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ARTISTS TAKING MUSIC TO SA FOR ROYALTIES

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MBABANE – Local artists are taking their music to South Africa (SA) because they are paid royalties there.

Music royalties is a payment that is received by the rightful owner of the music when their musical work is used. The rights holders can be the composers, lyricists, songwriters and recording artists. When music is played or used on radio stations as well as on television channels artists are supposed to receive royalties as a reward for their craft. However, local artists are not paid royalties yet, thus they take their music to SA-based music rights organisations to counter the challenges faced in the music industry locally.

The most common music rights organisation used by most local artists is South African Music Rights Organisation, popularly known as SAMRO. This is a copyright asset management society established by the South African Copyright Act. It aims at protecting the intellectual property of music creators by licensing music users, collecting licence fees and distributing royalties to music creators. The South African Copyright Act is all about providing copyright owners with exclusive rights such as reproduction of work in copies, prepare derivative works based upon the work as well as distributing copies of the work to the public by sale, transfer of ownership and rental, lease or lending.

Membership

For an artist to upload their music with SAMRO, they need to first apply for membership. In applying for membership the artist has to give few documents that prove ownership of their music. This can be done through accessing the SAMRO website which is samro.org.za and create an application for being a member. Membership application is done online and personal details as well as the name of the artist’s record label are needed. Some of the crucial personal details needed include an identity document (ID) number or passport number, stage name of the artist as well as the artist’s signature. After membership is granted, the artist becomes eligible to upload his music on SAMRO, where they are given an International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) to use in tracking their usage of music. This code also helps the artists if their music is being redistributed somewhere else.  

Local Hip Hop mogul Psycholution said royalties are not the only problem in their line of work, but also relevant structures need to be formed locally to help support and sustain artists. “It is not about getting paid royalties, it’s about having the structures that need to be formed to support the music as an industry and as a business. Unfortunately most of us go to South African Music Rights Organisation, which is all about registering the music  and Capasso, which is responsible for mechanical right of music.

Organisations

All of these are organisations and the thing about it is that they don’t belong to the government, so in Eswatini we don’t really need to be waiting for the government to do anything. The people who are investors in the music as an industry can form these things. “For instance RISA, which is the Recording Industry Of Southern Africa and is responsible for generating the International Standard Recording Code (ISRC), so me and my team are on our way to form something similar to RISA to serve local artists so that they don’t have to go to South Africa to get the ISRC code which is what you use to track your music to get royalties, track your music where it’s being played, where its being distributed and where its being redistributed.

Literally, those are the kind of things that I feel like we need to have in place. The government can then come later to support all these associations in form of budgets,” said the artist. Another local artist, who also chose to be anonymous, commented to say that the current council responsible for the arts industry locally was not showing any interest in addressing their plight, “It is very unfortunate that Eswatini National Council of Arts and Culture just watches from a distance with plans and nothing ever happens but at least from where I’m standing I don’t see anything. I stand to be corrected maybe there was greater things that they do that maybe I’m not aware of.

Associations

“I feel like the power is in us as individual professionals, who are invested in the growth of the music industry and music business in the kingdom to come together and form all of these associations that will support the different pillars that allow the music to be an industry or rather the music industry to function at it optimum.” I’d like to encourage artists to read more and not just to expect royalties from thin air, it’s just does not happen like that. We need all of these structures to work together and I think we are in a better position right now. You can see it in a way that we are less developed in Eswatini but when you look at the flip side of the coin, we are in a great position for us to learn from the people who are ahead of us, tried and tested, we can take everything with a pinch of salt. Obviously customise this towards what we want, which is as an optimum standard in the Kingdom of Eswatini and the context of music, or music industry so we can copy, fix and customise from all of these bodies from composers, authors and publishers association SAMRO,  so we need a lot of education that will  inform our decision making to start working towards building a very strong music industry in the country. Until that happens we can’t just be expecting artists to be paid from thin air.

Where is the money going to come from? We can’t always be blaming the government,” the source said. A source from a reputable local entertainment stable, which has grown its wings extensively in the South African entertainment industry, said it is not only artists who are affected by the issue of royalties but music producers as well. “It is not only artists who are affected but composers, authors and record labels as well.

Royalty

“Basically, the lack of royalty payout deprives artists, composers, authors and record labels the right to derive economic value from their works. This stiffles creativity and innovation as a whole in the country as there is as lack of economic value that flows back to the creators and investors of creative works. It makes it almost impossible for our music industry to be sustainable because the only economic benefit that comes from it becomes performance fees and corporate endorsement which isn’t enough,” said the source. However, he expressed that going to SA as means of getting paid royalties will be hard for many local artists as the industry is already highly competitive in the rainbow nation. “Going to SA won’t help much because how many local artists have the capacity to compete with SA artists in their own market?

Again this is an unsustainable approach. We need to dedicate ourselves to developing our own market. And I don’t mean artists should export their music, they should but we need to develop and own the local market. However, this should not discourage the artists as royalties will provide a more sustainable source of income, it will promote creativity and innovation and will create more capital to be invested in the creation of artistic works ,which will improve the quality of our art and in turn make us more competitive in the global market,” the source said. Eswatini Copyright Society Board Chairman Samkeliso Nxumalo also gave his insights on issue and said, they were for the idea that artists should be getting their royalties paid, but there had been no organisation responsible for the collection of artists’ royalties. “As a local artist myself, along with the other Board members who represent the country’s music and arts associations, we firmly believe that every local artist has the right to earn a royalty dividend for the use of their work, especially in their own country.

Works

Unfortunately, for the longest time Eswatini did not have a Collection Management Organisation (CMO) to help artists licence, monitor and collect royalties for the use of their works.”“It is only this year that the country has begun the process of setting up a CMO to perform this function in the country. The lack of a CMO in the country has left many artists with no other option but to look outside the country for relief. This is totally understandable. An artist, like any other professional has the right to earn a decent living from their work. And if the environment in their own country is not conducive for them to do so, it is understandable that they would look elsewhere.

The lack of a conducive environment for artists to accrue royalties for the use of their work is detrimental to the growth of the local creative industry. It suppresses artistic growth and hinders investment and professional development of the sector. That is why the country has found it necessary to establish a copyright society that will setup the relevant collection ecosystem to facilitate royalty collection and distribution in Eswatini,” Nxumalo said. The Copyright Society Board was created to look into the economic exploitation and commercialisation of the rights of creators of copyright content. The Board has a duty towards the interests of copyright creators.

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