With the growing need to have artistes earn decently from their craft, excellence is key

Monday, August 2nd, 2021 00:00 |
Dan Aceda.

The Kenyan creative sector has been on the spotlight this week, with cases of money misappropriations hitting the headlines.

When Covid-19 struck the word over, one of the decision the government took was to offer stimulus packages to different sectors.

Locally, President Uhuru Kenyatta instructed the Treasury to release Sh100 million to cushion the creative industry, but fast-forward one year later, the Auditor General has found that Sh48 million of the boom could not be accounted for.

The National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee then summoned the Sports, Culture and Heritage Principal Secretary Joseptha Mukobe to explain the whereabouts of the funds.

The PS revealed that the monies had been wired to state departments namely, the State Department of Culture, the Kenya Film Commission, and the Kenya Museums.

The matter is still under the watchful eyes of the August House members, who want a detailed report on how the payments were done.

While this was happening, a section of Mount Kenya region artistes last week trooped to businessman SK Macharia’s home in Gatanga, Murang’a county, where they met former Premier Raila Odinga, and a legion of other political leaders.

They were allegedly celebrating the removal of the 25 per cent excise duty on call and ring back tunes from the Finance Act by the National Assembly.

However, their move has been labelled a bluff by a section of industry stakeholders.

“One more thing. There’s no tax exemption on Skiza. That’s because Skiza is traded via airtime.

To remove tax on Skiza you have to remove tax on airtime. Serikali just increased that tax last month.

The bathroom is dirty (sic),” benga artiste Dan ‘Chizi’ Aceda posted on Twitter.

Missing millions

At the same time, the Kenya Copyright Board (Kecobo) has cracked the whip on Collective Management Organisations (CMOs), after a three-year forensic audit revealed that the three main CMOs; Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK), Performers Rights Society of Kenya (Prisk) and Kenya Association of Music Producers (Kamp), misappropriated monies meant for artistes.

After the revelations, MCSK chief executive Milcah Kulati has been charged over the fraudulent sale of nine cars belonging to the agency.

As one of the measures to clean the house Kecobo, has initiated the process to revoke the licenses of the three CMOs, after the latter withdrew Sh44 million from various bank accounts meant for distribution as royalties.

One of the main reforms the board has undertaken is the establishment of the National Rights Registry, an ICT system that is integrated to enable creatives upload their work, view and monitor their copyrights.

The portal is open for registration of copyright on nrr.copyright.go.ke. Over 17,000 copyrights have since been registered, with the board dangling the carrot, as there is a current fee waiver on registering.

“Management of the copyright sector in Kenya, which contributes to above five per cent of the Kenyan economy, is on the right trajectory.

Systems have been put in place to right the wrongs and ensure creatives earn what they deserve.

We only need understanding and support from the sector,” Kecobo CEO Edward Sigei told Spice.

Monitoring methods

Unclear is the absence of a scientific method to track actual music plays other than in media stations, which have log sheets—an archaic way of monitoring in the technology age where any sound recordings can be infused with metadata for effective tracing. 

Unlike many countries in the third world, the developed world issues right holders with a 12-character alphanumeric code known as the International Standard Recording Code (ISRC), allowing them to identify and track their recordings.

In the established markets, it is compulsory for every recording set for commercial release to have an ISRC before it is distributed so as to track sales.

While independent artistes or music labels can request for codes, the lack of knowhow on how to acquire them and unavailability of an ISRC agency in South Saharan Africa, other than South Africa, has also worked to the detriment of compliance.

The announcement by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) earlier this month that its Sub-Saharan Africa regional office is now administering the ISRC for the region was therefore a welcome gesture.

This will give the copyright holders an enhanced ability to take control of the use of their recordings and earn what they rightfully deserve, and drive the development of the industry across the region.

IFPI’s Sub-Saharan Africa regional office director Angela Ndambuki says, as the African music sector continues to develop at an incredible pace, there is need to ensure it does so in line with international standards to make it sustainable for the long term.

“Registering for an ISRC is quick, simple and low cost. We’re excited about offering this to music creators in Africa and providing them with the opportunity to control the future use of their recordings on a global scale,” she says.

The 12 digits represent important information about the recording including country of origin, registrants’ code, year and code assigned by rights holder.

Once assigned an ISRC, any sound recording can be uniquely and permanently identified, helping to avoid ambiguity, and simplifying the management of rights when those recordings are used by different services, across borders, or under different licensing deals.

This will push the Kenyan artistes into financial freedom that they only hear or read about.

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