Music piracy in Africa

Posted on February 22, 2016 12:02 am

Despite the growth of Africa’s music industry, pirated music continues to dominated music sales with a 90 percent market share over the period from 2005 to 2015 according to data in my possession which has caused the industry losses of US$950 million annually in Sub Saharan Africa.”The same thing happened to the film industry, where losses may have reached $50,000 per film according to an estimation by the Association of Film Producers that is currently cooperating with law enforcement agencies to tackle the issue of piracy in several African countries. In countries like South Africa, artists who feel they have been disadvantaged can report to them by bringing two initial pieces of evidence to be processed.The system, which was created in cooperation with several private firms has been installed on various websites that feature pirated music and movie content.Whenever users try to download illegal content, they receive a notification, which include information on the law they would be violating if they proceeded and the maximum sanction they would be facing, as well as links to other websites that provide legal downloadable content.The task force is part of South Africa efforts to eradicate online piracy by handling complaints from copyright holders on all types of piracy, including offline. It is made up of officials as well as a group of professionals from the music and film industries.

Piracy is only one of many challenges facing the South African film and music industries, which continue to struggle in the absence of supportive government regulations that could protect the industries from fierce competition and copyright abuse.A Film director based in Cape Town recently to me that the government needed to step in and draw up regulations to oblige cinema chains in the country to give extended durations to local films; producers increasingly only make money from box office sales, with piracy hitting physical DVD sales hard. “The problem is that most cinemas base their ratings of a film based on seat occupancy on the first five days. If it does not gain at least 50 percent seat occupancy, they stop screening a local movie,” the producer told me.South African films, he said, needed more screening time in the absence of big-budget promotional campaigns.“Cinemas only screen local films for three or five days and we have a low promotion budget, so we depend on word of mouth and by the time the public begins to be aware of the films, they’re no longer on at the cinema,” he said. According to him, in United States of America where he horned his skills and worked on various projects, industry regulation requires cinemas to screen local films for at least two weeks.The burly producer whom I first me ten years ago also lamented the fact that cinema chains in South Africa preferred to screen Hollywood blockbusters, even when there was demand for South African movies.Another film producer informed me that even if the local films are good, Nigerian urban cinemas continue to prioritize foreign films.

However, she stressed that the problems facing the Nigerian movie industry were manifold and complex, including a drop in audience sizes for local films, with cinema goers unimpressed by cheap horror and campy eroticism, as well as funding shortages. The biggest challenge for Nigerian filmmakers today is to collect funds. This is because there’s been a drop in audience numbers and trust in local films is so low that investors are reluctant to spend big. Low budgets force directors either to make low-quality films or maintain the quality but with sacrifices elsewhere,” said the lady who promised to invite me in her upcoming big project slated to kick off in 2017. Five years ago, production houses in Nigeria were willing to spend US$200,000 to $300,000 on a local film, but today $100,000 was already considered expensive, she said. In 2014, audiences of 2 million were the rough target, while today, directors are pleased if their films reach 200,000 people. Production houses get $2 per ticket sold most of them on average of $10.Those working in the music industry, meanwhile, face the same problem of low monetary gain from their work.“It is safe to say that 90 percent of Nigerian musicians’ income come from touring, because the sales of CDs are not significant anymore,” said the Nigerian producer who learned her production skills in Adelaide, Australia.She believes that the new Nigerian government could help musicians by drawing up regulations that oblige any parties, be they individuals or companies, to pay copyright fees for each song sung or played like they are doing in Kenya with Music Copyrights of Kenya. Most countries already have such regulations in Africa. In Kenya, for example, a singer has to pay copyright fees to the original singer if he or she wants to cover a song,” the lady added.No doubt the music and film industries are thriving but bottom line is that piracy is killing the efforts of arts industry in the continent.

Contador Harrison