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Is ZIMURA the Menace or Saviour of Zimbabwean Artists?

Is ZIMURA a Menace or Saviour?
The Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (ZIMURA) is a body that is said to manage the Music Rights of Music Composers/Authors and Publishers. ZIMURA is said to do this by collecting royalties from entities that use Music for Commercial purposes.

Many an Artist may consider ZIMURA the pyramid-scheme of good intentions.

The body has often been criticised for unclear collection and distribution processes. Its 3,000 or-so members if lucky, only receive their payouts once, annually. On the other hand, ZIMURA did take the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation to court over Artist Royalties issues leading to a payout close enough to the one million mark.

Yes, in Zimbabwean Dollars! 

ZIMURA was the subject of much additional raucous after announcing its new Licencing Tariffs. To the surprise of many, these were pegged in United States dollars to…

“protect the value of music”

The ZIMURA Licencing Tariffs, according to the body are guides used to encourage public music users such as shops, Public Transport, Broadcasters and Salons, to contribute to the Royalties of ZIMURA’s members.  Yes, even in this economy, slap-bang in the middle of COVID-19 Pandemic lockdown and business slow-downs; anyone from an event promoter, DJ, restaurant, kombi or salon owner can be expected to pay anything from US$50 to US$1,000. 

Speaking to #enthuse, Bongai Zamchiya, the Executive Direct and Co-Founder of the Zimbabwean restaurant/bar chain; Pariah Group, he said it was about time creatives were compensated accordingly for their integral work. 

“It’s not only important to acknowledge the Artist, their work and intellectual property but a fundamental requirement that they get just compensation for their works” he said. 

Restaurants and bars like Pariah could be paying as much US$200 to US$250 monthly/annually. Zamchiya said he fully supported the licensing but the revenue collected would be taken to its rightful owners. 

“It is essential that this money finds its way to the creators and owners of this content, otherwise such licensing is done under false pretences,” concluded Zamchiya. 

With support, from the Zimbabwe Intellectual Property Office and the acceptable use of the US Dollar as legal tender to justify collection; ZIMURA has high flying ambitions of paying members in the coveted currency even though they haven’t quite explained how.

The lack of systematic clarity even has ZIMURA’s constituents hopeful but concerned. Neo-Soul Artist Prayersoul appreciated the stance by ZIMURA but is worried that it may be too expensive. 

“I understand the need for US Dollar charge, it makes sense for the Artists over time…I feel that the tariffs are not realistic. And there are a lot of blurred lines in the details of it all, I would even say it wasn’t well thought out,” said Prayersoul. 

Chucknosis Ayisa, a Promoter and club DJ behind monthly live events such as Fiesta-Fiesta; raised similar concerns about ZIMURA’s systems; 

“The thing is, I doubt people will actually pay them. It will not work. In order for this to work, there has to be a system in place….at this moment there’s no system in play”

DJs who are often ambassadors of Music Culture have been slapped with a US$50 charge per gig. One can’t imagine how this could potentially affect the growing uptake of locally produced music. 

“I would not be willing to pay fifty dollars per month or per sesh to play local music. That’s actually doing harm to the local musicians, it’s absurd,” fumed seasoned DJ, TBass

Local femme DJ, Eve‘s House and Local Dancehall sets will leave the biggest music critic in the mood to groove. Speaking to us she was torn at the effects of the new tariffs. 

“The licensing brings structure but I’m really disappointed because our circle is already poor, it’s hard enough, we don’t get enough. So many will say to hell with it, I’ll just play international music. Even if we pay, what guarantee do we have that this money gets to the Artists when ZIMURA is infamous for not paying dues?” said DJ Eve. 

Many of the Artists registered or otherwise seemed either infuriated, hopeful, or aloof at ZIMURA’s efforts. Sighting the prevailing economic and market forces; ZIMURA insists that, regardless of public opinion; it is protecting the interests of Artists. In response to the clammer of public discourse and discontent, ZIMURA issued a statement on their Facebook Page.

ZIMURA has not indicated the details of how they intend to practically enforce these tariffs or make use of ZImbabwe’s constant financial changes. 
For example, if Zimbabwe’s legislature was to change before the next disbursement ie. July 2021 ZIMURA is not readily clear as to what will happen then. These uncertainties could explain the faint faith the Creative community might have in the body.
Given their decision, it would be interesting to find out if any consultative engagements were had. 

Our spidey sense tells us it is not too presumptive to guess that these did not happen

What is clear is that there is a disconnect between the decision-makers at ZIMURA, the constituents they purport to serve and the stakeholders like you and us who consume this Art. 
Until these dots are connected, the road to financial emancipation for music Artists may continue to resemble that of hell itself; filled with nothing else but good intentions. 
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Dr. Chaii is a Grammy-nominated USbased Zimbabwean record producer, songwriter and singer. 
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