Is Uhuru’s Ksh.2 billion pledge to musicians realistic? Here’s the break down

Is Uhuru's Ksh.2 billion pledge to musicians realistic? Here's the break down
PHAT! Music & Entertainment Founding Director Mike Strano, President Uhuru Kenyatta and MCSK CEO Milka Kulati. PHOTOS | COURTESY

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday announced the government’s projection that local musicians will henceforth be earning Ksh.200 million per month in royalties, translating to at least Ksh.2 billion annually.

President Kenyatta, speaking while addressing the nation at State House in Nairobi, said this was as a result of a promise he made to the musicians early in the year to end their protracted stalemate with Collective Management Organizations (CMOs).

From the surface, Ksh.2 billion a year (roughly Ksh.200 million a month) seems an overambitious target, considering the fact that MCSK – in their last distribution which covered a staggering six months, from July 1 to December 2019 – collected only Ksh.37 million.

The other two CMOs, Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK) and the Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP), collected even much less since their membership is considerably lower as compared to that of MCSK.

However, according to MCSK Chief Executive Officer Milka Kulati, the projection is very much achievable especially with the new system at play.

Speaking to Citizen Digital, Ms. Kulati said the government had lightened the load for the CMOs as far as collection of royalties is concerned.

According to Ms. Kulati, the CMOs will now no longer have direct contact with the consumers of musical content from whom royalties are collected including broadcasters, Public Service Vehicles (PSVs), restaurants, barbershops, clubs et cetera.

“The process of collection has, until now, always been difficult because the CMOs have been doing it alone, hence the cat-and-mouse game that has always been witnessed because most consumers of the music, for instance matatus, were not willing to pay,” she said.

The MCSK boss intimated that the consumers of musical works will now be paying directly to the government; for instance, matatus will pay via the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) and broadcasters via the Communications Authority of Kenya.

“Now they will be paying directly to the government which will in turn be channeling it to the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) and then to us, the CMOs, for the purposes of effective distribution,” she said.

“That is why we’re sure we can hit the Ksh.2 billion a year target, or at least something close to that. The government’s support will come in handy in achieving this.”

PHAT! Music & Entertainment Founding Director Mike Strano, while echoing Ms. Kulati’s sentiments, expressed gratitude to President Kenyatta for the move.

Mr. Strano also sought to dismiss reports that the Ksh.200 million was a token from the government to the musicians during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is money they have earned through sweat and will be distributed according to the consumption of one’s content for instance in line with the logs provided by broadcasters,” he said.

“It is not something that is new, it has been on the negotiation table for a while now and I guess the President just chose to announce it now.”

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