There is a very serious uprising looming among a number of Ghanaian musicians toward all the telecommunication companies operating in Ghana presently.
A large number of musicians feel they have been dealt a raw deal by mobile telecommunication networks, over the revenue accrued from Ghanaian music used for Caller Ring-Back Tone (CRBT) and the general usage of Ghanaian music on mobile phones in Ghana.
Incredible revelations made on Peace FM’s “Entertainment Review”, points to the fact that the mobile networks get the largest percentage share of the revenue made from music usage at the expense of the musicians who own the right to the music.
Music Producer and a former executive of MUSIGA Ernest Kwasi Enin of Media Excel, producers of Gospel singer Sup. Kofi Sarpong and Bernice Ofei, among others, stated on the programme that the networks are ripping musicians off their intellectual property, and they are ready to hit the streets and demonstrate against any network that has Ghanaian music on their respective platforms, if they refuse to renegotiate with them.
Mr. Enin disclosed that the networks deducts 0.32 Pesewas automatically every month from every mobile phone user who subscribes to the CRBT, and out of that the networks take 70% and then the musician shares the remaining 30% with the mobile content provider who serves as the middleman between the musicians and the various networks. Then the musician and contract providers split the remaining 30% into 50-50 which implies that the musicians get a total of 15% of the entire CRBT revenue.
Apart from the CRBT, Kwasi Ernest also made a shocking revelation that all the networks deduct a monthly subscription fee of 0.53 Pesewas of credit from mobile phone users, for the use of music content on their platforms and interestingly, all this money goes to telecommunication companies alone, and nothing goes to the musicians who own the songs nor to the content providers. In all this, Ernest disclosed that it’s the network companies who declare how many times the songs have been used.
“The situation we are in now is very serious and I want every musician to take his destiny into his own hands and say that this is our intellectual property which is being ripped off. Our property is what we are going to use to take care of our families, and some people just set up their company to rip us off. This is fraud, and if we have to go to the extent of demonstrating against them, we all come together and do it”, Kwasi Ernest said with so much anger.
Meanwhile Conrad Nyuur, Chief Operations Manager of Mobile Content Group, one of the largest content providers in Ghana, confirmed Ernest Enin’s figures and agreed that the telecommunication companies are indeed ripping the musician off, and they as content providers, are also not happy about the situation. “The networks will give you all manner of excuses but all those things are long explanations that I, as a businessman or content provider, am not happy about but it is not something I can really control. I wish I could do better for the musicians”.
Conrad said he and his company understand the plight of the musicians so they always try to give them a bigger share of the 30%, but generally all content providers in Ghana are not happy about this. According to Conrad, the networks did not negotiate their 70% with anybody but rather they decided on the percentage they want from the beginning and it has been like that ever since.
“People sit there and they think we the content providers we are making money off the musicians and we are not paying copyright owners what they are due, but we are actually suffering”. Conrad said the only way this problem can be solved is for all Ghanaian musicians to come together as one united force and all the content providers will rally behind them to face the telecommunication companies.
The President of the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA), Obour, who added his voice to the outcry, said he is one of the first musicians who signed his song to be used for CRBT as far back as 2006 because every musician was excited when the system was first introduced in Ghana, but after sometime when he realized that the networks were not treating them fairly he took his music off the platform.
He said this was not the first time such an outcry was coming up because he and other musicians have been fighting this system for a very long time. “Around 2008 and 2009 there was a big boycott on CRBTs when most of the Ghanaian musicians disseminated information amongst them to stop signing their songs for CRBT”.
Obour stressed that unfortunately our Cultural Policy as a country is not helping and the National Communication Authority is not making any policies to help Ghanaians and compel the networks operating in Ghana to use more Ghanaian music than foreign ones. So anytime the musicians complain, they turn to use songs from Nigeria and other countries.
“Now MUSIGA as a body has made some systemic approach and we are going to deal with this problem. We used to think that the problem was from the content providers but upon several researches we realized that it is not a problem with content providers but it’s a problem with the fixed rates and fixed percentages that are proposed by the networks, and to approach the networks we need to get our facts right. So it is not something we are relenting on at all, we are working sturdily on it but if persuasion fails force will be applied,” Obour warned.
Highlife musicians Dada KD who was present in the studio, pledged his support for eminent demonstration saying “If this is what is going on then we have to call all Ghanaian musicians and demonstrate against the network companies or we stop them from using our music”.
Rex Omar, a Highlife musician and member of the interim GHAMRO, thinks even though MUSIGA as a body and individual musicians are taking steps to solve this problem, he believed it was the Ghana Association of Music Right Owners (GHAMRO) who should be proactive because this has to do with Copyright ownership, and not every musician is necessarily a copyright owner.
“GHAMRO must be structured properly; GHAMRO must be put to work efficiently so that all these problems can be solved”.
Several other musicians and stakeholders have stated their readiness to rally behind MUSIGA, if it becomes necessary to demonstrate and fight for their right. There is a wind of change, a revolutionary wind blowing across Ghana over this issue and at this point the entire Ghanaian music body is ready to go to every length in ensuring that they are paid what is due them.
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