Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Singing National Budget

The only singing aspect in this year’s National Budget was how on song Finance Minister Ken Kandodo was explaining a number of measures government hopes will help improve the malaise that has bedeviled our country.
Perhaps the lips have not stopped singing along the zero deficit budget first released by State President Bingu wa Mutharika in his state of the nation address.
Well, I scrutinized the budget in the hope that something somewhere would mention music, musician or the music industry.
There are several issues that I have raised in the past about how the country can embrace the music industry and benefit from it; apparently all my efforts seem to be falling on deaf ears.
We have tried tobacco and we all know what has become of it. We have talked about tourism industry but we seem not to have tourism products. We have talked minerals but we are a kind of country that cannot account for the work done and how much we can rake into our national purse.
I want to try again in the hope that the 2012/2013 budget will have something about music industry.
Let’s say the country wanted to take up tourism as the in thing for the economy; then it would be useless without involving music as tourism deals with national heritage and culture which can not go devoid of music. While you and I can claim that we do not smoke tobacco, at least we can not say the same thing about music.
Everyone, rich or poor, political or apolitical, atheist or believer will not do without music in one way or the other.
Perhaps this explains why after failing to pursue different courses or even getting jobs, the youth resorted to producing musical albums that are more laughable than they are entertaining, educative or informative.
This is the reason I have and will keep on preaching here, that government is supposed to seriously venture into music on several fronts.
The first and primary one would be heavy investment into musical education through the already established technical colleges.
There for the umpteenth time we can train vocalists, guitarists and all players of instruments. These can be trained alongside studio engineers and producers. There is already marketing courses being offered which can be made with a bias towards music marketing.
The second place of government intervention would be to economically empower institutions like the Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA) to really do its job.
Many musicians that have made music that all and sundry have said are oozing quality have lost revenue through unscrupulous means of bad marketing policies and distribution which expose them to either raw deals or piracy.
The current music distributors are more abusive and exploitative than they are supposed to uplift the musicians. They are a typical example where you find that gluttony in them is red in the teeth and they would complain that they are not profiting anything through the music industry and yet they have been doing it for the last 20 years and are not even ready to jump ship.
Instead of making my mother stop eating her favourite meat offals dish because it is now heavily taxed, finance Minister and team should have settled for realistic avenues of generating more revenue for the country.
You would ask questions like how much does Jamaica rake in revenue through music.
This is how it works in other countries; just last year British musicians saw a 10.7 per cent increase from the public performance of recorded music despite the recession.
According to PPL, the UK music licensing company working on behalf of record companies and perform which had an AGM on June 8, 2011 revenue growth, was mostly down to more countries sending music royalties back to the UK via reciprocal agreements. New Zealand and Jamaica were new this year.
US enjoy worldwide popularity of its music seconded by the UK and only three countries have a net surplus when royalties going in and out are added up.
There is money in licence fee, Public performance income, broadcasting and Online International revenues
Entertainment in Jamaica is a multi-billion dollar industry, and Stanford University study estimates its value to be in the legion of US$350m an annually which is 52.5 roughly billion kwacha. Tax authorities in Jamaica enjoy with such an industry.
The Stanford's Graduate School of Business in June 2005 said Jamaica's Music Industry noted that worldwide sales of reggae recordings in the late 1990s were an estimated US$1.2 billion per year, with approximately 25 per cent or US$300 million flowing to Jamaican musicians, producers, and songwriters.
Next budget let our national budget sing real songs with an allocation to the music industry.
Feedback:drummingpen@columnist.com

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