Kenyan musicians have over the years cried foul over the mismanagement of their royalties and dividends. Formed and licensed in 1983, Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) was the sole organisation mandated to collect money from music consumers before distributing it to musicians as royalties.
But could the longest serving collecting management organisation (CMO) be on its deathbed? Its license to collect loyalties on behalf of artistes was recalled last March by the country’s copyright regulator, Kenya Copyright board (Kecobo), over allegations of misappropriation of funds meant to benefit local musicians.
In order to keep business going, the regulator has licensed three other bodies with a mandate to collect royalties and distribute the same to Kenyan musicians.
The three are Kenya Association of Music Producers (Kamp), Performance Rights Society of Kenya (Prisk) and Music Publishers Association of Kenya (Mpake).
According to Mr Edward Sigei, the Kecobo chief executive, the three organisations are the only outfits currently legally mandated to collect royalties from music users for distribution to artistes. The move has, however, created a spat between (Kecobo), the three CMOs and MCSK.
In its latest attempt to get back its license, MCSK took Kecobo to court in Kakamega, which ruled that as issues stand today, today MCSK is refrained from collecting royalties.
For the last one year, MCSK has, therefore, been operating without a licence to collect royalties.
“To improve on efficiency on how to collect the moneys, Kecobo also instructed the three licensed CMOs to work jointly on collecting royalties. Information available with us is that the three have already signed a memorandum of understanding to work together towards that. As a regulator; we want to avoid what MCSK reneged on and to avoid further misappropriation of funds meant for musicians. Through this, Kecobo believes there will be improved efficiency of collection and distributions of money to the pockets of singers,” says Mr Sigei.
When reached for comment, Mr Albert Gacheru, the chairman of the embattled MCSK blamed his organisation’s woes on the newly licensed CMOs and the regulator. Mr Albert Gacheru is a renowned musician.
Royalties, or dividends for artistes, are one of the biggest earners of singers in some developed countries. But, like many other artistes in Africa, Kenyan artistes have been receiving a raw deal compared to those in the developed world with better structures of collecting and distributing royalties.
Such money is collected from music users and distributed to singers at certain specified periods. It might be monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or annually, depending on the arrangement of the CMOs.
Locally, the main music consumers who are supposed to pay royalties, include pubs, restaurants, hotels, public transport vehicles, radio and TV stations or any other public users of music for entertainment.
According to Mr Festus Ngemu, the chairman of Kenya Association of Music Producers, his organisation, just like the other two CMOs, applied to be CMO to the regulator and submitted all information required and were delighted when the regulator approved their licence, which is renewable annually.
He alleges that after working closely with MCSK for some time, he realised that the musical entity derailed from its mandate of assisting musicians and instead started advancing a political agenda, because some people who were not even musicians were registered as members.
Ngemu, a seasoned singer, says that instead of the MCSK engaging in a war of words with other CMOs, it should work towards redeeming its image.
“As collecting management entities, we make application to Kecobo, just like MCSK, and we have no role in determining renewal of licenses. Licenses are given to CMOs after undergoing assessment. Kecobo just wants to streamline the industry,” says Mr Ngemu
Mpake director Bernard Kioko says he is optimistic that 2018 will be great year for local musicians, but only for those who have as registered with the three CMOs.
He says the three have already signed a memorandum of understanding with main local music users — Matatu Owners Association, Pubs, Restaurants and Hotel Owners Association and Media Owners Association — on royalties collection.
“We are delighted that Media Owners Association has agreed to allow us access the logs of music played on both radio and television stations. This will significantly improve our transparency, efficiency and accountability to our members,” says Mr Kioko.
“As collecting bodies, we are required to adhere to the Kecobo regulations, which reflect best practice internationally, that 70 percent of money collected as royalties should be distributed to singers.”
His sentiments are echoed by singer Herbert Nakitare, better known as Nonini, a director at PRISK, one of the CMOs.
“I think licensing several CMOs and working to together to further the interests of musicians is the best thing that has ever happened to the local music industry,” says Nonini.
Separately, in another attempt to improve efficiency, Safaricom has developed a Digital Management Rights platform that came into effect in 2015/2016.
Through this system, ringtone money for musicians used by Safaricom mobile subscribers is monitored and distributed to the owners.
Safaricom introduced Skiza tones in 2009 and it has been one of the major rewarding incomes for musicians.