While many industry players and stakeholders have condemned the unlawful act, some Ghanaian musicians have taken it upon themselves to use their influence to fight the cause.
In the past, rapper Edem bemoaned how local free download websites and bloggers give out their songs for free — rendering the owners of these records broke. Some bloggers, including Fiifi Adinkra — the owner of Ghanandwom — fired back and heaped blame on him and his colleagues for emailing their songs to blog owners to publish them for free.
BET winner Sarkodie is the latest to join the fight. To him, free download websites are to blame for the menace. He partially blamed fans and charged them to use the right approach to music streaming and purchasing.
In a Facebook post, Sarkodie said (unedited): “I know sometimes these free sites help push records but can you guys please allow artists make some??? At least give them a week God!!! Just push links of paid platform links from you sites.. you don’t lose s#$t. Let artists eat
And to the fans, if you love your artists I’m pretty sure it won’t hurt to pay some coins to listen to their work ... You get to be entertained and the creator gets to feed his or her family. We (artists) know when we wanna put out music for free ...
All these free sites want is the traffic on their sites so you still don’t lose anything if you push official links from your sites ... It starts from there, so the people understand how it works ....
Fans feel like they getting music for free but actually you not... MTNghana x @VodafoneGhana x @airteltigoghana and these networks are making the money from your data while your favorite artists are making nothing from your purchase ... Think about it. There’s nothing like free music.
There are a lot of platforms that artists put our music ... if you are a true fan, please purchase the music... it’s no different from the so-called free sites cos you are still using data(and that’s still money).”
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For Sarkodie, if free download websites embed official links from paid stores, fans will have no option than to purchase their music — bringing an end to piracy in the music industry. However, that slant is wrong. This can’t stop piracy. Even in the United States and the United Kingdom where most music lovers subscribe and purchase music legally through online stores, there’s still piracy. Their industry spends billions on anti-piracy campaign yet still piracy exists and they are losing billions every year.
A simple pro tem strategy in our case can at least minimise the menace.
A collaboration between artistes and local music distribution platforms like Aftown and Play Africa Music should be the first step. Music subscription doesn’t work effectively in our part of the world. Simply because of the payment systems and proximity with most international streaming platforms. A lot of Ghanaians are subscribing to the internet but a few of them actually have VISA cards. This is why it is useless for artistes to keep pushing iTunes and Spotify links for Ghanaians to purchase. Even Spotify isn’t available in Ghana but our artistes keep pushing their links.
Some of our top artistes are already listed on our local platforms but hardly share their links. They feel too arrogant to share Aftown and Play Africa links over iTunes and Spotify. Our local distribution platforms have Mobile Money integrated system which is accessible in our part of the world. If our local artistes rather push our local brands, it's likely fans will patronise music through the legal means.
Secondly, a collaboration between local distribution channels and bloggers will help curb the menace. Instead of publishing songs for free download, there could be a deal between bloggers and distributors where bloggers will be only allowed to publish referral/embed links from the streaming platforms. They can strike a deal for the referral links.
While we all wait for MUSIGA and GHAMRO to use their brain, these two collaborations can be a great start.
If the second option on collaboration fails, technology should be used to track and report illegal downloads. There are numerous online tools that can help indie artiste to track their songs and send DMCA to websites and blogs who fail to comply with copyright laws. Most distributors/aggregators have many of such tools.
Just like what Sarkodie has started, other artistes can use their platforms to sensitise their fans. By revealing the damages and how they’ve been affected, artistes may win fans' sympathy.
Artistes should also take note that streaming and album sales aren’t booming anymore. They should try as much as possible to wean fans off albums and single sales and focus on mini-concerts.
In conclusion, one man can’t fight piracy. It takes a bunch to do this. It’s time Ghanaian artistes come together under one roof and fight a common battle: piracy.