Find formula for sharing royalties

HARARE - The $300 000 that the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (Zimura) is distributing to its members is encouraging.

This a welcome respite to the country’s musicians that have been turned into paupers due to rampant intellectual piracy that has been allowed to run riot on the streets of Zimbabwe’s cities.

Admittedly, the size of the cake that is being shared among our musicians is still considerably small but we are sure that most musicians regard the little income that is trickling towards them as the first step towards what could turn out to be a brighter future.

We also hope that Zimura — Zimbabwe’s sole licensed musicians’ royalties collection board will increase efforts to ensure that all the country’s radio stations, shops, hotels and night clubs pay all the necessary fees they are required to pay for commercially exploiting music in their business enterprises.

Zimura must also ensure that they not only collect money owed to musicians but also manage the distribution of royalties in a transparent manner.

Musicians have repeatedly raised serious concerns over what they perceive to be an unfair distribution system that is skewed in favour of a few popular musicians.

While it is possible that these allegations against the collecting society are unfounded, it is clear that Zimura needs to come up with a distribution mechanism that is acceptable to all member musicians.

The formula for sharing the music royalty cake must be arrived at after a thorough consultative process that involves all musicians.

Only a transparent process will nip in the bud discordant voices that continue to come out each time Zimura distributes royalties to member musicians.

While it is important for Zimura to do all in its powers to maximise the accrual of music royalties, the truth of the matter is that the share musicians get from the collecting society will never be adequate.

In an ideal set-up the money musicians receive from Zimura should augment income they get from record companies that sell their music but piracy has made this a pipe dream.

Early this week, Chimurenga music legend Thomas Mapfumo underscored his desire to meet President Robert Mugabe in order to make him and his government appreciate how music piracy has robbed musicians of a decent livelihood.

Mapfumo is not alone in this frustration over the failure by responsible authorities to reign-in abuse of intellectual piracy.

Government has a moral responsibility to act.

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