By Nicholas Maweni
In a landmark year for the Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO), 2023 stands as a testament to the organisation's progressive strides and commitment to innovation, ethics and diversity. As the oldest and leading Music Rights Organisation in Africa, SAMRO has not only set new records in member distributions but also taken significant steps in redefining its operational ethos and impact within the global music landscape.
A new era of leadership
The appointment of SAMRO's first women-led executive team marks a historic milestone in the organisation's journey. Under the leadership of CEO, Annabell Lebethe, CFO Leanne Thomas, and COO Mpho Mofikoe, SAMRO has transitioned into a dynamic, forward-thinking institution. This change is not just in leadership but in the approach to addressing the contemporary challenges in the music industry. The sad passing of board member Gloria Bosman, a talented musician and dedicated advocate, was a poignant reminder of the need for continued transformation in the sector.
SAMRO's commitment to gender equity and diversity is evident in its efforts to address gender imbalances and create safer, more inclusive spaces for women in the music industry. This commitment is rooted in the organisation's research on women’s rights and representation in the music industry in South Africa, underscoring the importance of amplifying female voices.
Record-breaking distributions and efficient operations
Financially, SAMRO has achieved remarkable success, with a 22% increase in total distributions compared to the previous year. This achievement is a result of strategic diversification and expansion of royalty income, demonstrating SAMRO's resilience even in the face of challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The organisation has also made considerable progress in improving its cost-to-income ratio, ensuring more funds are directly distributed to its members.
Innovation in digital royalty collection
In an era where digital platforms dominate the music industry, SAMRO has adeptly adapted its operations. The successful licensing agreements with platforms like TikTok, Facebook and Netflix mark a significant advancement in SAMRO's ability to collect and distribute royalties for copyright-protected content featured on these digital platforms.
Unclaimed royalties and the fight against fraud
SAMRO's dedication to its members' welfare is further evidenced by the successful distribution of R22 million in accumulated unclaimed royalties. Simultaneously, the organisation has taken a strong stance against fraud, conducting forensic investigations and ensuring accountability and justice in the face of irregularities.
As the Copyright Amendment Bill looms in Parliament, SAMRO stands firm in its advocacy for the exclusive rights of creators, opposing provisions that could undermine the intellectual property of its members. This advocacy is part of SAMRO's broader commitment to ethics and good governance, an ethos that is being rigorously implemented through internal controls, audits, and the appointment of PWC as internal auditors.
With the world recovering from the pandemic, SAMRO is optimistic about the future. The organisation seeks to capitalise on the post-COVID trajectory, targeting licensing opportunities in various sectors, including schools, municipalities and private establishments. Furthermore, enhancing partnerships with the government is a strategic move to create more growth opportunities for creators across South Africa.
As SAMRO embarks on this transformative journey, it is the collective intent and action of its members, leadership and partners that will shape its future. Drawing inspiration from Martin Luther King Jr's words, SAMRO is committed to standing firm in times of challenge and controversy, driven by a collective spirit of courage, discernment and resilience. The organisation's journey is not just about individual achievements but about building a legacy of ethical practice, inclusivity and innovation that will resonate throughout the music industry in Africa and beyond.