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Written By: Farley J. Joseph

The news that customs duty exemptions were extended for energy companies until 2020, as reported in the Express on 16th December 2017 is positive. So too, the report that Parliament passed a motion for similar exemptions for the agriculture and tourism sectors. Like these sectors, firms in the Music sector require incentives that are focused on stimulating production and development of the sector. Since the early 2000s the Creative Industries were identified for development as drivers of economic diversification. This resulted in a discussion of the introduction of import duty concessions on music production equipment, but this is yet to materialize.

 Drawbacks of Existing Incentives for the Music Industry 

In its August 2017 publication of Major Investment Incentives in Trinidad and Tobago, the Ministry of Finance outlined existing incentives for the Creative Industries. These largely favour the Film Sector, including import duty concessions on Film equipment and not music. Both sectors are similarly circumstanced and therefore this incentive should apply across the board. Other incentives include tax deductions for sponsors and creators of individual projects which seek to reduce taxes due on chargeable profit. The majority of legitimate firms in the music sector are SMEs.  With recent increases in compulsory taxes such as Green Fund Levy and general costs of doing business, it is challenging for these companies. Without import duty concessions, the existing incentives are good but misplaced as music producers are seldom able to capitalize on these.

 The Impact of Incentives in the Music Industry Value Chain

Recently, the state entity tasked with development of our Music Industry outlined some positive steps for showcasing and exporting the country’s top talent. While I acknowledge that initiatives must be executed in phases, according to the overall strategic plan, the issue of import duty concessions for music firms should be a priority. We must remember that in the music industry value is created by exploiting copyrights. The fundamental inputs required for such exploitation along the value chain are quality songs and recordings. This is correlated to cost-effective availability of high quality equipment and is a prerequisite to export. 

 How T&T Matches Up with the US

In the United States, producers only pay for their equipment. They benefit from free shipping as well as no taxes in certain states. Contrast this with T&T, where a music producer must pay the cost of acquisition in scarce US dollars, shipping fees, and up to 39.5% taxes (12.5% VAT, 20% duties and possible 7% online tax). This is a significant barrier to entry, impediment to innovation and international competition. As Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon highlighted when piloting the energy sector motion, exemption of customs duty will result in lost revenue for the state, but if we are really serious about growing the music sector, import duty concessions have major long-run benefits.

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Written By Farley J. Joseph

It is certainly both exciting and refreshing to see a young face of the Trinidad and Tobago music landscape, pursuing excellence in the international realm. Since his spectacular performance at the 2016 Soca Monarch, which saw him winning the competition with his hit song Cheers to Life, Aaron 'Voice' St. Louis has captivated the local industry with his vocal and performance abilities. His 2017 follow-up, Far from Finished is equally phenomenal receiving brilliant reviews from fans on social media. Many have viewed the song's most recent achievement of one million views on YouTube as positive. While this may be so in some measure, promoting the artist, genre and islands, it forces us to think about what this means for the local music industry and for the team behind the song from a commercial perspective.

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Written By: Farley J. Joseph

In recent weeks the Business of Carnival and Entertainment series of articles published in Newsday’s Business Day have been relevant and important in facilitating a national discussion on the contribution of these sectors to the wider economy. However, there are few aspects of the article titled: Live Streaming Presents Performers, Promoters with New Challenges published on February 23rd that are faulty.

The article accurately highlights growing use of live-streaming technology by concert-goers, to share their experiences with their social media followers and specifically questions the legal implications of the streaming of the entire Machel Monday event by an attendee. However, it cites an Intellectual Property attorney as saying that: “as long as streamers are not profiting, or livestream without the intent to, then they are basically outside the ambit of the law.” This statement is erroneous as the Trinidad and Tobago Copyright Act clearly states that one of the exclusive rights of Copyright and Neighbouring Rights granted to the owner of a copyrighted work is the right to broadcast and communicate their works to the public. In the absence of a license from the promoter to stream the event, an entity doing so is in contravention of the law. Copyright infringement is not related to profit or the potential for profit.

The attorney is further quoted as saying that “as long as the streamer acted out of a love of culture and a desire to put it on display for the world, then under the current system there are no legal consequences. The burden of proof that harm had been done to the event lies with the promoter.” This too is incorrect, as the only exceptions to the law that may permit the copyright owner’s works to be used without permission, are outlined in sections 9-17 of the Copyright Act. None of those apply in this case.

It is important that we respect the rights of musicians and creators as we embrace evolving technology in the Creative Industries. We must be careful not to fuel the perception that streaming an entire concert without the requisite permission is acceptable. To legally stream a concert, a few clearances must be secured. The party undertaking the streaming must have an agreement with the promoter. It would be ideal for the promoter to have previously informed the performers that their performances would be live-streamed and negotiated the right to use their music and image. In the case of events streamed in real time to the public, using technology such as Facebook Live, performance and synchronization licenses for both copyright and neighbouring rights need to be secured from each collective management organisation that represents talent performing on the show.

Our current Copyright Laws are modern and applicable as technology changes. The problem has been a lack of innovative models for the licensing of copyrights for new music uses, education, respect and general enforcement of the laws.  

  

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By Farley J. Joseph,

Founder, DianJen 

I: Overview

Digital Distribution makes it easier for musicians in the Caribbean to place their music before a worldwide audience. Through placement in online stores and streaming services inclusive of iTunes, Pandora and Spotify; songwriters, artists and bands can attempt to build a global following while gaining additional revenue. However, before these potential benefits can be gained, musicians must understand how to firstly  prepare their music for distribution and also how to identify and collect the streams of revenue generated by their content. 

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Music is one of the key identifying characteristics of Trinidad and Tobago culture. Whether it be the driving rhythms of its indigenous Soca, Chutney and Steelband sounds, to the sobering commentary of the Calypso genre, local music continues to play an integral role in national development. As a pre-requisite to the local music industry being able to flourish and attain its maximum potential on the global music landscape, the quality of inputs that drive its value chain has to be significantly improved. In the case of the music sector, these inputs are the songs and recordings that aim to meet user demands. Deficiencies in the songwriting and production sectors of the music value chain can be pinpointed in three main areas: quality of input (songs and productions), converting songs into recordings and Monetization and collection of revenue.

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