We have all watched the video released by Elani #ElaniSpeaks a few days ago. There are a few issues I would love to blog about that came out in the video. However, for Part 1, I will start with the always controversial topic: Royalties and Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK).
Anyone who follows the music scene in Kenya knows without a doubt that there are a number of artists in their individual capacities who have declared their unhappiness with this Collective Management Organization (CMO). There have been a number of members of MCSK (Composers, Authors, Arrangers and Publishers) who have raised numerous complaints. However, these complaints have developed a trait of temporality. They never stick.
Let us dissect procedure and approach, shall we? I am curious to know how many members of MCSK have read the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the company, the Disciplinary Rules, Distribution Rules and any other rules that may have been passed by members. I am also curious to know how many diligently attend the AGMs and have exercised their right to vote. How can one purport to know what is going on with an institution unless they are involved? Being in the music business involves undertaking the not so glamorous tasks like attending a CMO AGM, researching on matters you are about to vote on and exercising your right to vote at any level, among other administrative roles.
This blog post is not about taking sides but about attacking problems with strategy. If artists attended the AGMs, they would be able to assess the books and ask relevant questions; they would be in the know about the procedures, protocols, tariffs, you name it. If they attended the AGMs they would also be in the know about which broadcasters have not complied and find solutions to ensure they pay their licensing fees. Having worked in the CMO fraternity, I am aware that to date they struggle with broadcaster non-compliance. How many members can name the broadcasting houses that remit license monies to their respective CMOs (MCSK, KAMP, PRISK)? How many can name the types of licenses that should be taken out from these CMOs? How many are aware of the formulas used to distribute these license fees and revenues collected as royalties to members?
The issue of proactive membership aside! When one is alleging corruption or lack of performance on any person or entity, tangible proof is a must. The approach that most artists have taken to air their grievances against MCSK has been rather careless. When one is putting forward an allegation they need to have formal proof; documents; emails you name it. The facts also need to be spot on. When you shoot off the hip and expect to gain credibility like what our friend Ringtone did in 2014 on media then you are likely to fail to achieve your mission. Using hearsay to anchor an allegation can be very detrimental to one’s cause as well as put them in the red for defamation claims. Identify your issue and get the evidence to support it.
My two cents is this. Familiarize yourself with the processes and protocols of any organizations you are a member of. When you feel aggrieved, follow the processes provided and document such endevours. Where the processes fail or are compromised, document and seek alternative methods to pursue your cause.
Have we heard of the term “Class Action Suit”? This could be a worthy pursuit for the aggrieved MCSK members. If there is a problem, come together sign a petition and proceed to the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) with your complaints and requests on how to remedy the situation. If that fails then proceed to court. Please remember to have your evidence in hand. A verbal argument “We just know they did x..y..z..” unsupported with tangible evidence will not suffice. There is a maxim in law that states, “He who alleges, must prove.” The ball is in your court dear artists.
Food for thought, as you Artists cry “Government is not doing anything” – What have you done with the resources currently at your disposal to help yourselves? As one of my learned colleagues said, “Step up for music, don’t be just a keyboard warrior.”