The Sunday News
THERE have been recent debates around copyrights, artists contracts and all. Like all debates or arguments involving artists it was an emotional episode and as predicated the promoter ended up throwing in the towel and apologising and even promising to do better in the future.
Doing better basically meaning artists will be paid better for their contents. All fine. Like the learned always say; all is well that ends well. Interesting in the discussion were claims that artists signed contracts and were never given their copies.
I think it is the duty of everyone who signs a contract to demand and get a copy. People who sign contracts should know the importance of the document and that it protects both parties. If one signs a contract and does not see the importance of keeping a copy, how will they respect the contract? No wonder many incidents of artists not honouring their contracts.
There is a huge information that these debates and discussion have exposed. First the artists need to be educated about the importance of contracts and what signing them means to both parties. Associations have a big role to play in this education. And this play cuts across genres. The education on contracts is needed across the sector.
When we have dealt with the issue of contracts, I would also love us to talk about the issue of the equipment versus the artist. Who should get paid more? I will give a few examples.
There is a book launch. The publisher hires a PA system and also the writer or poet to perform during this event. Who should go home with more money? The technical person and his equipment or the artist? Same example in music. A promoter organizes a show. He hires a PA system, lights, and a camera crew.
They are all there to work. But everyone else work is to enhance the performance of the artist. The artist is the content creator and the most of important person in the whole arrangement. Who should go home with more money? Should the PA and the crew behind it get paid more? Should the film crew get more? Or it should be obvious that the artist has to get more. What is prevailing in the sector?
My experience tells me that in most cases the artist always goes home with less than everyone else even though it is his/her content will have been the draw card. Some years ago, when I was young and still excitable, we were hired by this organization to provide some edutainment and also facilitate some sessions in a one-week workshop in Victoria Falls. We were all excited about travelling.
All excited about seeing Victoria Falls. All excited about spending a week in hotel, eating free food. When we got there and started working, we realized that our performances and facilitation formed the core of the workshop but what we were getting as payment for our services was peanuts. We were just a group of six young artists who discovered when we were already in Victoria Falls that the hotel was getting almost twenty times more than what we were getting.
The hired transport to Victoria Falls was getting five times more than us. Even individual facilitators from other more “professional” sector were getting much more than us. We tried to re-negotiate but it was too late. Who was to blame? And were we being exploited? We could spend days debating this but the lesson we learnt from that experience was to value ourselves and negotiate well for our services. It was a lesson learnt well.
Later on, I worked with a wonderful woman who later relocated to South Africa. During one discussion about the exploitation of artists she told me this: “You are not exploited until the day you know you are being exploited, and once you know it is up to you to make a decision.”
Well, one has only two choices to make once they know they are in bad situation. They either leave and find someone where they are properly appreciated or they stay and work and complain under their breath. A lot of our artists are getting raw deals. But is it true they don’t know the deals are bad? Or they know but are comfortable in the bad deals? Food for thought.