Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Give a Salary to the Musician

The Music industry in Malawi continues to be elusive to the main player who matters in the business. The musician is still a beggar even in the face of all the talent, effort, sacrifice and courage to bring something on the music market.
Amongst the culprits that make musicians fail to achieve anything at all is the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation – MBC which loves to play the music from the local artists although they have no money to pay back in form of royalties.
At one point, the Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA) complained that MBC had a debt of K8 million in royalty arrears.
Getting back the money has been tedious, because years on end, so much of similar measure has been tried but the results have always been the same.
Now, I had an opportunity to talk to acting Executive Director for COSOMA Dora Makwinja who impressed me as a woman who knew what she was talking about, in as far as protecting talent is concerned.
She said COSOMA as a body is there to ensure that not only is talent for the artist is protected but that the artist also benefits from his or her endeavour.
As a country, we are yet to be on the road to achieve anything in this aspect because vultures are on the loose to pounce on anything that is on the market which they reproduce and sell while the artist is not even aware of what is happening.
Makwinja has been saying, radio stations have been giving out all sorts of excuses for not paying, ranging from lack of enough human resource to monitor the music that is played on the radios to incompetence of radio presenters to make proper documentation.
While some only play the music and do not document anything, other personalities on our radios would put something on the radio which they will log in the continuity sheet with a different name when it is in fact something else.
You remember a song by Lucky Dube called ‘Think about the Children’ everyone, including radio stations that had in fact the sleeve for the CDs would still call it ‘Born to Suffer’.
The mere misplacement of a title of a track when logging on the continuity sheet has made COSOMA accumulate too much money they do not know where to go with on one hand; on the other hand the musician who should have received the money is not aware and due to frustrations and what s/he thinks is failure, has soaked his souls in Kachasu taking in Mbayani.
Now, COSOMA has partnered with Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) in a new initiative where they will be using an electronic system that will now be able to capture all musical works performed or played on the radio.
Makwinja said they have chosen to partner with ZBS to Pilot the initiative due to the radio’s compliance to hand in their continuity sheets and remitting royalties as required.
COSOMA is championing this initiative in collaboration with the Geneva based UN agent the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO); this is a Geneva based UN specialised agency on intellectual property matters.
WIPO has chosen Malawi to pilot the initiative because of the commendable work COSOMA has been doing over the years.
I do not want to delve on the pros and cons on this one but suffice to say, musicians think they have not been assisted enough by COSOMA, what with propagation of too much fake music on the market that leaves musicians poorer.
But this aside, with the new initiative, we will still get down to where we started from, which is lack of compliance.
You look at an institution like MBC, which run on my tax, there is completely no due regard to willingly remit royalties to COSOMA, don’t mind their insatiable hunger to ride on the music of our artists.
Because what it means is that even with software that has managed to capture the musician who has played a piece of music and all required records that now makes COSOMA ready to pay the musician, you will still find out that institutions like MBC will not comply a bit to give Ceaser what belongs to Ceaser.
In this case would we say the WIPO funded project has assisted Malawi musician in any way? No, I do not think so; we need to do better that this.
It is only when a musician gets a salary for his toils that I would be encouraged to talk highly of all these initiatives and many more to come.
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