Music contracts: A masterstroke in the Zimbabwean arts sector



Music is a field that is construed by agreements, which can be verbal or written, but whose scope, nature and magnitude differ from case to case.

The entire music ecosystem starting with artists, music producers, promoters, distributors, record labels and corporates are bound by agreements, which are relevant in making this booming industry viable and lucrative.

For the sake of progress, these agreements must however, translate into legally binding infrastructure, which creates obligations and responsibilities to the involved parties in a move to curtail bedevilling anomalies.

Against this background, these music agreements must place contracts at the epicentre of every arrangement and agreement in a move to professionalise as well as circumvent unnecessary conflicts, feuds and disagreements.

Binding music contracts are a masterstroke and a shot in the arm, taking cognisance of the fact that most industry players are used to making tacit and non-binding agreements, which they misconstrue as contracts though with detrimental consequences.

The major problems relating to contractual breaches in the Zimbabwean music industry emanate from the fact that studio conversations and bar talks are translated into agreements which are further interpreted as contracts which is a major cause for concern.

Most industry players find pleasure in making ad-hoc agreements that might have effects on some involved parties.

Some benefits of signing contracts are that they create obligations, which are enforceable at law, which ensures that correct legal measures are taken when contracts are breached.

This is healthy and ideal because it creates a win-win situation for various music players.

In the Zimbabwean setup, a number of promoters have run unbearable losses in the past as a result of artists who abscond shows despite the fact of being paid full amounts.

This has triumphed mainly as a result of ambiguous and backyard agreements which are not in sync with the contract laws which as a result restricts promoters to enjoy legal remedies in cases where artists have failed to show up at a show.

In the same vein, the notorious dancehall super star the late Soul Jah Love was famous for dodging shows; he managed to get away easily as a result of the non-binding contractual obligations.

The case is also vice versa; there are a number of artists who have also been conned by promoters as a result of implicit contracts, which fall short of the blessings of the law.

Lest we forget how the likes of Van Choga and Fidel the Country Boy got stuck in South Africa after they were conned by a local promoter.

Moving on, artists are the main beneficiaries of the royalties which are dispersed through the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (ZIMURA).

The ZIMURA royalty split sheet has a segment of a percentage that must be given to both the artist and the producer.

Nevertheless, most music producers have been crying foul of not receiving the royalties despite being part of the music production, this is mainly because they do not have clear-cut contracts with the artists which is the reason why they are elbowed.

Against this backdrop, the music industry must stimulate a paradigm shift by harnessing the phenomenon of signing contracts, which is a better way of formalising and solving some of the man-made problems in the music sector.

The starting point is the buy-in of legal practitioners who play an important role in drafting, interpreting and enforcing contracts.



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