Artists under the Musicians Association of Malawi (MAM) are mobilising themselves to deal with a long-standing battle surrounding the use of their music by mobile service providers, as Ring Back Caller Tunes.
For close to two years now, musicians have been complaining that unscrupulous individuals are ripping them off by providing their music to Airtel and TNM, which is used as caller tunes, yet they get nothing.
MAM president Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango disclosed that the music body is working at obtaining a court injunction to stop the use of music by mobile service providers.
“We will file the injunction, but also claim what is due to us. For some time now, our songs have been used as caller tunes, but we have gained nothing out of it. We are tired of this and it is time to take action. In fact, the musicians wanted to hold a demonstration but had to negotiate other tangible ways of addressing this challenge.
“We are therefore calling upon all artists whose songs have been used without their consent to come forward so that we have a collective voice in addressing this matter,” Mhango said.
Mhango, who says is also a victim of the malpractice, said musicians are very bitter and are demanding answers.
Asked as to why it has taken time for the musicians to act considering this is not a new issue, the MAM president said the body was conducting investigations to get to the root of the problem.
Contacted for comment, Airtel Malawi public relations manager Edith Tsilizani expressed surprise at the matter, which she said is a recurring issue.
“We have no direct contract with the artists, but we work through a company called On Mobile which has an agreement with content providers who in turn grant the songs on behalf of the artists. As such, we directly pay On Mobile on a monthly basis and therefore the artists cannot sue us,” she explained.
TNM, on the other hand, said the service is provided by third party companies who get into agreements with artists to use their songs.
“We work under third party agreements. The revenue from the mobile phone subscriber of caller tunes; K15 (about $0.03) per song downloaded and K35 ($0.08) monthly rental for each subscriber, is shared between TNM and the third party caller tunes content provider. It is the third party content provider who in turn makes any relevant transactions with the specific musicians/artists,” said TNM’s head of marketing division Sobhuza Ngwenya.
On how they know if the artists whose music is used by TNM as caller tunes get their dues, Ngwenya said: “When uploading any caller tunes, TNM requires that the third party content provider produces an agreement between them and the artists. This is to make sure that the artist has agreed specific terms with the content provider before their songs are uploaded as caller tunes.”
He added that while the third party content providers invoice TNM monthly for payment, the revenue from caller tunes depends on the number of times that subscribers download a particular song.
One of the third party firms which provide content to TNM, Mobtech Solutions, says it has and will always provide content to mobile service providers after signing an agreement with the artists.
“We have no issues with artists because we have authority to provide their music to either TNM or Airtel. Depending on the agreement and status, an artist gets 10, 20 or 30 percent of the total revenue. We get the other chunk to meet costs like advertising among others,”explained Owen Banda of Mobtech.