Various artists are calling on the royalty collecting company, South African Music Rights Organisation (Samro), to do away with the so-called black box. The black box is a folder where the royalties for all unidentified songs are collected.

Artists say the system is cheating them of their due. But Samro says it has introduced cutting edge technology to ensure that royalties are paid out accurately and accordingly.

According to Samro, inadequately labelled songs are deemed undocumented and go into a designated folder. The royalties are then kept in the company’s accounts, waiting to be claimed by the rightful publisher and composer.

The organisation says it has hired two media monitoring companies to monitor broadcasters.

Samro Chairperson, Nicholas Maweni, says there are many inaccuracies that need solving.

“It’s again part of these manual processes. Sometimes you’ll have an advert for any luxury car and they will write on the car sheet that they played the lullaby song. But when you do a search of the song you find there are many lullaby songs. So these are the inaccuracies that we have. And that’s why we always ask members to please make sure you check and we’re now trying to implement a system in terms of automation,” he says.

While many artists have welcomed the introduction of an automated system, some say artists will continue to feel cheated if Samro doesn’t do away with its black box system.

Kwaito musician, Eugene Mthethwa, says their livelihood is dependent on a producer or compiler to document their song correctly.

“They are saying, we have been dependent on cue sheets that say this is how many times your song was played. This is dependent on the radio announcer and compiler who would then say I compiled your song this number of times on this day. And when a presenter writes the name of a song incorrectly on a cue sheet that causes a challenge,” he says.

Samro has called on artists to check their website for undocumented songs and to collect unclaimed royalties. But artists say it’s difficult to search when they don’t know what they are looking for.

Opera musician, Sibongile Mngoma, says she has not been paid royalties since 2015 and may forfeit some of them.

“The idea is not to self-correct but to be self-correcting. We will keep having these conversations. They even have in place a new rule that says that those who have not collected in five years forfeit those royalties. So when you forfeit what is your, who does it go to?”

Musicians are calling on Samro to do away with the clause that stipulates they forfeit unclaimed royalties after a certain period.

Maskandi artist, Dr. Buselaphi Gxowa, has also called for better communication.

“I want to see them making an effort to identify songs instead of throwing them into the black box. There are maskandi songs that were played in the past and the artist didn’t get a cent for their music. They should also get a stakeholder relations office that will work towards finding artists and ensuring that they get their royalties. I feel the latest developments are nothing if they still can’t get that right,” Gxowa says.

The family of the late “We are Growing” hitmaker, Margaret Mcingana, also known as Margret Singana, wants to know how her song was reproduced without their knowledge.

Mcingana’s song became the popular theme song for the Shaka Zulu series and her other songs include “Mama Temba’s Wedding”, which the family says was also reproduced.

Capasso is a mechanical rights licensing agency. It monitors music and pays out to members when a song is reproduced.

Capasso CEO, Jatom Matariro, says the owner of the copyright is supposed to have authorised the synching of that song.

“For the synching to be done into an advert, the owner of the copyright is supposed to have authorised the synching of that song. So for the song to end up on an advert, it must have already been paid for. If it ended up in an advert and it was not paid for then that is infringement,” Matariro explains.

The Mcingana family is calling for accountability from agencies collecting royalties for musicians. They also want answers about the calculation of the royalties paid to them.

Artists call on Samro to do away with “black box”: