JACAP fees guided by international tariff ... Promoters say method not equitable
Last week, eProbe took a look at some of the challenges that the Jamaica Association of Composers, Authors and Publishers (JACAP) faced in collecting royalties on behalf of its members and the number of cases that were currently before the Supreme Court, as they sought to collect outstanding payments in excess of $50 million.
What was clear is that many of these delinquent individuals and entities were unwilling to pay over the licence fees because they felt that they were excessive. And so this week, The Sunday Gleaner probed even further, to get an understanding from JACAP about how they calculate the fees for each entity and why some party promoters (a group that has been fingered by the organisation as being among the delinquents) have refused to pay.
“The main culprits are the party promoters. They want to dictate to the creators what they should pay. But when they are setting their prices (for party tickets), I always tell them that they don’t ask the creators to have an input in what price to charge for persons to attend, so I don’t see why they should have an input in setting licence fees,” JACAP’s general manager Lydia Rose argued.
“And quite a few of these party promoters, that is their only job, living on the back of the music, so they need to respect it.”
However, at least two promoters, although they have been compliant, are of the view that JACAP has imposed fees that are unreasonable.
Gyete Ghartey, director, GLK Entertainment – promoters of events such as Yesterday and Mello Vibes – noted that, “The format of how we play music in Jamaica is not like in the United States, in which they play fewer songs and the DJs know what they are going to play before. It’s very hard to even get a list from DJs before or after, of which songs were played, so that payments can be made. So when we pay JACAP, we are just giving them some money, because they don’t know which songs we played.”
He said that they have had to pay fees between $70,000 and $90,000 to JACAP for events in the past.
There were certain factors that Ghartey said were not taken into consideration, such as first-time events that, in most cases, “are a flop”.
“It’s like they have no basis, because when somebody is doing a new event, how do they know how many people are going to come? Most first events flop. But it’s like they just pull a figure out of the hat and just want to charge people. It’s incidents like that why I don’t think that what they’re doing is equitable. They move more like hustlers than an organisation that has the interest of clients in mind,” he reasoned.
Rose, however, noted that licence fees are applicable irrespective of a playlist not being provided, as playlists are garnered in other ways such as:
1 Physical audit of the event by JACAP licensing officers.
2 Request from the DJs for their playlist – this is usually held in their Serato system.
3 For stage shows, contacting the artiste managers or band leaders for the playlist.
4 Distribution by analogy, that is, a representative sample from radio.
Another promoter, who wished anonymity, told eProbe that as a promoter of several big events, he remains compliant, “because you cannot get certain permits without it, and most venues are now linked to them (JACAP).”
He, however, felt that there should be standard fees, positing that, “at times it’s even more than the amusement permit from KSAC.”
“We have a tariff (on JACAP’s website), which speaks to all forms of music and it’s an international standard. We also report to a body called SESAC (a US-based performance rights association, originally known as the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers), and every society in the world falls under that body. We are also audited, and we have to operate by their standards and their rules,” Rose pointed out.
In explaining how fees are assigned, she said, “Licensing fees are charged for events such as parties and stage shows based on the usage of music as per our licensing tariff. This takes into account the nature and extent to which music is used, commercial and/or non-commercial aspect of the event, as well as the capacity.”
The general manager offered some basic examples:
- Parties without admission are based on the person capacity of the venue. For example, event A is being held at Macau Lawn, no admission charge with a capacity of 150 people. Licence fee is assessed on the basis of person capacity; therefore, the minimum for 200 persons or fewer is $6,000.
- Parties and/or stage shows with admission fees are based on ticket prices, X person capacity at five per cent (first event) and 4.5 per cent thereafter. For example, event B is being held at Macau Lawn, admission charge of $2,000. Licence fee is calculated as follows: $2,000.00 x 150 (persons) at five per cent is $15,000.
For transparency reasons, Rose indicated that on the company’s board are “the executive director of JIPO (The Jamaica Intellectual Property Office) and a rep from the Attorney General’s Office. So our operations are open and always guided.”
In fact, she added, “Any user who wants to come in and look at their payments and how it is disbursed can do so.”
Statistically, Rose said that 95 per cent of the well-known songwriters have joined the society, while the other five per cent will go through their publishers.
For the years 2017 and 2018, JACAP revealed that the total sum paid out in royalties to songwriters – that is, authors, composers, and publishers – was $219,235,943, while total royalties received from overseas to JACAP members was $30,512,465. According to Rose, “we have cumulatively distributed over $694,646,316 to creators”.
She informed that internationally, “It’s not difficult to collect, because we have reciprocal agreements in every country and with all the other societies. But what should be noted is that in those countries, their sample rate is much smaller. So whereas in Jamaica, our sample rate is 25 per cent for payment, theirs is five per cent, and for some societies it’s even one per cent. So from all the music that we have for the compliant users, their set list (the list that we get of the music played), we take a 25 per cent sample and pay on that. But studies have shown that, of that 25 per cent, once your music has been played more than once or twice, it would be captured, so you would still get paid.”
So far, there have been few complaints from JACAP members.
Craigy T, formerly of dancehall group, TOK, said that he is happy with the work that JACAP has been putting in.
“All income is useful,” said the artiste. “Proper registration of your works is like having property titles. At any given moment in time, that value can skyrocket. You want to make sure that when it does, you’re already set up to earn.”
He, however, noted that “worldwide streaming income takes a little longer than it should to start reflecting in income numbers. So I would say improving the relationship between themselves and other royalties collection agencies worldwide should be priority. However, things have been better since the introduction of their BMAT system.”
According to JACAP, the turnaround time for payout to artistes is six to 12 months, depending on the period of receipt of royalties. “Payments of these royalties to our members are done in the currency of payment,” Rose pointed out.
Singer Sophia Brown shared that, “I cannot criticise JCAP’s services. Based on what they have done for me in the past, I’m pleased with it. But as with any organisation, there is room for improvement.”
TOP 15 EARNERS FROM ROYALTIES IN 2019
1. Nicholas J. Browne
2. Omar R. Riley aka Tarrus Riley
3. Donald A. Dennis aka Mr Bigs
4. Dub Plate Music Publishers Ltd
5. Anthony L. Martin aka Lutan Fyah
6. Reggie H. Williams aka Reggie Stepper
7. Noel E. Willis aka Grace Thrillers
8. Cebert Bernard aka Jackie Bernard (The Kingstonians)
9. Andrew Oneil Thomas aka Grumps
10. Paul E. Crosdale aka Wrong Move
11. Kevin D. Downswell aka Kevine Downswell
12. Gavin Blair
13. Lamont St Patrick Savory aka Monty (C-Sharp Band)
14. Sean K. T. McDonald aka Jah Dore
15. Thomas L. Cowan aka Tommy Cowan