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Sat Oct 25 13:14:54 SAST 2014

How South African musicians can cash in on international performances: iLIVE

South African Music Organisation | 20 December, 2012 15:06
Johannesburg alternative rock band Dead Alphabet.
Image by: Ravi Panchia / Courtesy of Plug Music

South African musicians have been making waves around the world in recent years.

With everyone from DJ Black Coffee to The Parlotones performing on stages in the four corners of the globe, South African talent is doing a great job of getting our tunes beyond our borders.

When they do, the job of protecting their rights and collecting royalties from these performances on their behalf falls to a dedicated group of people who work behind the scenes at the South African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO).

Yet SAMRO says many musicians don't realise they're entitled to these royalties, or don't notify SAMRO when they will be performing abroad. Which means many of our musicians could be missing out on some valuable extra income.

SAMRO is an internationally affiliated music rights collection society that manages the music rights of its members. It's their job to see that South African musicians enjoy the fruits of their labour by collecting royalties on their behalf whenever their music is used publically -anywhere in the world. Membership is free and once admitted, SAMRO members receive royalties and benefits from their protected musical works for life.

In terms of international copyright law, all authors and composers who perform abroad enjoy ‘performing rights'. This entitles them to earn royalties collected from music usage licence fees paid by the venues in which they perform. This is over-and-above any agreement that they might have between themselves and the venue. So, even if you are paid for the performance directly by the venue, your membership with SAMRO and SAMRO's international affiliation entitles you to royalty payments from the performance.

Yet, because most composers and authors don't notify SAMRO when this happens, they often don't receive these royalties.

Says Christine Reddy of SAMRO's International Affairs department, “A lot of musicians who travel don't know that they should notify SAMRO. Sometimes we only learn about their performances through media reports or on social media platforms. With so many new musicians going overseas, we're worried that a lot are losing out on royalties they are rightfully entitled to. We run ongoing workshops to help members understand how we go about collecting royalties from societies overseas and pass them on to the music creators, but more needs to be done to spread this message.”

As SAMRO members, musicians only need to inform SAMRO's International Affairs department of the dates and venues of all the performances planned, along with the contact details of the venue organisers. You should also submit a detailed set list for each performance. This gives SAMRO's team the information they need to follow up after your event to ensure that every musical note you play is turned into currency notes in the form of royalties.

SAMRO's International Affairs team orchestrates everything. Contacting sister societies in other countries to check if the venues you are performing in are licensed for public performances and following up to check that appropriate performances are surveyed by the societies' so that royalties would be forthcoming.

The International Affairs team will maintain contact with the music rights society in each country to determine when your royalties will be released, and you will be advised when to expect performance royalties from SAMRO. If you have performed abroad recently, SAMRO can even retrospectively collect royalties for past performances up to a year previous.

There's more good news for those who have performed in the United States in the last year. These musicians have the opportunity to enjoy an additional payment as part of the ASCAP Awards program. This is not a competition or award ceremony, but a reward program for musicians who have performed in the USA. To apply, please contact the SAMRO International Affairs department before the ASCAP closing deadline of January 15, 2013. You can learn more about the ASCAP awards on www.samro.org.za.

Christine explains, “To qualify for an ASCAP payment, SAMRO members need to contact us and provide details about each performance and provide as much supporting documentation as possible. This includes dates and times of performances, advertising material if possible, performance agreements with venues, and contact details.

“A number of SAMRO members have already received payouts under this scheme and we appeal to all members to come forward if they have performed in the United States between 1 October 2011 and 30 September 2012.”

Much is being done to keep members informed, but perhaps the loudest voice could come from the musicians themselves. SAMRO has established social channels for musicians to share their story with friends and colleagues on Facebook, Twitter and on their website.

Inviting all fans of South African Music to join the conversation and help musicians get more out of their music by raising awareness of international performance royalties.

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