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Royalty pains

 Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) CEO Ezekiel Mutua addressing the press in Nakuru on May 18, 2022. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

For two weeks now, nothing has been making a louder buzz in showbiz than the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK).

And if the three-sided X tweet between Cabinet Secretaries Moses Kuria, Aisha Jumwa and MCSK CEO Dr Ezekiel Mutua is anything to go by, it appears the government is more confused than all of us. 

What is worrying is that even the State cannot seem to be able to solve the biggest headache since Kenyan showbiz became lucrative, which ministry or what strategy will be in use to collect and distribute royalties.

While Jumwa seems confident in schooling her colleague about her mandate, Kuria is on a warpath, positioning himself as the true saviour. And Dr. Mutua fell into his path. MCSK announced plans for a virtual Extraordinary General Meeting slated for February 16, 2024, but Kuria is accusing the society of planning to extend the board’s term. 

Dr Mutua, nicknamed the Moral Police, sought to discredit Kuria’s assertions, accusing the CS of being untruthful about his interest in MCSK.

And a few days ago, artistes met and, among many things, accused Dr Mutua of bullying and coercing members for pointing out murky mathematics concerning the distribution of royalties. 

Follow all this smoke and the chickens are almost coming home to roost. 

MCSK, when announcing the distribution of Sh20 million to artistes recently, unintentionally revealed that much more is going everywhere other than artistes’ pockets. 

We can no longer blame the artistes, who have done presser after presser, and protest after another, asking for accountability from not only MCSK but the many CMOs who should be fighting in their corner.

Here is who said what and when: 

February 12, 2024 

Hon. Aisha Jumwa

CS Ministry of Gender, Culture, The Arts and Heritage on her colleague’s overreach.

“I like the zeal of my colleague and friend @HonMosesKuria and in the spirit of one government approach, this opinion is valid. However, my ministry through the State Department of Culture, Arts & Heritage is in charge and is working on streamlining the industry.” 

February 12, 2024

Dr Ezekiel Mutua, CEO of MCSK, on Moses Kuria’s declaration that the government intends to manage CMOs.

“This information is misleading and unfortunate, coming from a CS in Government. Collective Management Organizations (CMO) administer a private property right as per the deeds of assignment given by the members. CMOs are private companies like banks, dealing with private businesses. 

The government cannot purport to do business with a private right. It’s only someone who has no clue how copyright business works who can make such wild claims. Not to mention that CS Moses Kuria is conflicted on the matter as he runs PSRP (Skiza Tunes) company. The matter in question falls under the Department of Culture, the Arts and Heritage and CS’s Kuria comment is therefore out of order.”

February 11, 2024

Hon Moses Kuria CS Ministry of Public Service, Performance and Delivery Management on plans to collect and distribute royalties via E-Citizen.

“The government is spearheading amendments to the Copyright Act to create a government-run Collective Management Organization. All music, copyrights and royalties will be paid through E-citizen. Our artistes will be individually registered. They can view online how much money is collected. Siku 40 za wezi wa jasho ya artists zimeisha.”

February 5, 2024

Nonini, artiste and entrepreneur, on an unverified document in circulation that captured MCSK’s 2023 budget.

“An employee has full medical cover while an artist cannot even afford outpatient pekee! You collect Sh109 million pay staff Sh57 million and distribute Sh10 million to over 16,000 musicians. SMH. Show me an investor who will ever be attracted to this broken-down music industry ecosystem.

The regulator (Kenya Copyright Board) mandates them to distribute 70/30 but up to date that does not happen and Kenya Copyright Board still gives these people a license to operate.” 

January 15, 2024

Dr Mutua, when announcing the distribution of Sh20 million to artistes. 

“We have published new tariffs that have raised the value of music. The government has supported us, we now have new tariffs which were lowered in 2019. We have signed contracts with Google, broadcasters, we have signed with matatus to ensure that artistes do not just sing and go home, they will have something that will enable them to live decent lives,” 

January 2023

Dr Mutua, to Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) when MCSK’s licence request was declined.

“Please take note that MCSK is not currently collecting royalties based on a license from KECOBO but based on the Court of Appeal in Nairobi in Civil Application No. E395 2022 that authorised MCSK to continue collecting royalties until expedited hearing of Civil Appeal No E888 of 2022 which will be set down for hearing in February 2023.”

September 2020

Willy Paul, artiste and entrepreneur.

“It’s so sad that the government has failed to help the artists! Yaani tunaibiwa tu na hawa wazeee MCSK and the rest! We don’t work for you!! Some of us came from nothing like me and here you are, feeding your balls and ovaries with our money!!! Please if you see me, piga corner!!! We demand an explanation, not only that... plus all the money you’ve stolen ama mtajua hamjui!

September 9, 2020

Mutuma Mathiu, then Chairman of KECOBO, on receiving a forensic audit report on MCSK, Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK) and Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP).

“The Kenya Copyright Board is looking at several options in implementations of the results of the audit report – including reference to the Criminal Investigation Department, recovery of lost property and further administrative, policy and structural reforms in the CMO sector, once we receive the mandatory response from the CMOs, thus completing the audit report.”


August 24, 2019

Uhuru Kenyatta, then President, during the burial of John De’Mathew, born John Ng’ang’a Mwangi.

“We know there is a problem in the industry. There is no way you (Collection Management Organisations) can collect about Sh200 million and then say you used 60 per cent (of the amount collected) to collect Sh230 million…

Even on copyright, we see there is a problem. And yesterday I ordered the DCI and EACC to start investigating what is happening over there and see if people are eating money that is not theirs…”

January 21, 2019

Edward Sigei, Executive Director, Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) when giving MCSK a licence to operate. 

“All three CMOs (KAMP, PRISK, MCSK) will be required to distribute at least 70 per cent of the revenue they collect as royalties to their members. They were also required to submit their 2019 budgets to Kecobo before the award of a license to control wastage.”

May 11, 2015

Bernard Mukaisi, then newly-elected Chair of MCSK Board, on his plans for the institution. 

“The Society will now increase the amounts of money it pays out to members out of collections received from Performances in Public Places. The previous amounts distributed using this system was Sh33 million and the new target set by the chairman for the management is Sh100 million. 

These amounts are to be paid out equally to all members of MCSK from the collections in public places. The balance amounts will be paid out using log sheets obtained from broadcasting stations and which are applied to the general distribution.”

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