One of my readers asked me a very important question…Can DJs legitimately sell mix-tapes? The reason I find this a very important question is because, as various professionals try to make it in the entertainment business, the concept of intellectual property is still yet to be fully understood. As a result, the space is characterized by the business approach solely as opposed to a balanced mix of both intellectual property aspects as well as business acumen.
My observation with developing countries, more so, Kenya is that we are a nation of people who enjoy short cuts and we do not want to get entangled in protocol or tedious processes as we like to refer to them.
For a DJ to legitimately sell mix-tapes, ideally, they would need to have consent from the owners of the songs to be featured in his mix tape. These owners could be the composers themselves and in some cases the recording companies who have been assigned publishing rights to the song or songs.
The DJ could approach the song owners individually (whose songs are to feature in the mix-tape), which can be a difficult and tasking route, but can be managed, or they could get licensed through the Collective Management Societies (CMOs), i.e MCSK, KAMP and PRISK. When negotiating these licenses, the DJ and the relevant CMO can agree on the split of percentages to ensure a win-win situation for all parties. Same case if the DJ approaches the individual song owners.
With this, brings the burning question: how will the DJ make money? This is a number crunching game. One’s business acumen will definitely be put to test to achieve financial balance in the realization of profits as well as respecting the law and paying royalties to the relevant song owners.
In my humble observation, I have noticed how hesitant DJs get when they hear this. I still disagree that theirs is just a marketing role and therefore should be exempt from licenses.
It can be argued that either they are not ready to embrace the role intellectual property and its magnitude and the role of CMOs or they are simply trying to run with it and hope that nobody notices it.
There have been several cases in the international spectrum where DJs have been sued by songs owners for engaging in selling mix-tapes without their consent. The legal battle is not worth it. The losses one may incur from court battles and legal fees can and could be the end of your business or career as you know it.
I say, you either do things right, or save yourself the embarrassment. This embarrassment could cost your your business and name; so why risk it?
My suggestion would be, ideally to draft a license agreement to enter with the CMOs and agree on the percentages of sales revenue share and open an account in the name of the mix-tape title where all proceeds of sales are deposited. This will ease the accountability process after you pay the royalties to the CMOs or the song owners directly, in case there are issues of transparency or accountability.
My reasoning may be disqualified as a bit far fetched for a growing economy like ours. However, legally this is how things should run. When a DJ starts making a living off selling music that is not his and does not share the sales revenue generated with the relevant and deserving parties, that revenue is illegal. Such acts will place you in the same category as pirates,
We must start somewhere if we want to forge ahead. Better still, DJs and recording labels, publishing companies and musicians can share a forum and come up with ways that can benefit all parties fairly. Think out of the box and come up with business models that bear win-win situations for all!