Royalties collection: Musicians to reap big in new directives

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020 00:00 |
Kenya Association of Music Producers chair Antony Karani (second right), the association’s chief executive Clifford Wefwafwa (second left) and other directors address the press in Nairobi, . Kenya Association of Music Producers announced a Sh33 million royalties payment for its members. Photo/COURTESY

Manuel Ntoyai and Elly Gitau

Royalties collection and distribution has been a thorny issue that has dogged the Kenyan music industry for decades.

In the years gone by, concerted efforts to streamline the collection processes and procedures have bore minimal positive results.

It is in this background that President Uhuru saw it salient to take the matter into his hands in his State of the Nation address speech yesterday at the State House in Mombasa.

He said if the issue pertaining to royalties collection were looked at critically, the multi-billion-shilling music industry would change its fortune for the better.

“Through the harmonisation of the collection process under new tariffs, will see an increase of royalties collected with an estimation of an increase in collections from a previous Sh200 million per year to an estimated Sh2 billion per year, a tenfold increase,” he said.

Uhuru said it was time creatives reaped fruits of their labour in an industry plagued by cartels. He said young people had invested an incredible amount of effort in their art and craft, but were getting low returns from the investment.

He added that progress had been made since the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by industry stakeholders on December 28, 2019, proposing a raft of measures to ensure genuine rights holders were appropriately compensated for their works.

The loopholes

Among the key measures Uhuru has shifted his focus on is the collection and distribution of royalties by the Collective Management Organisations (CMOs), content handling by the Content Service Providers (CSPs) and the copyrights regulation by the Kenya Copyright Board (Kecobo). 

He said: “The current sector structure which comprises of content service providers who work with digital platforms such as Skiza and Viusasa will be eliminated and this is because they sit outside the collection management organisations.”

In August last year, during the burial of Kikuyu benga singer John DeMathew, the President ordered Kecobo to be moved to the ICT ministry, one of the efforts aimed at streamlining the music industry.

Uhuru said artistes continued to languish in poverty despite making millions of shillings through royalties that mostly ended in cartels’ pockets.

“Following numerous complaints from the producers in the industry, I directed the Ministry of ICT to work with all stakeholders to resolve the legacy issues that have plagued rights holders for decades,” he said. 

Yesterday, the President directed the Interior, Tourism and Wildlife and ICT ministries to ensurepublic service vehicles, the hospitality industry and broadcasters meet all their obligations in paying the required tariffs.

He said this would be the basic requirement for renewal of any business licences for the broadcasting houses, matatus, hotels, bars and other such premises.

Varied reactions

Kecobo chief executive Edward Sigei welcomed the President’s directives saying the move would eliminate the unscrupulous middleman, since the CSPs’ trading model was hurting the right owners.

“This is a big plus for us in our efforts to push for better working environment. I thank the President for this move; we will support his call to action to ensure that right holders get their rightful place on the table,” Sigei told People Daily.

The CMOs also lauded President Uhuru’s directives for all digital platforms, including Skiza and Viusasa, to align themselves with the CMOs.

“I want to thank the President for his positive directives for musicians and producers. By channelling all payments of royalties through a single account managed by Kecobo, auditing of the money will be easier. 

“Removing the conditions requiring digital platforms to only work through licensed CSPs will enable musicians to work directly with us, which means good for them,” said Antony Karani, the Kenya Association of Music Producers chairman.

Karani added that Kamp had distributed Sh33 million worth of royalties to its 1,085 members across the country.

However, rapper King Kaka faulted Uhuru’s move, saying by eliminating the current platforms, he had empowered the cartels.

“Our main problem lies at the top; from Kecobo to the CMOs. The cartels have been in existence for decades and will always find new ways of doing things despite of the set regulations,” he said.

Court processes

For many years, endless squabbles between the three CMOs (Kamp, Music Copyright Society of Kenya and Performers Rights Society of Kenya), CSPs such as Skiza and artistes have had to be handled in court.

This has always left artistes in a state of confusion, having to wait for long and tedious court processes, whose outcome has never always been in their favour.

In November last year, the CMOs were allowed by the High Court to implement a Joint Copyright and Related Rights licensing for 60 days.

Justice Fred Ochieng made the decision following the filing of numerous applications by Kisumu Bar Owners in the Kisumu Judicial Review No. 4 of 2019.

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