Music copyright: Denying artistes their just reward criminal
The row pitting the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) on the one hand and artistes on the other is unfortunate as it is depressing.
The genesis of the dispute was sparked after MCSK paid a paltry Sh2,500 to a local artiste, who got livid that his efforts were not paying off and his hard-earned cash was instead ending up in the pockets of individuals least concerned about his welfare. After posting his disappointment online, it emerged that he was not an isolated case.
Artistes, as well as composers and songwriters, have every reason to question how the cash derived from their creativity is spent. The general feeling is that they are holding the short end of the stick, which is a distressing situation.
Given the gusto and enthusiasm with which agents of MCSK go about ripping off music systems in public service vehicles whose owners have not paid their fees, it is surprising that the cash so realised does not end up in their pockets. This must be redressed pronto.
It is noteworthy that MCSK responded fast, clarifying that it distributed royalties to its 13,967 members and that the amounts were uniform, pending royalties from broadcasters.
That notwithstanding, MCSK must move fast to put its house in order. In other words, the information coming from it reminds one of the discordant voices trying to cobble up a semblance of music. It will not work.
The MCSK was in trouble with the authorities two years ago, when the Kenya Copyright Board declined to renew its licence. Clearly, something is amiss and the sooner it is addressed, the better for the music fraternity in the country.
Musicians apply themselves with diligence to come up with appealing creations. This work must be respected. Exploitation cannot be the reward that we hand our artistes for creative endeavour. Further, this sort of endeavour puts the country on the world map with a knock-on effect.
The fact that this is not the first time artistes are crying foul about the fruits of their labour must lead to corrective action being taken.
To illustrate this point, some coastal establishments have threatened to stop playing local music, while some have actually stopped, on grounds that royalties do not benefit musicians. This is imperilling careers, stifling creativity and threatening livelihoods.