Collecting Royalties from the Decks
Last year around November 13th, there was a fire that was lit on twitter, a fiery discourse between disk jockeys whom we popularly know as DJs and MCSK.
The trouble began to brew when the collective management society Music Copyright of Kenya (MCSK) announced the increase in the Public Performance License that is issued to DJs for the music that they play.
It brought to my attention that a good number of DJs and the public as well do not seem to understand what MCSK’s role is with regards to collection of royalties in Kenya. In a nutshell, MCSK is a registered Collective Management Organization (CMO) mandated under the Copyright Act of Kenya to collect royalties on behalf of the composers, writers,music arrangers and publishers. These named parties have an agreement with MCSK to license music users who use their music for commercial gain and in turn they get paid in form of royalties. This is just a brief introduction, now to the heart of the matter.
The tweets I managed to come across from DJs expressed the fury by them and one of them went to an extent of stating…
“#dearkenyanartists if I were you, I’d find a way to make sure that mcsk doesn’t touch the djs. If they do, kenyan music will die”
5:20 PM – 13 Nov 12
And this got me thinking and trying to get into the shoes of a DJ. The mentality has been that a DJ’s work is to freely promote and publicize a Kenyan artist’s musical works. However, they fail to see that as they play this music, they get to earn money from this music while it’s creators do not even get the opportunity to sniff this money. I think it is rather obvious that a DJ makes their livelihood from this music they claim to promote and market. In my own humble opinion you need the music more because it defines your existence.I want to pose this question to Kenyan DJs, “Do you think it is fair that you make money from the hard sweat of our musicians and complain that you should not be licensed?” Guess what! According to the law, Copyright Act of 2001, you should not be in business as DJ if you are not a licensee. It is illegal. It is stealing!
I do not get what the hullabaloo is anyway yet the licensee fee is charged annually. A once off payment which a majority of DJs are able to recover in two days if not hours. The average DJ in Kenya bags at least Kshs. 20,000 per day. Perhaps MCSK should review and ensure that DJs are licensed per gig; by having a set percentage based on the income generated by a DJ per night. If only the logistics involved were not very complicated! But that should be a move worth considering so that the seriousness of the matter is conveyed.
In addition, the international music played by the same Kenyan DJs who want not to be licensed believe that they have the right to do so for free? Oh wow…you are not serious! The Public Performance license is only for live performance at the club or whatever venue you may be playing at. I want to inform you that this licensee fee collected is also collected on behalf of the international artists. It gets to them through similar CMOs in their respective countries that have signed reciprocal agreements with MCSK.
My friend IP Kenya also did a dissection on this matter and put it forward to the Kenyan DJs why they need to wake up, smell the coffee and obtain an MCSK license. For matters of clarification, this license does not cover the production and vending of mix tapes. That is a whole other kettle of fish. A discussion that will follow soonest.
Mr. Kenyan DJ, I hope you are reading this. I hope that you understand how wrong and illegal it is that you should make money from another man’s intellectual property and want to get away with it in the name of free marketing and promoting. Kenyan music will not die, but your career as a DJ shall be in jeopardy. Because soon, we may move to blacklisting non-registered DJs as a legal measure.
I am simply an advocate of the creative minds and their creative works. Do not hate this content, hate the game. Now there is a new voice in town and the dynamics need to be restored as they should have been from the beginning.
A word of advice to the artists out there, before you dish out your latest single or album to a DJ ask for proof that they are licensed, it is the only way you shall cash in on your hard work. And do refrain from the phrase, “Nichezee hii ngoma unipromote!”- Play my song and promote me. It is working to your detriment. You are showing how you lack seriousness as far as your work is concerned. Make it count and play by the rules.