Enraged musicians and composers have taken Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) to court for failing to pay them royalties worth over US$700 000. Musicians allege that they have not been paid their royalties since 2009.
After failing to receive their royalties on June 1, the usual date for payments, angry artists besieged the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (Zimura) offices in Harare, accusing the association of not being tough on the public broadcaster.
Zimura has since launched an urgent court application on the issue. "It is very true that we will not be able to pay musicians because ZBC has not paid the royalties, honestly we are under pressure and composers need to be paid. We are waiting for the court date," said Albert Nyathi, Zimura board chairman.
Under the contract with Zimura as the manager of artists' rights and collecting agency, the broadcaster is supposed to pay royalties for music played on air.
Zimura lawyer, Witness Zhangazha, said: "A contract exists between Zimura and ZBC that states that 10 percent of net advertising revenue generated by ZBC should be paid as royalties to musicians. The understanding is that advertisers target a pool of listeners and viewers that tune in to ZBC to listen to musicians' products."
The non-profit organization, made up mostly of 2200 musicians, is incensed because ZBC is not treating the issue with urgency. Zimura also says the 2011 amount is still unknown because ZBC stopped supplying schedules of advertising revenue a long time ago.
ZBC lawyer Absalom Muchandiona says the broadcaster is aware of the case but will not comment as the issue is now before the courts.
Demonstrating at the Zimura offices, irate musicians said the organistation is being lenient with ZBC. "You are paid to do the collection on our behalf and we want our monies. We don't care about ZBC. We want our money and we are tired of living in shacks" protested Zindi, band member of the Transit Crew.
"DJs only speak three minutes in an hour, news is only five minutes and the rest of the hour is our music being played. We don't understand why they say there is no money when DJs are driving cars but musicians are being condemned to poverty," added Zindi. Also blaming Zimura for the mess was traditional singer Kiren Zulu who queried why the Zimura board is failing to pressure the broadcaster.
The artists also accuse ZBC of robbing them their full payments by submitting inaccurate music log sheets to Zimura. Polisile Ncube, Zimura director, says the organization is in the process of installing a computerized system that atomically logs music once played on radio or TV.