Tackle the piracy scourge

HARARE - The election of a new seven-member board to take charge of the affairs of the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (Zimura) presents yet another opportunity for Zimbabwean musicians to consolidate efforts to accrue more out of their artistic compositions.

With piracy exploding out of control on the streets, government is seemingly lacking the political will and commitment to decisively tackle the scourge.

Therefore, the importance of organised platforms such as Zimura cannot be overemphasised.

Until the formation of Zimura several years ago, radio and television stations and other corporate players could play music without paying anything. This created a situation where we had artistes whose music was played left, right and centre yet they were paupers benefitting absolutely nothing from their creativity.

While admittedly, the money being given to artistes as royalties under the Zimura dispensation is still clearly low in the majority of cases, the fair-minded among us will admit that musicians now have a credible platform to fight for their intellectual rights.

The continued failure by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) to pay over $600 000 owed to musicians despite several binding High Court orders, shows that musicians will have to double their efforts to make radio stations and other consumers of their products cough up royalty dues.

Sadly, the national broadcaster has not paid music royalties to Zimura since 2009.

The re-election of Albert Nyathi, who chaired the old board, demonstrates musicians’ belief not only in his leadership but in continuity.

Thanks to the hard work of the previous Zimura board headed by Nyathi, we are reliably informed that Zimbabwe’s two independent radio stations Star FM and ZiFM are close to finalising agreements with Zimura.

But as the failure by ZBC to meet its side of the bargain has shown, Zimura has to go beyond merely concluding music royalty agreements with radio stations; they have to come up with methods that ensure consumers of their artistic compositions play ball.

For starters, Zimura must make Media, Information and Broadcasting Services minister, Jonathan Moyo realise that the 75 percent local content policy won’t benefit musicians if radio stations don’t pay music royalties they owe musicians.

Moyo must ensure that state-controlled ZBC settles its dues with Zimura without further delay.

We also hope the success of Zimura will convince musicians to think seriously about forming an umbrella music body to succeed the moribund Zimbabwe Union of Musicians (Zum).

Only united musicians will be able force government to look at their concerns seriously.

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