Govt Keeps Local Musicians Poor
- Govt owes musicians P30 million
- COSBOTS CEO earned P104 000 monthly
- Kast paid P9000 only
- OP ignores COSBOTS
- Boycot Radios? – musicians speak out
Investigations indicate that the recently resigned CEO of COSBOTS earned a monthly salary of P104 000 while his highest paid executive took home above P70 000 as remuneration. In juxtaposition, popular musician Kast says in his entire career the largest royalty payment he has ever received from COSBOTS is P9 000. Information gathered also shows that in 2015 the least paid artist received a paltry P142 as royalties from their music circulating on radio stations.
Only a few local musicians have managed to turn their art into a career, the majority of them dabble it at blue-collar wage jobs to pay for studio time and some use student allowances and many are forced to reduce their career choice to a hobby, “You can’t pay lobola with money from music”, critics laugh out on social media.
The notion of the starving artist is nothing new, some of the most famous contributors to the culture such as Stampore sadly perished in poverty and here in Botswana it is their own elected government that is robbing them of their sweat and talent. The Office of the President domiciled Department of Broadcasting Services (DBS) has for the past three years flatly refused to pay close to P30 million in royalties it owes to musicians, this publication can confirm.
DBS comprises of Btv, RB1, RB2, BOPA and Kutlwano online they have been using musicians’ work to keep their official business flourishing, winning awards and keeping their well paid employees on celebrity statuses while the originators of the content languish in hunger and can barely pay child maintenances.
RB2 is a commercial station which brings profit to government coffers. Eighty five percent of its market driving content is music, and local content has moved to exceed 50% of that content, an insider claims. Radio stations derive their massive listenership from music, news and talk shows. The music between talk shows in turn attracts advertising and revenue, but the owner of the music never gets to experience their fair piece of that profit.
While the COSBOTS board is constantly locked in unending disputes over leadership aspirations, artists on high radio rotation such as VEE and Charma Gal have not received any amount in excess of P20 000 in royalty payments, a source says, but the royalty collecting agency has in the past few years received over P9 million from Users on behalf of artists, “where does the money go?”, the source asks.
Letters to the President’s office from 2015, indicate that COSBOTS, although established through an Act of Parliament to collect royalties on behalf of its members, has been reduced to an “an annoying-begging little institution” when requesting for due royalty payments from the Office of the President.
“…a serious albeit kind request and appeal directly to His Excellency the President regarding non-compliance of the Act by the DBS. Whilst COSBOTS is overly grateful for the assistance derived through previous intervention by your most honourable office, so as to urge DBS to pay royalties for use of copyright works…we therefore kindly and humbly, once again request the Presidents intervention..” wrote the former COSBOTS Chairman Solomon Monyame begging for the highest office to urge DBS to obey the law and cease violating artists’ rights.
Nothing to date has materialized from these appeals, despite numerous promises. Insiders say DBS argues that COSBOTS tariffs are too steep.
DBS management has ignored this publication’s multiple enquiries on the owed royalties from correspondence dated April 20, May 11 and in November 9th, 2017
“You can call it broad daylight theft,” one artist said, stating that violation of the Copyright Act which an act of Parliament is criminal. It stipulates that user of artistic content pay for usage, before use, therefore for an artist’s song to play on radio, a broadcaster should have paid 12% or 10% of their Gross Operating Revenue or Budget to COSBOTS, the license agreement between the royalties’ collector and DBS indicates.
A number of artists have taken a no nonsense attitude to the revelations, of which many were not aware, here are the reactions:
Tebogo Nomadic Mapine- Rapper, Producer
My reaction is to unplug my music moving forward and because of the wonderful World Wide Web, just podcast it, stream it, market it and sell it online and keep away from their dated platforms. I’ve been spinning heavy on BW radio since the 90’s and haven’t received a single royalty cheque from Botswana. It really is whack for art to be treated as free and to think they can keep their boards running continuously using our material for nothing. The most powerful thing artists can do is to STOP feeding the same beast that has never cared to give back to them.
Thato Chuma, Poet, Vocalist
Artists’ biggest challenge is the lack of an industry. We do not have an entertainment industry where trade is feasible and visible. Our distribution systems are still substandard as we don’t have any reliable platforms other than your iTunes and Amazon etc.
I doubt that any payment from this money would trickle down to artists, as is apparent over the last few years of the marred dealings in COSBOTS. Until we iron out these issues artists and their works will be exploited by the few.
Action should be taken because if the broadcasting services does not find the creative industry as deserving of payment, it’s setting a bad example for other bodies/organizations who must be liable and held responsible to pay artists.
I am very much aware of the DBS issue and I and a lot of members are in support of them not paying because there is a lot looting going on at COSBOTS and I will say that without fear. There is something fishy going on mdala hence I as Lizibo, is (sic) in support of the DBS not paying until the Forensic Audit is released so we know who is implicated in the looting of COSBOTS funds.
Remember that these are royalties consisting of international and local so in the past it has shown that not even one musician has been paid anything over P50 000. This is to say we as local performers cannot however get excited over the amount owed because as it stands we will get peanuts.
I think all the affected industry players should stand together and demand the forensic report to be released so that all the clients of COSBOTS can pay knowing there is no theft and the money is paid constitutionally as per the act. I would also cry out to the highest office on the land office of the president to assist us creatives see the light of day because we are starting to suspect CIPA officials in all this.
Apollo Diablo- rapper
COSBOTS has literally disenfranchised musicians in this country, I have never received any payment from them and what this does is we remain poor and cannot fund our own music careers to grow because we are being ripped off. I also do not understand why we need to pay P250 membership fee against all of this.
The most I have ever got out of COSBOTS has been around P9000 but my music can be on rotation in three different stations at the same time. People look at us as if we make money but we not, we also pretend it is alright for fear of being made fun of, but the fact is we are broke because our music is not paid what it deserves.
Zenzele Hirschfield- Promoter
It’s a sad state what the creative industry is turning to. Without laws that recognize and regulate for artists, we are fighting a battle we can’t win.
Artists rely on their intellectual property gains. DBS is government so you get to wonder who protects the artist’s works. This is where a collective artist’s body supported by policies should be advocating for artists.
I’m just numb. I never expect or look forward to anything nna. I just do music because it’s my unavoidable spiritual calling. I don’t know what the payment would mean to artists who think like those we have in Botswana. I don’t know what can be done to be honest.
CIPA investigates COSBOTS
At the end of 2016 the Copyright and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA) drew over P1.5 million from the Blank Tape Levy and paid former MP Robert Masitara’s company to pursue a forensic investigation on the internal dealings of COSBOTS, amid fiery corruption allegations.
Yet to be absolved by the findings of the report, the Chairman of the board resigned in March 2017 while the then CEO Thato Mokobi’s contract was not renewed.
The artists and the newly elected board seem to be fighting a multi-pronged battle, demanding owed royalties, cleansing the remaining board members, who they are also accusing of mismanagement and convincing CIPA to avail to them the yearlong albeit ready, forensic report.
CIPA Awareness and Communications Manager Marietta Magashula told The Botswana Gazette that the intention has always been to share the report with the COSBOTS Board once elected.
“We were ready to do that, but soon after the elections, some COSBOTS members queried the election process. We found it best to have that issue resolved, in order to ensure that the people receiving and deciding on the findings are cleared of the dispute. Once the Board is in possession of the report, they will decide how to share it with their stakeholders,” she said.
Adding to the irony in this tragic drama is the contrast between the exploitation of youth’s intellectual property without being heedful of the consideration of the socio-economic repercussions on them The Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Thapelo Olopeng would be at pains to defend this considering that in 2016 during the build up to BOT50 celebrations he vigorously urged radio stations to adopt an ‘all local’ 100% music line up while promising to create a handful of millionaires at the turn of his Ministerial post.
READ the second instalment of this investigation in the next edition