By Dyon A. Elliott
The Belize music industry can grow into a most lucrative market, if the Belize Copyright Act of 2000 is adhered to, Jason Guerrero, the chairman of the Belizean Society of Composers, Artist and Producers (BSCAP) told The Reporter on Thursday, June 28.
Guerrero explained that currently members of the Belize music industry have to rely on proceeds from CD sales, concerts and even agreements with advertisers to make a living from their music.
BSCAP, armed with the Act, works to “administer the rights of songwriters, performers and producers, thereby, allowing another revenue stream for these professionals,” Guerrero said.
By right under the law, any person who broadcasts music in a public place during their normal course of business, or organization for that matter, should pay a license fee to BSCAP, even if it is just to have the radio turned on to a local radio station’s broadcast. The fee “will be based on the amount of music used,” Guerrero explained.
It’s a brave new world for local artists, performers and songwriters; as the first and only local licensee, CIBC First Caribbean International Bank (FCIB), paid the performers and writers the royalties they were rightly due on Monday, June 18.
The bank now has the legal right to play music in its various branches, during business hours.
While FCIB may be the first local institution to comply with the law, Guerrero says it’s just the beginning. BSCAP’s reach goes beyond physical and digital borders, because the organization has entered into reciprocal arrangements with 14 other similar organizations in various regions around the world, including North America, Europe and the Caribbean.
Thanks to these arrangements, BSCAP, on behalf of Belizean artists, can claim royalties from any institution that publicly plays music that was written, performed and (or) produced by any of BSCAP’s 70 members.
“For example, right now, we’re in negotiations with the television network Univision,” he said. “We had a situation where one of BSCAP’s members’ music was used on the popular television show called Sabado Gigante … we are about to close a deal in which the figures have already been agreed to and we’re actually going to be bringing money from Sabado Gigante, which is based in Miami.”
In addition, even music sold, hosted or streamed on the internet by big names like Amazon.com, CDbaby and YouTube are subject to the BSCAP licensing fee.
“We’re also negotiating with these online hosts as well, and that has been going quite positive. In fact, I’d say we’ve been having a more positive feedback externally than internally!” he said.
The potential for the growth of the Belize music industry is quite real; however, for that type of success to be realized in Belize it would take the cooperation and compliance of all music users, he said.
Currently, BSCAP is employing what Guerrero called a “grassroots campaign strategy” in which music users are approached on a one-on-one basis in an effort to educate, remind and encourage them to abide by the law and help to build the Belize music industry.
Local songwriters and performers can become lifelong members of BSCAP for a single, one-time membership fee of $50. Music producers pay a one-time fee of $200.
BSCAP actively monitors the use of its repertoire, which also includes international artists who are members of any of the other 14 music societies with which it has formed reciprocal arrangements.
They would attend events such as concerts, dances, and even pageants to physically note what music is used and thereafter prepare invoices to send to the events’ promoters.
As it pertains to online distributors, BSCAP would peruse their listings and advise the distributors of BSCAP’s representation of Belizean artists’ work.
BSCAP would request an “accounting of sales and otherwise take steps to protect our members’ economic interest in their works,” Guerrero explained.
The same approach is used when BSCAP addresses music that is streamed online by Internet radio music users.