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Reaping fruits of thy labour

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PHYZIX — Malawians are now embracing and loving their musicians

We are almost at the end of the year and it is not quite unusual to see, around this time, members of village loan savings groups or indeed chipereganya, huddling together to share their earnings which they had safely stashed through the course of the year. This could be in form of cash, groceries or sometimes building materials.

Similarly, we have witnessed in recent weeks, artists smiling all the way to the bank after carting home cheques of varying amounts through their mother body Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) as royalties for their work. This is something worth commending because, for a very long time, Malawian artists, particularly musicians, have complained of getting a raw deal despite putting in a lot of effort when producing their stuff.

All across the world, the discourse about intellectual property (creations of the mind such as inventions, literary and artistic works) has been taking centre stage. It is therefore quite pleasing to note that even here in Malawi, strides are being made in that regard.

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It seems the coming of blank media levy has spruced things up in the arts sector. Cosoma officials pointed out just last month that the blank media levy is a compensation system where by all gadgets and equipment that has the capacity to store, reproduce and distribute copyright works is subjected to payment of a levy upon manufacturing or importation. Thus, all the royalties that have been earned and dished out to local artists should be sweet music, only this time to the artists themselves and not necessarily their audience.

One could therefore not blame some musicians who recently took to social media to brag about what they had earned, never mind the amounts involved.

Much as others might view this act as flossing, it is important to bear in mind that artists deserve so much more because it is not easy to come up with all the content with which they entertain the people.

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Urban artist Jay Jay Cee, who traces his roots to the iconic local dancehall outfit Mabiringanya Empire, was one of those who showed appreciation for the gesture by Cosoma.

“We don’t mean to brag but at least sight how far we have come…bagged 4.3 million Kwacha cheque from Cosoma,” he wrote.

Similarly, Amapiano artist Avocado was overcome with joy at the thought of carting home a royalties cheque.

“When I started music in 2012 just as a Chanco student known only to my hostel (Kenyatta Hall), I never thought moments like these would come!” he said.

He equally had a word of advice for those who have smiled their way to the bank like him.

“To fellow established artists who got millions too and less, let’s use the money responsibly!!! Money can be saved, spent on or invested! Choose your usage!” he added.

The development goes to show that for those aspiring to seriously pursue music, they might just have a good reason to keep working at it as eventually, they might reap the fruits of their labour, just like these urban artists have shown.

“To upcoming artists still fighting never say never!” Avocado added.

But what does this signify for the arts sector?

Hip-hop artist Phyzix has been in the game long enough to know how frustrating it can be for artists to have their work pirated.

“I am just happy that music and entertainment is being taken seriously right now. And there is also some visible growth. It was a different situation just a few years ago….Let’s keep going hard! Anything is possible! I also think Malawians are now embracing and loving their musicians, Malawian music,” he said.

The ‘Cholapitsa’ star also had a thing or two to say about blank media levy.

“This is such a great initiative that’s making positive impact on the ground. Kudos to the government,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

And some of the stars who have earned millions from their sweat could not agree more.

“It can only tell that we are taking a different direction as Malawian music industry. Thanks to everyone that loves and supports our music, we have a long way to go…and big up to Cosoma,” Jay Jay Cee said.

Basking in the glory of his royalties achievement, Avocado has released a new song “Andilanda mkazi’ on which he has featured Zambian star Dalisoul. We are yet to see if, with the new track, he will again laugh all the way to the bank during the next cycle of royalties payments.

Musicians started receiving their amounts on December 12, 2022 through Arts Sacco, with amounts for films and books rolling out on December 19.

In music, between January and March 2022 for blank media levy, Cosoma has distributed K97.8 million for 6,531 works to 1,244 beneficiaries whereas in the period April to September 2022, there is a rise as the copyright body has disbursed K340.3 million for 8,034 works to 2,302 beneficiaries.

In film, between January and March 2022, Cosoma has distributed K32.9 million for 408 works to 198 beneficiaries whereas in the books category, the copyright body has distributed K65. 2 million for 750 works to 437 beneficiaries from January to March 2022.

Cosoma has also disbursed K60.7 million in reprography for 750 works to 443 beneficiaries from July 2020 to March 2022.

In the music category, in the period January to March, eight recipients have received more than K1 million whereas in the period April to September, 41 have received more than K1 million.

Cosoma Head of Documentation and Distribution Shadrick Kumtengo recently said that they were seeing a great improvement.

“For instance, 41 recipients have got over a million in music for blank media levy for the period April to September 2022 while previously it was less. This is good for the music industry and we hope the situation improves,” Kumtengo said.

He said blank media levy has demonstrated that artists can earn more money.

“As a body, we are seeking to improve how to manage blank media levy,” Kumtengo told our sister paper The Daily Times.

In the film category, there are no recipients who have received more than K1 million whereas in the book category seven have received more than K1 million, with four in reprography.

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