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Levies are taxes disguised

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The music body made a stunning revelation during the week: an intent to load some levy on CD-Rs, CDR-RWs, DVD-Rs, DVD-RWs and flash disk media. Reason? There is rampant piracy of music in the country and since the culprits use such to steal musical art, this is a way of cornering them into paying up.

According Times Radio report, MRA has already given a node to the suggestion.

Art is the love of my life and I believe so strongly that artists must reap from their sweat. And that is not negotiable. Thecaveat, though, is that the idea from Music Association, if care is not taken, may smell like one from some BBC (born before computers). This is not the age of Sony 3-CD Changers, Samsung Home Theatres and JVC HiFi systems. This is a WhatsApp, imo, Facebook and Twitter generation.

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All I am trying to say in English is that if a levy is imposed on music media, the losers will not be the culprits but those that were raised during the LP era; to them, CDs and LPOs are one and the same, the other only smaller and packs more.

Music today resides in the phone. It is shared using Bluetooth, WhatsApp, imo, Gmail, Facebook and remote connection software like TeamViewer. I do not need a CD/DVD Writer, CD/DVD media or a flash disk to copy music from Ophara Ohiyana’s laptop; I simply need internet connection and Team Viewer to log to his computer; wherever he may be.

You visit any trading center, be it in our townships or along the major road networks in the country, you will not fail to notice the little man blasting music from a computer via some Chinese cheap amp. Ask for any artist’s album, and it is all yours for K 500. This happens to be half the actual price and sounds like a wonderful deal.

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Imagine a situation where all these guys were legalized; a piece of software was loaded on those computers and metered the downloads. The music body can then go around and collect subscriptions.

Now that is a brick and mortar solution. I just told you that this is a phone-centric generation. What if Mpamba and Airtel Money were selling the songs? You might be saying that these songs are already available for sale on www.malawimusic.com. Of course. But how many people have smartphones and internet connections?

You do not need a smartphone to use Mpamba or Airtel Money; any bola uthenga (anything with a network signal) will do. These are USSD apps. Very few people don’t have one these days. The next step is to make the music affordable to everyone. If the artists are willing to receive K1, 000 for 20 songs, it follows that they are willing to settle for K 50/song.

That is not mathematically correct. There are other expenses like the CDRs ( the same that they want to tax), marketing and logistics that have to be borne. All that taken into consideration, let us assume that the artist gets K 25/songnet; now that is exactly the price the pirate is asking for.

If all songs regardless who the artist is, are priced at K 23/song on Mpamba or Airtel money, why would anybody want to buy from pirates? There may be a few imps here and there but the market may not be huge enough to sustain the illicit business.

Music is personal today. All my kind of music are on my phone. Whenever I need loud sound synonymous to UB40 vibes of late 1980s of Box 2-St. Mary’s gigs, I plug my phone to the old rugged HiFi and behold, music streams from my phone all the way to the speakers to the discomfort of my kids who think that is noise.

Don’t ask me to discuss my children’s music, it is noise too! All I can say is that levies are taxes disguised and as a country, we are already overburdened. If you calculated the price for petrol less the taxes and levies, you would faint. I rest my case, my ladyship.

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