Artists urged to apply for grant

By Rosalia David

THE Ministry of Finance has urged musicians to apply for the emergency income grant (EIG) rolled out to counter the negative economic and social impacts of Namibia’s first 21-day lockdown.

Speaking to Confidente recently, chief public relations officer at the Finance Ministry Tonateni Shidhudhu said, “Musicians can apply for the grant as long as they don’t have another job.” This comes after the government announced the registration process for the EIG last week, which raised concerns as to whether musicians qualify for the once-off N$750 grant.

The lockdown has seemingly left all musicians who benefit from showbiz out in the cold, as their income largely depends on entertaining and attracting large numbers of people to their gigs.

Namibian Society of Composer and Authors of Music (NASCAM) chief executive officer John Max told this publication that they are trying to ensure authors and composers of music are paid.

“I think this is now the perfect time for government to come up with a proper structure for the entertainment industry, because we cater for authors and composers only, and there are so many other people [involved in the arts] like dancers. What we were thinking is to get a grant and pay the artists that are registered with us,” he noted.

He went on to say that NASCAM is working round the clock to submit documents to BIPA (Business and Intellectual Property Authority) to see how they can assist musicians in this difficult time.

“These are people who have families to feed and rent to pay, just like any other employee. Shows have been put on hold, such as the Kavango Music Awards. There are also musicians who perhaps have contracts with corporate companies and those who were supposed to travel overseas for gigs, but now they can’t do anything,” he stressed.

Max said NASCAM is also starting to feel the pinch because they are unable to pay the salaries of their employees as jukeboxes in bars and clubs are not in use. “What we can do for now is to urge local radio stations to play more local music so that musicians are able to benefit from royalties. I would also like to advise all artists to make use of this time to compose and produce a lot of music,” he said.

Last year, NASCAM paid out royalties to 2 187 members. The highest-paid artist received N$30,000 and the lowest paid artist received about N$1. The total amount in royalties paid to Namibian artists was N$923 305.66, while the rest – slightly over N$800 000 – was distributed to artists in South Africa, the United Kingdom and the U.S.A.

In an interview in December, Max told the press that NASCAM had received about N$900 000 from NBC to pay the royalties to local artists, which he said was low compared to what they received in 2018, but was due to the fact that NBC was experiencing financial difficulties. At the time he said they expected a further drop for the year 2020 in royalty pay-outs.