Artistes concede defeat in music piracy fight

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By Bakang Mhaladi

Gaborone - At every corner in the Botswana capital, Gaborone, a Compact Disc (CD) can be purchased for a giveaway P10 (R12), which is 500% below the average market value of P50 (R64).

The counterfeit CDs are sprouting across the country, with musicians seemingly giving up the fight against music piracy.

In 2017, the annual Global Piracy Report estimated that music piracy grew 14.7% from the year prior in 2017, with 73.9 billion visits to music piracy sites made worldwide.

Piracy has seen most of the musicians in Botswana turn to live shows, as income from CD sales is depressed.

Leco Kenosi, a promoter who manages one of Botswana’s biggest music name, Charma Gal, said piracy has reached crisis levels.

He admits it is difficult to sell hard copies due to cheaper counterfeit music products, sold at unauthorised outlets, or by individuals.

“It’s a big problem, hard copies are not being bought anymore. Sales have gone down everywhere, not only in Botswana. I encourage artistes to sell their music online and work on their brands to get more bookings, as well collaborate more and stage shows,” Kenosi, of Leccotainment, said.

He said what exacerbates the problem is the advent of technology, where individuals can share through various media platforms.

“People can share music on WhatsApp, Facebook and other platforms. It is now difficult to sell copies at a music store. Artistes make money through shows nowadays. That’s a global trend,” he told The Southern Times.

Jazz artiste, Tomeletso Sereetsi of the band, Sereetsi and the Natives, said piracy in Botswana runs into billions of Pula due to its downstream effects.

“I think it effectively runs into billions of Pula because it doesn’t only affect Botswana artists. As users of social media and the internet, we are all aware of the large volumes of copyrighted content that illegally exchange hands every day. It is no longer solely about the guy on the street corner, selling a few units a day,” Sereetsi said.

He blames the growth of the online world for the worsening piracy challenge.

“The online world has exponentially grown the magnitude of the problem and made it even more difficult to manage.”

Sereetsi said, more than ever, artistes’ works are being exploited and obtained for free.

“These new technologies, while they have their usefulness, they make piracy thrive and difficult to address as the crime even transcends the regular geographic boundaries, bringing newer legal complexities for artists whose view of their business world is largely local,” he said.

The former journalist-turned-musician said it was difficult for artistes to address the problem. He said public education has not helped much although he tries to enlighten consumers about the impact of piracy on the industry.

“It is important to regularly sensitise the public on the issue so that they know how it is tantamount to stealing from hardworking artistes. The policymakers also need to be aware of the problem and bring about stiffer penalties for pirates,” Sereetsi said.

The Botswana police appear to be losing the war, particularly against vendors who sell pirated music on the streets.

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