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MBABANE - Airplay to earn!

Having your music played on radio can earn you an income, every time your song plays you are owed broadcasting royalties. That is the basic message that is pushed forth by the Copyrights Act that was enacted on March 16, this year, by law to protect the original work of artists. Their main objective is to induce and reward artists through provision of property rights and artist’s works are available for the public to enjoy. For an artist to be paid their royalties (payment which is collected from businesses and broadcasters) they have to register their music but putting in mind that the kingdom lacks the structures that are needed for the artists to be registered. Then came the Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) which was established to regulate the payment of artists in the Kingdom of Eswatini. SAMRO is a copyright asset management society that was established to aid artists, however, it’s situated in South Africa.


The process of registration is challenging, as it is done online and takes longer for local artists. After the registration and application has been confirmed, the organisation can collect royalties from radio stations in southern Africa every time an artists’ song is aired. The artist or their publishing company, if signed to one, collects those royalties from radio stations and distributes them among the songwriter, composer and artist. According to SAMRO One spin of your song on a prominent station in neighboring countries like South Africa earns artists anywhere from R60 –R200 on radio stations like Kfm94.5 or 947. Due to the population of our country we can’t compare the pay to South African stations, because we may have smaller listenership or smaller advertising income. But what are local artists getting for their songs played on Eswatini Broadcasting and Information Services (EBIS)? Has the Copyright Laws in Eswatini taken action on behalf of the artists since Lutfo Dlamini, who is the president of the Eswatini Arts and Music Association (SWAMA) announced that they would soon be enacted in parliament.

‘The Bill has since been passed and is now an Act, meaning that it’s operational and there is a Board that was put in place to push forward the motion of this Act. Radio stations should now be in a position to be able to change their system and make sure that the DJ compiling the playlists is not known to the public, so that the platform is fair to all artists. ‘‘SWAMA has been ready and as the president my goal for the next financial year is to have a budget that is set to aid local artists,’’ said Dlamini.


So the one part of the cycle is in place and what about the other parts? When reached for a comment about the steps Eswatini Broadcasting Information Services (EBIS) has put in place to move forward with the motion of giving artist what’s due to them, the station Director Sabelo Dlamini said; “As a station we are prepared for the council that was placed to notify us when they are ready. For them to actually alert us on budgets that they as a board have in place before much can be done. We also we need to understand that everything is fairly new to the country,” said Dlamini. Chairperson of the Eswatini Copyright board, Samkeliso Nxumalo also spoke on the matter of budgets and whether it was set-up by the board for artists to finally get paid for the songs aired. The chairperson listed the steps that they have put fourth towards making it a reality for local artists;
*   Setting up the Copyright Society Board.
*    Hiring and training of Copyright Society Secretariat.
*    Preparing the environment.
*   Operation which is licensing and collection of royalties.

“It is difficult to answer the question as you have asked, because that is not how we have been established to work as a Collective Management Organisation (CMO). We are not given a budget to allocate to artists as royalties. The people who pay artists are the users of the artists’ works, including radio stations,” said the chairperson. Artists like Mzwandile Nxumalo known to the masses as Psycho Lution is  one the artist who is registered under SAMRO; and has received royalties but only outside of the country. The artist was involved in writing a song for Nomalungelo’s hit ‘Imiyalo’ and it was played on many radio stations in South Africa. The entire composing body managed to get paid through SAMRO from codes they get through the Recording Industry of Southern Africa (RISA) as the artist was registered. With the same song played on our local radio stations, these local stations are encouraged to register with Composers, Authors and Publishers Association (CAPASSO) which deals with mechanical rights and how royalties are spent.

Mechanical referring to the manufactured product. “I have a dream of a time where the artists in the Kingdom are not going to South Africa to register with music bodies there, when Eswatini could have their own,” passionately expressed an artist. The Copyright Act is the one structure in the country that works to aid artists in terms of their rights. In short, the exclusive legal right to sell, publish, reproduce, distribute or perform material of any form is reserved for the artist or producer until the song has been bought. Whether an artist is signed to a label, publishing is money that the label can’t touch, and that is something that a lot of artists don’t seem to know.


Then the challenge with the artists that have this information is that Eswatini hasn’t formed the necessary structures for artists to benefit from their works. This form of payment belongs to the songwriters and publisher of the artist has one, but none of the interviewed artists seemed to know of their work being tallied in this way. A graph has been included in the article to show an estimate of statistics in accordance to the interviewed artists for the article. Other platforms in the country have come up with solutions for artists to actually get money for their work, that they put out even if they are not registered with SAMRO.

Jelele.com is a music store outlet that was designed in the country for artists to sell their music locally and worldwide, while receiving majority of the earnings. Their aim is to put the power in the hands of the creative. ‘‘Our population doesn’t make it possible for you to make sales or streams from the same music platforms that native artists are making a fortune on. We have just created a platform where artists can make music and make money in the same breath,’’ said the Jelele.com Co-founder and current CEO Paul ‘Dr. P Travis.  Radio royalties are a huge potential revenue source for musicians out there however, artists often aren’t diligent about getting the royalties they deserve. It is very important for artists, especially the ones finding their feet in the industry, to understand how royalties are generated and distributed into the market.

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