Ladies and Gentlemen
They say that “when music hits you, you feel no pain”. This line, from the song Trenchtown Rock by iconic reggae artist Robert Nesta Marley, popularly known as Bob Marley, speaks of music’s magical ability to alleviate pain and give us peace of mind. Music has the ability to unite a country in times of divisions, to call for justice in the face of atrocities, to instil social values in times of moral decadence and to heal a nation torn down by political contestations. As a country, we can attest to this healing power of music. When darkness engulfed our nation during the 2007/2008 post-election violence, songs like Mkenya Daima by Eric Wainaina and Wakenya Pamoja featuring Churchill, Juliani, Alice Kamande, Rufftone among others, reminded us of the inviolable bond that holds us together as a people, and impressed on us the need to see each other as children of one nation. I am, therefore, delighted to be present here today and interact with stakeholders in the music industry as we 2 discuss matters music, the challenges facing the industry and propose workable solutions to mitigate these challenges.
Ladies and Gentlemen
As the Ministry in charge of the Arts, we are in the process of implementing overarching reforms in the creative arts sector – as directed by His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta – to help support the industry and improve the living standards of Kenyan artists. Our brief is to free the trapped potential of the creative sector by unlocking avenues for partnerships, opening doors for private investment, protecting the rights of artists and monetising the sector. The President’s directive that digital platforms be licenced by the Kenya Copyright Board, and for media houses and telecommunication companies to channel royalties to three Collective Management Organisations (CMOs), namely the Kenya Association of Music Producers, Performers Rights Society of Kenya, and Music Copyright Society of Kenya, is already in effect. The Board has already approved the issuance of six-month initial licenses to the three Societies with strict conditions that require them to conduct a forensic audit of their operations, to carry out the joint collection of royalties, 3 and to only use government-approved ICT system for collection, management and distribution of royalties. The three Societies are also required to share their respective databases with the Kenya Copyright Board to enable the creation of a repository of creative works. Additionally, these Societies will deposit all their income into a Kenya Copyright Board controlled account where 70 per cent of the total collections shall be disbursed to artists as royalties with only 30 per cent being used as their operating costs, which must be guided by the Salaries and Remunerations Commission regulations to avoid exorbitant payments. This is a break from the past where musicians complained of being underpaid, with a huge share of their royalties being used as operating costs by the collecting agencies, leaving them with meager returns of as little as Kshs. 2,500. Such cases will now be a thing of the past! Additionally, in a move aimed at taming corruption, all senior managers and members of the Board of Directors of these Societies will be vetted by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, with those involved in the mismanagement of the royalties facing prosecution, and stolen money recovered and rechanneled to the artists. These are just some of the actions we are taking to ensure we have a fair and fraud-proof royalty collection 4 system and ensure musicians are the biggest beneficiaries of their work.
Ladies and Gentlemen
As a Ministry, we are also cognizant of the need to embrace cross-cultural and cross-national integration as a way of growing the local and regional music industry. Through collaborations between musicians from different countries and music summits like these, which bring together industry players from the larger Eastern Africa region, we get to learn from each other and support each other’s initiatives as we strive to grow together. From the theme of this summit, Disrupt To Thrive! and the panel discussions being held, it is clear that times are changing and digital innovation has influenced how music is produced, distributed and consumed. As such, it is encouraging to see this summit highlight key areas of improvement and address the existential hiccups in an effort to help the region keep up with the changing times and move ahead of the curve. As a Ministry, we assure you of our support and commitment to foster broader engagements between the countries represented here today as seek to grow the music industry in the region.
That is why I personally travelled to Paris, France to engage the organisers of Marche International di Disque et de edition Musicale (MIDEM) which is the largest business gathering of music professionals in the world bringing together participants from over 90 countries to forge business connections. MIDEM Africa premiers in Kenya this October, providing an opportunity for Kenyan Artists to pitch and connect with the biggest commercial music brands in the world. In addition, in partnership with the Government of Spain and CasaAfrica, we will host the Vis a Vis Festival next month to create linkages between the Kenyan and European Music Ecosystems. Finally, following His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit to Cuba, we will premiere the Festival Cubano in Kenya, which will act as a catalyst in enhancing cultural exchanges between Cuba and Kenya. These are genuine and deliberate steps to open up the music space in Kenya and avail more cross-border music collaborations for our people. Finally, let me take this opportunity to officially welcome you all to Kenya and wish you all the best in the remaining sessions. While here, I encourage you to visit our national sites and parks, sample Kenyan cuisines and take time to enjoy the best of Kenyan music.
Thank you very much!