Dear SABC… No pay? No play

I refuse to let the SABC exploit & play any of my music until they start paying artists what’s owed to them.

I recently became a member of South African Music Performance Rights Association (SAMPRA) who are in charge for paying artists needle time royalties, including session musicians i.e. the guitarist or drummer behind the scenes who played on a song. Those are royalties for music that plays on radio, restaurants, shops etc… Every establishment that plays music in public spaces legally has to pay a SAMPRA license, and then SAMPRA pays their members out accordingly. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that SAMPRA owed me over R60k in needle-time royalties for my music that has played in various public spaces over the years. I was shocked to find out that not one cent of that payout came from the SABC. And unsurprisingly, it’s because the SABC have never paid SAMPRA. It’s illegal, but they either think they’re above the law or they simply just don’t care (or both).

It’s funny because most of my music that has played in public spaces has come from SABC stations like 5FM, so that R60k I got paid is only coming from private stations like 947 & Kfm 94.5(owned by Primedia Broadcasting) & the occasional restaurant and grocery shop. After countless enquiries, SAMPRA couldn’t disclose to me how much money has come from where, so I’ve had to draw my own rough calculations. But judging by the amount of airtime I’ve received through Primedia stations (like Kfm & 947) in comparison to SABC stations, I think it’s safe to say that I’m owed in the region of R60k or more by the SABC in needletime royalties alone.

And that’s just needletime! Every station also has to legally pay a performance royalty fee toSAMRO, who distribute a performance royalty (separate to the needletime royalty). At the end of last year, SAMRO announced that the SABC owes a whopping R55,5mil in performance royalties to SAMRO. I’m not sure what my cut of that lump sum would be, but it’s definitely A LOT more than the peanuts I got in my last quarterly payout. Back in the day, artists were buying houses with the money they made from royalties. Today, we’re in this weird situation where artists are just happy to have their song on radio because the exposure means more to them than actually making a sustainable living. I call bullshit, and I refuse to have my music play on stations that don’t give artists what they’re owed. In my naivety, I would often convince myself to believe that the exposure I’d get from non-paying radio play is worth more than what I’m owed, but it’s that same mentality which creates an over-arching sense of complacency, but today I’m putting my foot down.

Please note that this has nothing to do with some of my friends & DJs like Nic Hamman, Das Kapital, Forbes & Fix, who are excellent DJs & I love listening to their shows on 5fm. They’re just doing their jobs. This message is directed at the useless arseholes at the top who have no one’s interests at heart but their own. By all means if you like 5fm, keep listening. I don’t expect you to care that South African musicians are being robbed of their livelihood, but I think it’s important that this information becomes public knowledge. Do with it as you please. I can only hope that other artists (especially well established artists who are owed way more than me) follow suit. We need the AKA IV League‘s & the Cassper Nyovests & the Nasty C SA’s to make a stand if this is going to make any difference for the session muso who could use some royalties to feed their family or get their careers off the ground, or in my case – retire one day 

No pay? No play. It’s as simple as that.


If you are a local musician or music supporter, please share this message far and wide. The SABC can only stay corrupt if the public remain ignorant. But if we stand together, one of two things can happen:

  1. The SABC will implode & give way to privately owned, ethical stations who pay employees and artists their fair share.
  2. There will be enough pressure for them to pull finger & sort their kak out.