No hitting the decks until…
Kenyan DJs are disturbed by pronouncements from the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) on licensing demands, a section of DJs have resolved to take Kenyan music off their playlists until fees imposed on them are scrapped. EMMANUEL NTOYAI writes
The scuffle between DJs and Collective Management Organisations (CMOs) has been a ticking bomb, whose treatment has always been hushing up problems arising, but never solved.
A couple of years ago, artistes and DJs went for each others jugular, with the former accusing the latter of playing more foreign music than local, hence the hash tag, #PlayKeMusic.
The issue escalated for a while, with DJs threatening to not only delete Kenyan music from their hard drives, but also stop playing it in clubs, where they rule supreme.
Sober heads realised that an eye for an eye will only leave all but blind. They put out the flames, with a series of meetings between artistes, djs and the CMO, under the watchful eyes of Kenya Copyright Board (Kecobo).
One of the deliverables were reduction of the licensing fee from Sh18000 to Sh10,000 per year.
In the case of public performance in the traditional sense (in an unlicensed venue, no streaming), a deejay would be required to pay for a license from a CMO.
The licence requirement applies to Deejays who are not attached to licenced business premises.
Deejays who perform at a venue that has obtained their CMO licence are not required to pay.
The fee is payable per gig/event or annual licence. The tariff fee for deejays performance is Sh10000 annually or shs750 per event payable to the CMO joint license.
Recently when Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) reiterated its stance on this, DJs were up in arms.
They cited the corona pandemic as a major stumbling block, saying they had been forced to seek alternative ways to put food on the table for their families.
CMOs had backtracked on the issue of payment of licences, especially for streaming.
“DJs have lost their jobs since clubs were closed due to Covid-19. Most haven’t paid rent for months and getting a meal in a day is hectic. The live mixes DJ’s are doing are just to lighten up demoralised Kenyans locked up in their houses by the curfew.
“Unknown to many, behind the DJ there is a whole crew of technical people that include the cameraman and the social media controller during the live mix,” says DJ Patchez.
Patchezs says asking his colleagues for payment is not practical and if the economic situation changes, then they will have no issue with paying for the licence.
“ If we were working normally, guys would have to problem adhering to this, but again, even for those who comply in getting the joint license, we still have to put disclaimers on our posts that the music is for promotional purposes only.
Earlier, KECOBO CEO Edward Sigei had clarified that deejays who would like to stream their performance, were subject to terms and conditions of the platform wished to use.
Already a Facebook partnership with International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement resulted in the launch of #AfricaTogether, a two day concert to entertain people across Sub Sahara Africa during the pandemic.
DJ Sid of Red Berry EXP, an events company, says they have also partnered with Luxx club and Grip Music to change the space, transforming it to a visual recording studio which offers live streaming solutions to creatives and also pre-recorded material which they later run on social media platforms.
“ We think clubs will be the last places to open and might remain closed until late this year so to keep the space active, we’ve offered live streaming solutions to tones of deejays and enhanced their performances by incorporating special effects and custom lighting system,” he says.
DJ Sid says that DJs should take time to learn intellectual property rights since most conversations surrounding copyright issues are not taken serious by the creative industry.
“When we saw that, we took sometime and educated ourselves on Copyright laws and to be honest DJs make money out of someone’s work but this doesn’t just benefit the DJs because they play an important part in the ecosystem,” he adds.
Part of the troubles facing the DJ industry has been blamed at lack of an association to represent the body.
“ We have never had a professional representation of the DJs where through it, they can fully represent the DJs and air their concerns on the licenses, not that it hasn’t been done but from my own opinion they go off track along the way.
“The same team could establish a mutually benefiting agreement that will give value to the artiste and may be not require the DJ to pay for licenses.
For those streaming live for financial gains then its fair to give part of that to the artiste,” he states.