MAPEMBA Rescues Musician from Daylight Robbery

Eight years ago, a Malawian musician needed to part ways with K12, 000 to produce an album in a studio. Now a 10 track album can cost the musician close to K50, 000.
But within this eight-year period, the musician is still getting K25 from a copy of their album from distributors.
At one time the Prof confronted Musicians Association of Malawi (MAM) President Costen Mapemba why musicians, he is supposed help protecting are still slaving for the distributors.
Distributors like O.G Issa had even the cheek to declare that they were operating on losses and therefore they could not raise the stakes for the musician.
Imagine in 2003 we were buying a compact album cassette for K80 and this is the time that the musician was getting K25 per copy. What is ironic is that while the prices have been going up, the musician has stuck with this pittance.
It has now taken verbal fight between the distributors and MAM President to now have it adjusted by K5. Mapemba almost made me laugh my lungs out when he said in fact the distributors wanted it hiked by K3.
The excuse still given is that O.G Issa, for example, has been distributing Malawi music over 14 or so years at a loss and he has not stopped. Do you believe this?
While MAM is still to blame for failing to put in place a system that can check exploitation by ensuring that alternative channels of distribution can be utilised, for reasons I am not ready to presume, they remained undecided.
There is no one that can think the future of the musicians but the musicians themselves.
The starting point is or was the establishment of the musician association which is at the moment trying to become the Musicians Union of Malawi – of course this is a story for another day.
In my mind of minds, I still believe as a music guiding body, MAM needed a robust approach to enter deals with other retailers of repute.
Take Shoprite, Peoples or Metro chain of stores et cetera for example, I doubt if MAM has ever tried to take steps towards establishing sections within these retail facilities after entering musical deals with them.
Music, at most is not something that a consumer will wake up one day to buy. It is only on special occasions, that are most of the times provoked by celebrations of sorts or when one runs into a hit that has captivated them that they would start hunting for such particular music.
People buy music when they are hit with something that enters their earshot. They would pause a bit and enquire what music it is before purchasing it.
Usually they would do that when they visit retail shops like ones mentioned above. I know the company that distributes Wambali Mkandawire’s music has taken advantage of book shops and internet cafes in the country.
MAM therefore should have stricken deals with all points that use music for their good to market such.

MAM needed to create a properly built mechanism that would ensure that a musician profits at the end of the day.
There is a ploy that the distributors employ which rips off musicians. Everyone in the music industry is aware of it but there has just been a resignation where everyone thinks they are helpless and cannot do anything about it.
MAM would have even established independent selling points for musicians by involving the very musicians to be marketing, promoting and distributing music.
If we had a number of alternatives in the aspect of marketing, promoting and distributing music, distributors like O.G Issa would come crawling to get a deal from musicians, knowing what gold the music industry is offering.
Nyimbo Music Company says it has structures that will enable it achieve this. This could be the starting point and with involvement of all genuinely concerned stakeholders, a better way of making musicians victorious can be achieved.
If you still look at K30 that the artist would have to get per copy, you still will have to endure with the headache of calculating what would be the gains that the distributor chalks home.
And this has to be against what this will help to push the poverty stricken musician deep into penury.


Royalty Politics Maul COSOMA

For what I think is uncounted times now, I have written about the Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA).
COSOMA was established in 1992 and it operates under the 1989 Copyright Act which protects copyrights and “neighboring” rights in Malawi.

Although the Registrar General administers the Patent and Trademarks Act, which protects industrial intellectual property rights in Malawi, COSOMA has a very central role in this aspect.

At the moment, rules that govern the World Trade Organisation (WTO) allow Malawi because it is only a less developed country to delay full implementation of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement until 2016.

Government through the Industry and Trade Ministry is working with COSOMA and the Registrar General to align relevant domestic legislation with the WTO TRIPs agreement with technical assistance from the Africa Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO).

A few weeks ago I wrote right here that COSOMA has partnered with Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) in a new initiative where they will be using an electronic system that will now be able to capture all musical works performed or played on the radio.
I indicated further that COSOMA is championing this initiative in collaboration with the Geneva based, UN specialised agency on intellectual property matters, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).
WIPO has chosen Malawi to pilot the initiative because of the commendable work COSOMA has been doing over the years.
May I also remind readers here that in Malawi most artists resort to other form of gainful employment as almost 90% of artists need to combine jobs in this way to manage to see the next sunrise.
In this case, the musician is either in a gainful employment where s/he is engaged in small businesses and employment in the public and private sector or will be gaping for survival in poorly patronized musical shows to force ends meet.
COSOMA has at least managed to bring smiles on the faces of most artists through royalties.
I once wrote here that on December 29, 2009, Lawrence Mbenjere set a new record when he became the first musician to cart home money in excess of over K2.5 million in royalties.
What was also historical was that since the establishment of the Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA), K2, 523, 459.16 that Mbenjere got was the biggest money it has dished out to a single musician.
And at the same event, Lucious Banda carted home K1, 094, 579.10, Thomas Chibade K712, 742.48. Joseph Nkasa who in 2003 got a million got K597, 942.27 this time round.
Now without a further elaboration, I think I can say here without fear of contradiction that COSOMA has indeed managed to provide solace for our musicians.
But now, without any regard to what the 1989 Copyright Act underscores, government says it wants to privatize COSOMA.
It all started from one broadcaster that accumulated over K8 million in royalties for musicians and was failing to honour.
The law took its course and on a number of occasions, the head of the broadcaster told leadership that, ‘look, we have been paralyzed by sheriffs and all our vehicles have been taken and we will not be able to give you coverage’.
The leadership on several occasions told the courts to rescue the broadcaster, but since this problem kept on recurring, the government thought the problem is COSOMA.
Why is COSOMA trying to paralyze the work of a well serving government instrument?
The question to privatize COSOMA therefore has its attendant and serious questions that require immediate answers.
Where are the modalities of trying to achieve this? If a private person takes over COSOMA what happens to the debt that is yet to be honoured in terms of royalties?
If institutions like the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) cannot pay musicians through ‘a fellow’ parastatal – COSOMA, is expecting MBC to pay a privately run COSOMA, a genuine one?
And what would become of the welfare of artists during the transition period?
Obviously, there are no answers to all these questions, because the decision to privatise COSOMA comes from a political whim which, usually, has no guided sight where the end justifies the means.

Coss Chiwalo – A sign of BK Beat demise

My urge is not to out rightly look at one Coss Chiwalo as a sign that connote death of the all famous Balaka beat.
Yes, the same Balaka beat that was started by Sir. Paul Banda, the same one that made Lucious Banda, Charles Sinetre, Isaac Liwotcha, late Paul Chaphuka, Vincent Kachingwe, Paul Subiri and Rod Valamanja, etcetera.
Balaka opened musical doors that led to different genres for Malawi. It became so common that people started detesting it, Lucious Banda amongst them, as he eventually tried to run away from it.
Check his song “Achimwene mumvetse chuma ndi m’malele kumbukirani makoro – muzawafuna” the last he did with Alleluya Band – a musical outfit that became synonymous with the Balaka beat – to the South African recorded ‘Mabala’.
Well, while most of the old timers of the Balaka beat have excused themselves in one way or the other, Coss Chiwalo has not yet given a convincing reason why he is not there up to date.
He appeared on the scene with a storm, I think that should have been in 1997 when he released his debut album ‘Amandikonda’. The album was full of promise, like how the Billy Kaunda likes had graduated through the Balaka School of musical Excellency under the tutelage of Sir. Paul Banda; it left no doubt that we have a man to carry forth the aspirations of the youth in the area.
Two years later, Coss re-emerged with ‘Amakonda Aliyense’. Here, as usual, opinion started to split. While others felt the production in this aspect failed to beat the first album, others were of the view that this was an improvement from the previous works.
The debate promised that with such pace setting, life will no longer be the same.
But what has followed has been a complete disappointment.
Between 2001 and 2008 Coss released three more albums which in my view were total flops, that is if we are to compare them with his own set standard with the first two albums.
If you think I am lying, tell me how many of you know that in 2001 Coss Chiwalo released an album he called ‘Mudzithandizana’ or that he followed this one with a 2003 album named ‘Chindalandala’? Do you also know that Coss has an English titled album called ‘Heart of Hope’ released in 2008?
I have several theories that I have been trying to use to explain why Coss never impressed as was the beginning of his career.
In between he left Alleluya Band before returning as a prodigal son which could be one contributing reason. The other one could be that once he returned to Alleluya he re-discovered that the band had an international stage through the Catholic Church where they would go to Europe to perform.
There could be a sneaking feeling in Coss that if he is able to make the white people jump out of their skins with his synthesizer wizardly, then why should he waste time polishing up songs that Malawians have long stopped appreciating.
The other explanation would be that the competition is stiff and that the Balaka beat which used to massage the musical minds of the people has now started twitching the very soul it used to caress.
I know Coss holds the biggest of stakes at the moment to make the Balaka beat still stand side by side and shoulder to shoulder with the sound that is slowly but surely edging out what could be the genesis of Malawi’s modern genre.
The start of the Balaka beat has influenced the reggae and the urban stuff that has become the in thing for our radios and all dancehalls in the country.
Now remember how every latest release by Alleluya Band used to turn the nation on its head? Do we still expect anything from Balaka? What have the artists in Balaka done to our hunger for their music?
Is it us who are to blame for poor patronage or it is them who have stopped being creative and in the process they have lost us all?
These are the questions anyone who has a penchant for Malawi music needs to ask. There seem to be no sense of history for the country that one has to preserve and propagate, let alone musical history.
But Balaka genre, the Balaka beat should not die, I leave it in the hands of Coss! Sir Paul Banda, you better read this as well, don’t let this be the way you baby should lose limbs, if anything let it outlive the rest of us, posterity has sharp and hungry ears, that will need the music including the Balaka beat.

TNM Registers Growth amidst Power challenges

Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM), one of Malawi’s two mobile phone service providers has released results for the year ended 31 December, 2010 where it is indicating that it would have achieved more growth if Malawi did not experience intermittent power supply besides its lack of electricity grid in many rural areas.
On a larger picture, the company’s chairperson Dr. Mathews Chikaonda and his deputy Hitesh Anadkat described the company’s performance last year highly.
“The results achieved in 2010 put the company in a strong position to consolidate the gains made in the past years, to increase its position in the market and serve the customers better …,” the statement reads in part.
The TNM which said the 2010 results were good based its assessment on the high growth in the revenue and Earnings before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA), which was achieved as a result of the aggressive investment in infrastructure and related marketing activities
The company says it made substantial investment of MK4.538bn in 2009 and this has increased the depreciation charge by MK571 million on the enhanced fixed assets base according to the report.
Dr. Chikaonda and Anadkat explained that the high levels of investment have substantially increased the levels of short term debt which resulted in an increase in borrowing costs by MK273 million. As a result of the increases in depreciation and financing costs the net profit declined from MK1.215bn to MK1.060 bn in 2010.
“The continuing investment in network has enabled the company to retain and register more customers on the network through expanded capacities, extended coverage and new product offering including data services,” the two gentlemen state in the report.
They also say TNM has also added and created network resilience and redundancy for various critical network elements.
However, unlike Airtel Malawi, their competitor TNM says it appreciates the continued goodwill and support received from the market due to their local Malawian roots which they think is spurring the company’s growth.

“The board and management of TNM foresee penetration level of the country further increasing beyond 40 percent in the next few years,” the company hopes.
The company also believes that the higher levels of subsidy on handsets will play a pivotal role in allowing customers to access mobile telephony service.
TNM believes that limited access to foreign exchange which has rocked the Malawi market for some time now, intermittent power supply and lack of electricity grid in many rural areas, are some of the major challenges and obstacles to the business.
“The company is however confident of achieving strong growth as a result of the capital investment made in the last few years, which also provides a sustainable foundation for a long term growth,” the report says.
The report also indicates that total dividends of MK602.4 million (MK0.06 per share) will be declared and paid for the period ending 31 December 2010.

Give a Salary to the Musician

The Music industry in Malawi continues to be elusive to the main player who matters in the business. The musician is still a beggar even in the face of all the talent, effort, sacrifice and courage to bring something on the music market.
Amongst the culprits that make musicians fail to achieve anything at all is the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation – MBC which loves to play the music from the local artists although they have no money to pay back in form of royalties.
At one point, the Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA) complained that MBC had a debt of K8 million in royalty arrears.
Getting back the money has been tedious, because years on end, so much of similar measure has been tried but the results have always been the same.
Now, I had an opportunity to talk to acting Executive Director for COSOMA Dora Makwinja who impressed me as a woman who knew what she was talking about, in as far as protecting talent is concerned.
She said COSOMA as a body is there to ensure that not only is talent for the artist is protected but that the artist also benefits from his or her endeavour.
As a country, we are yet to be on the road to achieve anything in this aspect because vultures are on the loose to pounce on anything that is on the market which they reproduce and sell while the artist is not even aware of what is happening.
Makwinja has been saying, radio stations have been giving out all sorts of excuses for not paying, ranging from lack of enough human resource to monitor the music that is played on the radios to incompetence of radio presenters to make proper documentation.
While some only play the music and do not document anything, other personalities on our radios would put something on the radio which they will log in the continuity sheet with a different name when it is in fact something else.
You remember a song by Lucky Dube called ‘Think about the Children’ everyone, including radio stations that had in fact the sleeve for the CDs would still call it ‘Born to Suffer’.
The mere misplacement of a title of a track when logging on the continuity sheet has made COSOMA accumulate too much money they do not know where to go with on one hand; on the other hand the musician who should have received the money is not aware and due to frustrations and what s/he thinks is failure, has soaked his souls in Kachasu taking in Mbayani.
Now, COSOMA has partnered with Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) in a new initiative where they will be using an electronic system that will now be able to capture all musical works performed or played on the radio.
Makwinja said they have chosen to partner with ZBS to Pilot the initiative due to the radio’s compliance to hand in their continuity sheets and remitting royalties as required.
COSOMA is championing this initiative in collaboration with the Geneva based UN agent the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO); this is a Geneva based UN specialised agency on intellectual property matters.
WIPO has chosen Malawi to pilot the initiative because of the commendable work COSOMA has been doing over the years.
I do not want to delve on the pros and cons on this one but suffice to say, musicians think they have not been assisted enough by COSOMA, what with propagation of too much fake music on the market that leaves musicians poorer.
But this aside, with the new initiative, we will still get down to where we started from, which is lack of compliance.
You look at an institution like MBC, which run on my tax, there is completely no due regard to willingly remit royalties to COSOMA, don’t mind their insatiable hunger to ride on the music of our artists.
Because what it means is that even with software that has managed to capture the musician who has played a piece of music and all required records that now makes COSOMA ready to pay the musician, you will still find out that institutions like MBC will not comply a bit to give Ceaser what belongs to Ceaser.
In this case would we say the WIPO funded project has assisted Malawi musician in any way? No, I do not think so; we need to do better that this.
It is only when a musician gets a salary for his toils that I would be encouraged to talk highly of all these initiatives and many more to come.