The Kenyans who use their talents, creativity, expertise and hard work to provide musical entertainment are, sadly, among the most exploited people despite the great efforts they put into this enterprise. An audit of the accounts of two agencies tasked with collecting revenue and distributing royalties to musicians and other artistes has exposed rampant embezzlement of their hard-earned money. This is not a well-kept secret. Some of these creative people live in squalour, as the agencies’ officials reap where they have not sown.
This forensic inquiry has exposed the looting of millions of shillings in royalties meant for musicians, many of whom live from hand to mouth while crooks enjoy lavish lives funded by their earnings. The culprits are in the Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP) and the Performances Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK). The rot has also been exposed in the suspect award of a tender that was reportedly inflated by Sh69 million to a firm that had flopped at the evaluation stage.
Board members are paid hefty allowances that by far exceed the royalties to musicians. This is so and yet the KAMP owes the musicians Sh75 million in withheld royalties. It collects the money from establishments that play music such as hotels, nightclubs, retail shops, hospitals, banks and radio stations.
The auditors also discovered the looting of Sh158 million against the royalties paid out for the 2020/2022 period. The PRISK was found to have misappropriated Sh28.6 million while it purports to represent the interests of music and dramatic performers. Directors pocketed Sh7.8 million in honoraria, while staff also enjoyed lavish payments.
More revelations could come to light when the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK), which refused to allow auditors to inspect its financial accounts, finally complies with the requirement by the Kenya Copyright Board. According to the audit, the agencies violated the 70:30 rule, which requires that 70 per cent of the collections be disbursed to the artistes, with 30 per cent going to administration expenses.
It is a shame the agencies gobble up the lion’s share of the musicians’ earnings, leaving them in penury. Such corruption must be punished.