The South African arts industry has been hard hit by a series of festival and event cancellations as a result of the coronavirus and government's actions to curb the spread. Not to mention venues being forced to close their doors and record stores following suit as the nationwide 21-day lockdown was enforced last month.
To help the industry, The Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa announced that R150 million would be made available to those feeling the harsh financial implications of physical distancing.
Joining the minister in these efforts is The Southern African Music Rights Organisation (Samro) the most significant collection society in Africa, who – in a statement released to the press on Sunday - said they will be offering financial help to musicians in need.
In the statement, the organisation said: "The Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO), the biggest collection society in Africa, has proactively gone out with other institutions on behalf of artists and composers to request financial institutions and various stakeholders to exercise some leniency towards musicians in relation to their financial obligations."
Mark Rosin, CEO of Samro, added: "We are very pleased to note that the response by various stakeholders to that call has been extremely positive with nearly all the big five banks announcing some form of relief to their customers."
He continued: "The current state of the economy, exacerbated by the restrictions on movement of people in an attempt to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus, affected our members most severely and we are delighted that we have been in a position to lighten the burden somewhat. Almost 10 000 members benefited from a recent TV distribution of R63 million which we completed on 30 March.
"A month prior to that, we also paid out royalties from the radio category to the tune of R141 million, making this the highest radio distribution in the past five years. The ongoing achievement of higher royalty collection and distributions is the result of the efficiency measures we recently put in place. It is one of our priorities to put more cash in the pockets of our members, and this can only be achieved by ensuring we license more, we continue to reduce our cost-to-income ratio, and we actively find other revenue streams."
About this means in practical terms, the CEO said: "Times are uncertain and challenging, but we will continue to look to act in the best interests of our members. One of the ways we will do this is to try to convince broadcasters to increase their usage of local music. We will seek the government's support in this regard. This will help when we pay out future royalty distributions and, in some way, mitigate the potential loss of income for members that rely on live shows. While live income has dried up, we will help members, where we are able, to access the fund made available by the Department of Arts and Culture to compensate performers where shows have been cancelled."
Mark highlighted one significant change to the funeral policy, saying: "We are working on a host of other member benefits that we offer, over and above our primary role as copyright administrators. For instance, we are the only CMO that has a funeral policy fund for our members, and we have just increased the funeral benefit from R20 000 per member to R25 000."