Musicians fume at payment policy for interviews

Kamogelo Seekoei and Edward Tsumele

Kamogelo Seekoei and Edward Tsumele

Yet another controversy has hit the SABC over claims that the broadcaster demands payola from musicians.

A number of musicians from Mzwakhe Mbuli and Johnny Clegg to hip-hop artist HHP have blasted the national broadcaster's officials for demanding that local artists plump down up to R3000 a minute for on-air interviews.

They say the controversial policy harms the music industry and is open to abuse by unscrupulous DJs, producers and programme managers.

The musicians aren't sure how much of the money goes to the broadcaster and how much lines DJs' pockets.

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago denies that musicians must pay to be interviewed on the public broadcaster's airwaves and says musicians only pay to advertise their CDs. Denials notwithstanding, investigations are underway in at least two of South Africa's biggest radio stations.

"Though I personally have not been asked for money, I have heard there is something called payola whereby people on radio are given money to play certain music," said HHP.

"What I know for sure, and what I condemn, is the policy of the SABC requiring artists to pay for interviews. This is wrong because artists from overseas are not required to pay."

The enraged artist said musicians had recently been turning to African language stations to promote their music. But these stations wanted to see the colour of the musicians' cash before conducting an interview.

The scandal has also left People's Poet Mzwakhe Mbuli flaming mad: "I don't understand how the public broadcaster could come up with such a policy, which applies only to artists in the country. Overseas artists visiting South Africa do not pay for interviews."

In April, Ukhozi FM interviewed the maskandi veteran Johnny Clegg at the station's studio in Durban before the musician performed at a local gig.

"The interview lasted five minutes and I have never heard any of my songs played on the station," Clegg said.

But his manager was told to cough up R14000 for the interview.

Manager Patric Meyer corroborated Clegg' s experience with Ukhozi.

Meyer said though Clegg's promoters knew they were not paying for airplay at the station, they had assumed the station would play one or two of his new songs after the interview.

"Johnny has four Zulu songs on his album. They have never played one, not even once," said Meyer.

Kganyago said he would have to know all the facts before investigating the matter.

He confirmed that the SABC was investigating Ukhozi FM for allegedly taking bribes from musicians.

"But I don't know the issues, so I can't say what was happening there," he said.

Jazzz pianist Don Laka said he was shocked by the SABC's recent policy of charging artists who are interviewed on air.

"I think this is the only country in the world that requires musicians to pay for an interview."