KARACHI: It was only last year when Pakistan's biggest music streaming portal, Patari was embroiled in a controversy after CEO at the time, Khalid Bajwa, was accused of sexual harassment by multiple women.
Patari took the right step by ensuring Bajwa's exit from the company. A year later, Patari is once again in hot waters after musician Irfan Ali Taj, called out the company for not paying artists.
"My stand against Patari is not personal. It's against everyone who misuses art and exploits artists," Taj tells The Express Tribune. "From event management to distribution, artists are treated very badly in Pakistan. For example event management companies despite having budget, call artists to play for free. This is exploitation of artists. And especially artist like me, who make original music and invest a lot of money with a vision of leaving songs for coming generation."
He continues, "Asking those bands to perform for free or using their songs to feed some employees and owners of Patari and not the artists is a complete misuse of intellectual property ."
Taj concluded by saying, "And I am not afraid of anyone if I am on the right path."
In a statement issued to the The Express Tribune, Patari shared, "From its inception Patari has stood for the protection of artists’ intellectual property and respect for copyright. We firmly believe that artists, who put their soul into their work, have every right to be paid for it, it is in fact, we believe, a duty we have to them and to music itself. Patari cannot survive if artists don’t make money, because if they don’t make money, they can’t make new music, and that means death to Patari, which depends on new music for the vast majority of its traffic."
"The contract that Patari signs with artists clearly states that whenever Patari makes money from streaming and subscriptions, we will share that revenue with the artists. To date therefore, Patari has paid out around 10million to the artists. Patari’s efforts to be fair and pay artists has been acknowledged by many, often public," the statement further read.
"Unfortunately, the state of our music industry and the relative newness of streaming in Pakistan means that there are some quarters where we have made no revenues on our streaming platform at all," it added. "To add to that cash flow is severely restricted when brands take an inordinate amount of time to release payments – sometimes this has been well over 12-18 months. So delays, if any, have been beyond our control."
Patari's statement also shed light on how they vow to rectify the situation as well. "We have attempted over the last 24 months to move towards a subscription model for Patari. It has taken a long time and immense effort to build it and get it right. The events of the last 12 months unfortunately slowed down its roll out, but in this initial roll-out, this model has shown great promise and we are very confident it can grow exponentially and become a much more profitable and regular enterprise than the start-stop brand revenue model."
"Making money from music in Pakistan is hard. There is no playbook, no one has so far been able to make it work in a sustainable fashion, but we stand by our promise to exhaust every opportunity, scour every nook and cranny to make it work," the statement said. "We admit that we need to do a better job of communicating this to the artist community, and so any discontent serves as a timely rejoinder for us that we need to up our game."
The Express Tribune reached out to other artists, who had similar issues with Patari but were not willing to be named or speak on the record. They agreed that non-payment on Patari's end is a major problem.
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