I’m with MCSK on this one, DJs need to pay to play

Saturday November 17 2012

By PHILIP MWANIKI

My take on this whole DJ saga is simple. Pay for play.

Look, it is pretty simple here, you do promote artistes, that’s a fact and a good one but here’s something you didn’t know: without the artistes, you wouldn’t have a job.

All I hear is DJs are the bridge between the artistes and the fans and, while that is true, if there was no music, what would they play? Would they be DJs in the first place?

Here’s why I agree with MCSK and heaven knows I rarely side with them -- what with their accountability issues and artistes saying they never get paid and, when they do, it is peanuts.

When Nonini spends thousands of shillings to record his song, a DJ is just chilling waiting “to introduce the song to the club” and Nonini, knowing their value, will make many copies and hand them to as many DJs as possible and he will give them three versions of the song, the full song, an acapella version and the track.

Those three are to help a DJ use his own creativity and come up with different versions for his audience. But here is where it takes a business turn. The DJ, who is paid to play the song and whatnot will then make his own mix and sell it or give it for free to his fans to promote himself.

This promotion is based on somebody else’s work and money and you want to take that and further your career for free? Come on.

Because of the technicalities of live performances, not many can afford to pay Daddy Owen say Sh100,000 to perform but they will pay a DJ Sh30,000 or less to come and play his songs and while the club pays a MCSK a fee for a year, it is peanuts.

Back in the day and you can ask people like DJ Pinye, DJs used to pay some sort of a fee to operate and I have no idea why this is a big issue. I think I have a theory.

The new age DJs, possibly not all, are used to free stuff. They now download music for free online, they play the music for free in weddings and clubs, make their own mixes which they then sell for Sh200.

Now, these kids never pay taxes and they are paid cash after their performances. Now, when you show up and ask them to pay, they go ballistic and they start issuing threats.

Call DJ Adrian and ask him about his music collection, about his hundreds of vinyls he is famed for. He bought them and still does so he invests on his craft and now he has to work with a generation that gets their music for free.

I was at a DJ convention where an upcoming DJ shamelessly asked Pinye and Adrian to “share their collections with them”. You should have seen their faces and reaction, it was the kind you give a man peeing on the side of the road. They bought their music but you want them to share?

This new generation needs to understand responsibility and paying up will be a good way to regulate the industry.

Anybody with a computer can now download music for free, mix it up and sell to every matatu in Nairobi and make a lot of money.

That is good and I applaud that kind of entrepreneurship but nothing comes for free.

If you play in an establishment that is licensed, MCSK will not have a problem with you but you will be called for a house party or a wedding reception and you will not have a licence and the good folks at MCSK will just happen to stop by and it is then you will find yourself in a mix and no amount of “Ikibamba sana wapi nduru” will save you.

It’s a new age, you depend on the services and talent of an artiste who has used his resources to give you work and you think you can just walk away? You are mixed up.