Citizen TV’s online entertainment site E-Daily set Kenyan Twitter on fire recently. If you’ve been living under a rock (given quarantine and all), the site published an article stating; the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) views live DJ concerts as illegal and that DJs need a license to partake in the concerts. Yikes! You can already tell the kind of responses that tweeted article got.
However, I think the headline was clickbait and the article needed some elaboration. Paul Kaindo, an advocate of KECOBO, told E-Daily, “using someone else’s content (in this case music) for personal financial gain is illegal and enough grounds for a lawsuit”.
The issue of royalty remittance
We have seen DJs requesting fans to contribute some money via MPesa paybills for the virtual performances. Even though it’s just a token of appreciation from fans, are the musicians whose songs are being used in the mixtapes getting a cut of the same money?
In music industries that are well developed such as the USA, DJs are expected to pay artists even for virtual performances. This can be in the form of a digital radio broadcast and in this case, a virtual concert. In Kenya, however, DJs are viewed more as amplifiers of music and not really as financial contributors to the artists.
Licensing virtual performances
Mr Kaindo further stated that, “DJs need to apply for 2 licenses- a special broadcast licence and a public performance licence-in order to conduct their livestreams”. Sounds crazy right? I know, how can KECOBO or any collective management organization (CMO) surely monitor international social media platforms?
The Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK), through the Operations Director, Paul Enyenze, further stated that the licence would go for a flat rate of Ksh 200,000 if they’re not earning but a cut would have to be taken if they are earning.
MCSK and KECOBO are earnest in their goal to protect local artists but their way of going about it is wrong. First of all, the flat rate is way too high by any sensible means. Secondly, MCSK has had issues of not remitting the actual royalties to artists. Remember when they paid out peanuts to artists and got roasted for it?
Personal responsibility vs Regulation
But now the question is; should DJs be making money off artists without paying them anything? Just as Mr Kaindo said, if the DJs have consent from the artists for them to play their music and make money, then that’s fine. However, we know that’s not the reality.
The Kenyan music industry is broken and thus the perpetual challenges of royalty remittance. Pre-COVID, CMOs would charge DJs broadcast and performance fees when they perform in physical locations but the situation has changed.
And the other problem is, even if the CMOs charge DJs, the money rarely goes back to the artists so it is still a lose-lose situation.
What’s your take on this? Who’s getting the short end of the stick; DJs or artists? And what’s the way forward?