Dancehall wrestles with rights fees
Pay-to-play rule hurting promoters
Arthur Hall & Alessandro Boyd, Sunday Gleaner Writers
The Jamaica Music Society (JAMMS) and the Jamaica Association of Composers, Authors and Publishers (JACAP) have stepped up their drive to force promoters of music events to pay copyright fees.
But several promoters have charged that the two entities are unreasonable and unfair in demanding "ridiculous fees" for these events.
"They have contacted me twice asking me to pay fees in the range of $40,000 and I never paid," one promoter told The Sunday Gleaner.
"I would have paid them, but the manner in which they go about it doesn't make any sense to me. It is unreasonable.
"I would have paid if it was a set rate, but they want to charge based on the number of patrons and price at the gate," the promoter added.
JACAP charges between $3,000 and $12,000 for small parties, fêtes, dances, karaoke sessions, stage shows and similar events, and a percentage of the gate receipt for major events such as Reggae Sumfest and the annual Jazz Festival.
For JAMMS, the charge to promoters ranges from a low of $3,000 to a high of $50,000, based on the type of event.
Under the law, event promoters must indicate the size of the event by declaring the estimated number of patrons.
NO MUSIC WITHOUT PERMIT
Based on the size of the event, promoters should pay the applicable licence fee to get a copyright permit for public performance of sound recordings.
If a copyright permit is not obtained, performance of music in public is unauthorised, and constitutes an infringement of the provisions of the Copyright Act (1993).
But over the years, several promoters have been ignoring this requirement and staging their sessions without the requisite permits.
"We are talking about the hotels, the clubs, bars and party promoters, among others. This is a huge area of non-compliance. We have just been scratching the surface," general manager of JAMMS, Evon Mullings, told a Gleaner Editors' Forum last week.
According to Mullings, to ensure that party promoters pay up, JAMMS and JACAP have been teaming up with the police so that permits for these events are not be issued until the copyright fees are paid.
"What we want the public to be aware of is that this is fully in effect, so if you are putting on an event and you go to the police for a permit, you will have to show this copyright licence," added Mullings.
"What I want people to understand is that you have to pay the police and the KSAC (Kingston and St Andrew Corporation), and so on. Music is the primary factor, so why not budget for the music first and everybody after?" argued Lydia Rose, general manager of JACAP.
"It is not a matter of pricing people out of the dances. It is a matter of ensuring that you constantly get this raw material, which is the music, to all be available to use," added Rose in response to claims that the copyright fees will drive up the cost of these social events.
She argued that if the persons who are making the music cannot earn, there will be no raw material for the promoter to use.
"Music is the most significant ingredient for a party, but what we are faced with is a cultural shift for many Jamaicans who never had to pay to play at the events that they are putting on," said Mullings,
"It is now a matter of getting them to change their mindset so that in a few years, they will budget for this."
BALANCING THE BOOKS
But the promoters say if they pay the money charged by JACAP and JAMMS, the events would be operated at a loss.
"This is an added expense that we really don't need to take on. The price of everything - such as liquor, disc jockeys and the venues - is already raising," declared a promoter of a weekly Corporate Area session.
"Promotion is also getting more expensive because everybody wants to remain competitive. With all these prices going up, you don't need anything else to be added to an already-inflated budget," said the promoter who asked that his name be withheld.
He argued that the copyright fees are too arbitrary.
"I have paid them on several occasions, but I personally think it is robbery. To be honest, I don't think the fee JACAP charges should be more than a KSAC permit.
"It is simply unreasonable and irrational. I understand the artistes are due credit for their work, but that sum of money is just ridiculous. Parties are being held all across the island every day, you can't possibly expect to charge all of them fees within that region," added the promoter.
He continued: "They are talking about protecting the rights of the artistes, yet these same artistes don't complain when you use their songs to advertise the party, and some don't necessarily charge you to do a dub for the party."
Another local promoter questioned the use of the money collected by JAMMS and JACAP.
"When I spoke to some of the producers and managers for these artistes, they stated that they haven't received any money from these organisations. I am not sure who they are protecting. I see it as another money-making scheme."
But last week, JAMMS reported that recorder producers who are members of the society were given a summer payout this year.
According to JAMMS, since 2009, it has distributed approximately $34 million in royalties, with 50 per cent of that amount going to its hundreds of members locally, and the rest going to international rights owners.