn their rightful dues and help change perceptions in many people who do not regard music as a profession,” he adds.

Qritical, a Mombasa performing who recently relocated to Nairobi says the move is in the right direction.

“For a long time, artistes have had to endure hardship and low returns from event organisers and fraudulent managers who swindle them of the little cash they earn from performance,” he says.

Show rates for musicians vary, based on one’s popularity. Some artistes earn as little as Sh5,000 per show while big wigs in the showbiz earn up to Sh75,000 per show.

“For more than eight years, MCSK has been charging a flat rate of Sh24,000 and Sh72,000 per month to the radio and television stations as the broadcast tariff respectively,” says Francis Amisi, popularly known as Frasha of the P-Unit music group.

Artistes have been complaining that with MCSK taking 30 per cent of the total sum collected for administration purposes, the remaining 70 per cent is to be shared among local and international artists whose songs were played in the same period. They say they end up getting peanuts.

Unfortunately, local stations dwell so much on foreign content.

“The fact that almost all broadcast stations play a lot of music from the North American pop or hip pop in their daily music rotation, MCSK ends up remitting most of the revenue collected as royalties to foreign artistes,” argues Joe Murimi, the advertising manager MCSK.

He advocates for more local content if artistes are to make more money.

“The proposed adjustment in broadcasting tariffs will see media houses charged more for the audio and visual content broadcast. An amount in percentage will be computed by referring to the broadcaster’s net revenue,” says Mr Murimi.

Mobile and smart phones

Giving a global perspective is the International Confederation of Societies for Composers and Authors (CISAC) director of African affairs, Rob Hoier. He posits that charging a percentage sum by referring to the income of the broadcaster is a standard procedure applied in major economies across the world.

Owing to the relatively high penetration of mobile phone related technology and smart phones in the country, online distribution is a booming business.

Hollow promises

“To reap millions unaccounted in downloads, MCSK will also be charging for both reproduction and performing rights to mobile telephone companies and any other parties that offer music as downloads in their services. The notice has already been effected,” says DNA, a local musician.

Justifying these adjustments is prolific singer and vocalist, Cecilia Wairimu also known as Amani. She says like all other ordinary Kenyans, she is grappling with the adverse effects of skyrocketing inflation.

“The cost of music production has shot through the roof. We should obtain maximum value from our sweat,” she adds.

Victor Otieno, a Kisumu artist points out that unless copyright laws in the country are fully enforced, most of these promises will remain hollow.

Mr Okoth affirms MCSK intends to raise Sh382 million in the current financial year. Revenues are projected to hit the half billion mark once the adjustments take full course on 1 January 2013.

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