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Baboon dey chop" - Ambolley 10/9/2007
This is unfair but, it is real. Some Ghanaian composers are reaping where they have not sown. They are benefiting from the royalties of other composers simply because they are registered members of the Copyright Society of Ghana (COSGA).
In Ghana, composers have been categorised into groups — A, B and C — based on popularity of their works. Thus, a musician whose work is used more frequently on radio, television and in hotels, restaurants and night clubs, is supposedly under international copyright rules, to be paid more than others who do not enjoy such popularity. However, in Ghana, it is not the case.

Composers in category C who enjoy airplay are paid from the sweat of those in category A, denying the original composer his or her full due.

ne of Ghana’s ace musicians, Gyedu Blay Ambolley of ‘Simigwa’ fame says “this is not right; it must stop”. In an interview with The Spectator, he explained: “A lot of composers are hungry and dying as paupers because they never enjoy fully, the fruits of their labour. How can you share the royalty from your music with several people? Why?”, he asked.

As a member of COSGA, Ambolley expects the Copyright Society to see to his interest as a composer but unfortunately, the mechanism for sharing the money leaves much to be desired.

“Though a lot of noise has been made about this situation, nothing has been done to rectify it,” he said.

According to Ambolley, if an executive producer finances a musical project, he arranges with the composer (the one who writes the music), to recoup the capital invested in the production. If any profit accrues subsequently, it will be shared equally between the composer and the executive producer. If such an arrangement is done, such royalties become untouchable.

Ambolley stated that in the United States of America and Europe, personnel from Copyright Office go from place to place, noting, the music that is performed in order to collect the royalties due composers.

In Ghana, COSGA does not do this, he charged.

In reaction to these concerns, Nana K. K. Yeboah, Vetting Officer of COSGA, said in the absence of a logging system for effective monitoring and collection of royalties due composers and producers, COSGA has designed its own mechanism.

He said a body has been set up consisting of various artistes and interest groups including MUSIGA, to determine the mode of distribution of royalties. “So long as one is registered with COSGA that artiste will definitely receive an amount based on popularity air play and sales.”

The more one’s work is used commercially the more royalty one will receive. This is done every six months. However those whose works have not been aired received a token amount.

Asked why a non active registered member should receive such an amount, Nana Yeboah said this is to motivate them particularly the old ones most of whom receive no pension at all.

But this is what Ambolley is furious about. “You are either a composer or you are not,” he argued. “Your work must sustain you. Under the present system, it means that anybody can get a few cassettes, put anything on it, call it music and register it with COSGA.

Professional or not, such people go round boasting that they are musicians or composers, and whether the work sells or not, they are entitled to something, and this something – whether it is token or not – is coming from what the hardworking creative musicians, not to be misunderstood, Ambolley explained, “all have sweated to create,” Ambolley complained, concluding with a question: “Why?” All of us are sympathetic towards the aged, but this is business. The arrangement must be worked out well. If COSGA wants to help old people (and all of us want to) a fund could be set up to do that.”

Ambolley revealed a new system of payment that has been worked out by Metro TV. To avoid all the hullabaloo, about who deserves to receive what from airplay and performance, Metro TV now pays composers and performers directly. A musician who performs the music of another musician on Metro TV now gets paid 40 per cent while 60 per cent goes to the musician whose work has been performed.

At the offices of Metro TV, Mr Abdulai Habib the Commercial Manager explained that the rationale for paying the royalty directly to the composers and performers is to reward them for the use of their music on their network. This is done quarterly.

In a comment, Mr Carlos Sakyi, a music rights advocate, said artistes have not benefited from the use of their works as the existing system of royalty collection by COSGA is bad, with no transparency or accountability.

As an interim measure, he said, a number of musicians appealed to Metro TV on the issue as they felt they were not receiving their due. To eliminate the inefficiencies in the system, Metro TV decided to pay composers 60 per cent and performers 40 per cent.


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