There has never been a structured forum to discuss issues faced by Pakistani performing artists. However, all this changed last month when the Association of Music Professionals Pakistan (AMPP) reorganised itself and initiated a movement to reclaim musician’s rights to royalty collection in Pakistan. Spearheaded by singers Haroon Rashid and Ali Azmat, the organisation is working on various issues related to musicians in Pakistan.
What does AMPP do?
AMPP, which has been around for the last five years, is a society that looks to deal with the internal and external issues faced by artists. The body also mediates between artists in authorship disputes and is currently mediating between singers Meesha Shafi and Farhad Humayun as well.
Regarding the organisation, Azmat says, “This organisation is for composers, singers and artists or anyone related to the music industry. We hope to engage with these people for the overall betterment of music.”
Issues facing the music industry
In the past, artists weren’t fully aware of their rights, so now this platform provides us a way to articulate our views on important issues,” says Rashid. On April 19, the AMPP met the Chamber of Commerce regarding setting up the first royalties collection agency in Pakistan which would ensure that artists get royalties from their music which is currently being played for free on radio and television.
“For me, this is one of the biggest issues right now, it is important that artists’ rights are protected, currently not a single penny comes back to the artist, so if a collection agency is created, artists will record new songs and the industry will grow,” says Rashid.
When asked why Rashid has just picked up on this struggle in Pakistan, he explains that there is a greater pressure globally for intellectual property rights than ever before. He added that just recently the Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC)’s regional director and regional counsel for the Asia-Pacific region had contacted him and discussed the promotion of intellectual rights in detail.
Although there have been several reforms and positive changes that have taken place with the help of Intellectual Property Organisation Pakistan, external pressure from international parties can also be seen as one of the primary reasons why the government has suddenly woken up to this issue and become more receptive to change. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani announced that the country would accede the Madrid Protocol and the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) to ensure that the economy becomes competitive. Also, in April, President Asif Ali Zardari inked and re-promulgated the Intellectual Property (IP) rights ordinance.
Former Junoon frontman Ali Azmat, who is also the president of the AMPP, sees this improved attitude as a result of the global push to protect intellectual rights. He is the focal point for a local drive in which other leading artists and musicians such as Meesha Shafi, Zeb and Haniya, Mekaal Hassan, Ali Zafar and Farhad Humayun are also playing a prominent part.
“There is a worldwide trend taking place which is promoting the rectification of major problems for artists,” says Azmat who has been fighting for artists’ rights for a while now. “Currently, we are looking for the creation of a Collection Management Organisation which would safeguard the rights of artists and also ensure that royalties are collected.”
What lies ahead?
AMPP plans on welcoming younger musicians to its fore as well. Azmat revealed that internal elections will be held soon and artists such as Zeb and Haniya and Shafi will most likely be included in the future set-up.
Farhan Ali, who is the bassist for band SYMT and currently the manager of Overload, says that the recent AMPP meeting received a positive response from the music community. “We really need something like this,” says Ali. “Most artists agree that something has to be done in a transparent manner. And once it’s done, it must be implemented and enforced across the board.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2012.
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