The Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK ) CEO has been forced to clarify that the disbursement of a KES 20 million sum set aside to pay artists for royalties accrued in 2023 will not be divided equally amongst the 16,000 registered members. This comes two days after Dr.Ezekiel Mutua made the initial announcement at an MCSk function, where he simply stated that 16,000 artists would receive the sum set aside.
When the news came out, many assumed the artists would get KES 1250 each. This assumption triggered widespread backlash on social media with some users mocking the announcement, as the amount does not befit any professional recording musician as a payout accrued for the whole year, let alone a month.
Social Media Backlash
Social media platforms became a battleground for artists expressing their discontent. Nonini, a pioneer Genge musician, lamented the situation, labeling it a sad state of affairs.
He posted on X(formerly twitter): “Sad sana poleni wasanii wenzangu !”
Popular tweep and rapper @kilundeezy injected humor into the controversy, mocking the anticipated shares. However, his hunch that the money may not be shared equally after all was right.
“If MCSK is releasing 20 million for 16000 artists, if shared equally each gets 1250.
And you all know big artists will get the bigger share. So msee kama mimi na shanky tutakula Ksh 1250 safi. Wacha nicheke. “
User @bnrmars question captured the frustration of Kenyan music fans: “what is the point of paying mcsk the amount we pay and the returns are not even close to what we pay them lol,” while Samo(@S_Bryton) suggested the organization’s ledger be made public, in a bid to boost transparency. He posted:
“They should publish the costs for running MCSK monthly (including salaries). Tbh, don’t understand why artists need this organization. Two, are certain artists doing the work for others? Eg Bien vs XYZ*? So is MCSK just a socialist org where everyone gets something? Fair??? No.”
User @Its_Roddie employed humour too, to show the plight of artistes under-earning under MCSK: “Kama unataka kukosana na msanii, mText on 25th January umwambie naona MCSK wamekulipa buana.. Weka kitu.”
In response to the mounting backlash, Dr.Mutua took to social media to clarify the distribution methods. He accused unnamed persons of twisting the story.
He explained that the organization will use a blend of scientific and general allocation, emphasizing that not every artist would receive the same amount. Part of his post on X(formally Twitter) reads: ” We distribute using both scientific and general allocation. Scientific distribution refers to the actual airplay of members works within the period under review. However, there are members whose songs do not get airplay at all, but because they are our members the Board allocates some general amounts in line with our distribution rules.”
The intent, Mutua insisted, was to recognize the active presence of artists’ works in the industry, whether through airplay or general recognition. He went ahead to give examples from the last disbursement.
“Last year we had someone getting 330k under scientific, while the least under general was Sh.650. Music is seasonal and royalties accrue from works that are active. If you did your song in the 70s and it’s not played on radio or in public places, you settle for the general token.”
Hope Amidst Controversy
Despite the controversy, Mutua maintained optimism about the future. He encouraged artists to focus on creating music that resonates with the masses and assured them of ongoing efforts to enhance royalty structures. Mutua highlighted the government’s support, new tariffs, and collaborations with industry players as promising signs for a brighter future for Kenyan musicians. In a separate post, he reiterated that MCSK was starting the year on a strong note:
“I am so excited about the progress MCSK is making to streamline the music industry. The fact that we are distributing royalties in January and are set to distribute in April is evidence that we have resumed the normal distribution calendar as a CMO. For the first time since 2017, we are starting the year with a license and close working relationship with KECOBO, relevant Ministries, courtesy of the Departmental Committees of Parliament chaired by Hon. Dan Wanyama.”
Moreover, the outspoken bureaucrat also revealed that the KES 20 million is not the only money paid out in 202. In his speech at the MCSK function on Sunday, he stated that the CMO was waiting for money from digital platforms like Google and that once the cheque clears, artists will get their dues.
Despite the clarification, royalty collection and distribution remains a tough nut. Only recently, in November of last year Kecobo, MCSK, KAMP, and PRISK held a joint press conference asking the interior ministry to allow police officers to accompany them on collecting missions. However, Mr.Kindinki had the last word as he refused to reverse a 2021 decision that stopped police officers from helping these CMOs in collecting royalties