It’s time artistes got paid for their work

Saturday May 15 2021
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This file photo taken in July 2017 captures a stage presentation of Ugandan musician Joseph Mayanja aka Jose Chameleone. Lifting of the ban on the "arts and culture" sector will see concerts steadily return to life starting this weekend.PHOTO/COURTESY/ALEX ARINDA.

By Editor

If there is one thing that has been a topic for the past week in the entertainment industry, it is the issue of artistes being paid for their work.

It all started when singer and songwriter Alexander Bagonza, alias A Pass, asked all websites that have uploaded his music without paying to put them down.

A year after artistes were rendered jobless because of the Covid-19 restrictions, talk of how many of them could adapt to the new normal has taken centre stage. There have been question on how artistes can release music and earn from it without performances or concerts.

A Pass as an artiste has never held an independent concert. However, he says he earns a living partly from streaming his music on platforms such as YouTube, Spotify, Deezer, Tidal and Apple Music, among others.

In Uganda, the music industry is not structured, thus, there is no controlled release and distribution. Because of this, artistes in the early 1990s devised ways of getting their music to the masses by selling their master tapes to distributors such as Kasiwukira.

These would make copies of tapes that they would sell to recoup their investment.
However, with technology advancement, computers and compact disc (CD) became the new music carriers. Much as they were slick, better and portable, they also made music free since they were easy to copy to a computer.

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This killed album sales, even if it created employment for every computer literate that could burn music to an empty CD. Since artistes made money from performances, they started looking at people abusing their intellectual property as promoters than abusers.

For more than 10 years now, every person that wants to use Ugandan music has started by branding themselves as “promoters” that are offering a platform for the said music.
The problem though, even when these websites have a traffic magnet of more than a million visitors and adverts from big telecom and brewery companies, they do not pay a single shilling to the artiste that creates what they sell.

And they will do all they can to defend their actions by claiming that Ugandans are not ready to pay for music because they are accustomed to free things.

However, what all these websites miss is a fact that A Pass’ tweet that sparked this conversation was not necessarily asking Ugandans to pay for music, but asking those streaming this music to pay the artistes.
In this way, Dj Erycom, Howwe Biz, MP3 Jaja, Ug Ziki and others could work out a deal with the Uganda Performers Rights Association (UPRS) to come up with a round figure.

Or, if they cannot part with any money, artistes should cut cord with these websites and redirect their audience to places such as Deezer, Spotify, BoomPlay and Mdundo where audiences can access free music, but artistes still get paid.

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