Of royalty payouts & what can be done

  • COSBOTS distributed P558 042.66 in the last payout
  • Artists have many options to challenge royalty payments-Dr Khoza, AIRCO


When local artists received their first big royalty payout in 2014 the move was a beacon of hope for the already struggling music industry. Fast forward to four years later industry key players are up in arms condemning the royalty collection society for its failure to live up to expectations of crediting accurate funds into their accounts. The country’s only royalty collection society, Copyright Society of Botswana (COSBOTS) carried out its last payout end of last year and to date artists are aggrieved that their works are heavily used but they still receive peanuts.
“Some artists have been paid as little as P117.27, how do we survive? When we ask further questions about the funds we are told 30% of the fees collected is used for administration and we are never told how the funds were distributed. It is highly likely that admin fees are more than what is given to the owners of the works,” artists opined on condition of anonymity.
COSBOTS spokesperson Seeletso Lekgaba declined to disclose the collected amount from users and only revealed that the distributed amount for members’ performance in the last payout was P558 042.66. Lekgaba cited inconsistency by users as the main challenge in royalty collection. She said users are expected to pay an annual license prior to usage and to do annual renewals of their licenses.
“Some of the radio stations and hospitality establishments, retailers and DJs may be paying but not on the exact date of expiry of their licenses. Some of the Users are currently battling with debts of past years due to various reasons. Some attribute their non-payment to a down turn in the economy and some to losses in their businesses. This creates difficulties for us as COSBOTS to properly receive and distribute funds to artists on time,” Lekgaba said.
Meanwhile, Jazz artist Thabang Garogwe argues that local artists are not paid their worth and they still don’t understand what the little funds they are credited with are for. “I believe that information is vital so we understand what the P100 is exactly for. COSBOTS is very negligent to make users to comply when they have the authority, but they don’t want to exercise it. They are failing to set an example of what will happen if users don’t comply. In 15 months you get P100 worth of royalties while their sitting allowance of P2500 is more than what an artist gets. The CEO’s pay is worth more than 200 artists’ royalty payouts,” he said, adding that the problem was that artist are too divided to change the situation at COSBOTS.
Stanley Khoza, the vice president of the Association of Independent Record Companies (AIRCO) South Africa, said artists as legal guardians of the music played must organise themselves and be united. Khoza added that they must be able to use their legal right in order to be heard as they have many options through which they can challenge non-compliance. “One can be through the court of law. Secondly, mass protest and lastly but not least withdrawal of rights from all broadcasters until their demands are heard,” he said, adding that Collective Management Organisations (CMO) in nature are just a mere voice for artist and do what artist say and that alone is power.
Garogwe also highlighted that one of the biggest mistakes they made as local artists was to allow people who don’t understand the struggles of artists to run the organisation as artists don’t want to be hands on. “But we now need to depend on ourselves, stand up and take responsibility. We have been good at complaining, now let’s look into the system, face it and make a change,” he concluded.