In the 1980’s, music from Peterson Tusubira Mutebi and the Thames band filled the homes of Ugandas. Mutebi’s power and soothing songs about relationships was as famous as the then President Apollo Milton Obote.
Mutebi is famously remembered for songs like Anita, Bamulete, Fina, Hanifa jangu Onfumbile, Kanvugenvuge, Love enzigumivu, Nyongela kulove, Solome and Tubele nga nooyo. Mutebi died in 1992 leaving behind six children and a music career that had stood the taste of time.
Having been an artiste licensed with Uganda Performing Rights Society, Mutebi’s family, some of them artistes themselves, expected to receive royalties from his music even after the death of their loved father. The family members expected to live comfortably off the sweat and hard work of the family’s patriarch.
However, this hasn’t been the case according to some of the family members interviewed by this publication. A family member, who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity, says they have only received Shillings 70,000 since the death of their father, which has made them to draw conclusions that the copyright law isn’t working. The money was handed to the family in 2010.
James Wasula, the Secretary General Uganda Performing Rights Society (UPRS), says artistes are able to earn royalties from their music even after their death as long as they are registered members of UPRS.
He however, says that the earning start dropping when the music grows old, saying it is important for families of the deceased artistes to find ways to keep the music relevant to different audiences. “If families of deceased artiste’s want to earn more royalties, they need to allow people to come in and rework the songs. Just like Elly Wamala’s family did,” he said.
Mutebi’s family member agrees; “Music in Uganda survives most time when the artiste is alive to promote it at music concerts. But when the artiste passes away, that music dies with them because few people remember them,” he said.
According to the Copy Right Law Act 2006, artistes can earn royalties even after their death for a period of 50 years. After that, they become public goods and can be used without earning royalities. “We have a copy right law but it is weak as far as royalties are concerned,” Wasula said.
Wasula explains that musicians are not earning what they are supposed to because of the weak monitoring system. Ideally, users such as radio stations advertisers and DJs are supposed to hand over log sheets detailing how many times a particular user has played a certain song. The log sheet determines how much an artist is supposed to earn after a given period of time.
However, this is not happening. Wasula says that they are currently forced to use another method to determine how much artistes are paid because the law is not working. “Right now radio stations do not give us their log sheets. They believe that they should not do so if they are already remitting a lump sum of money to UPRS,” he said.
With no log sheets, UPRS depends on information from DJs to categorize musicians and hence determine how much they need to be paid. Musicians earn royalties depending on how popular their music is in night clubs. Popular songs win musicians a spot in the top most categories that earn much more money and are frequently compared to old songs.
With no plans to permit artistes to redo some of their father’s music, the late Mutebi’s children have moved on forging their own careers, unmotivated by the meager earnings from royalties for their father’s music.