The ongoing pandemic has changed the course of our lives in every possible way. The artistes of the music industry have suffered the brunt of the pandemic as well. In pursuit of protecting and claiming their rights — singers, composers and lyricists are now looking for ways to get their fair share from their music. Meanwhile, many of them are currently getting regular remittance. To maintain a transparent and positive environment in the musical arena by tackling corruption, the need to form organisations and associations are of utmost importance to protect the rights of the artistes. One such organisation that has recently come to light is the upcoming music board.
According to lyricist Asif Iqbal, the establishment of a music board is very much needed to bring disciplined, clear and collaborative direction to music practitioners of Bangladesh. "The board may consist of the copyright registrar, representatives of lyricists association of Bangladesh, MCSB and SAB, copyright specialist lawyer and the CMO (BLCPS)," he says. Iqbal also adds that the main aims of the board would be to develop policy, strategy and implementation guideline for copyright laws. "This can be achieved by building a desired music ecosystem, international association and alignment based on WIPO's barn convention, capacity building by bringing knowledge and a know-how from friend countries, structure, guideline and determination of revenue share percentages."
Bangladesh is a country of music, culture and thinkers. Artistes, musicians, singers, writers — are spread all over the country, expressing themselves thorough their art. It is important to make them aware of their rights. Formal certification can be a key to ensure proper recognition and realisation of rights. According to the Bangladesh Copyright Office, till 2017, the annual average registration was a little more than five hundred. However, in 2018 the number increased to 1,795 and last year, it was 3,205. This year in August, the number went down to 1,711.
"Frankly speaking, I am still not specifically aware of what the music board aims to do," says Zafar Raza Chowdhury, the registrar of the Bangladesh Copyright Office. "But of course, like all other associations and organisations, the board will hopefully work towards uniting artistes, protecting the rights of the copyright holders and also making them aware of their rights. While BLCPS, the CMO for lyricists, composers and performers, aims to work towards royalty collection from different sources for lyricists, composers and performers, the Music Board can work towards identifying artistes from all over the country, making them aware of their rights through workshops and other sorts of engagements. This partnership would indeed be a positive indication for all artistes who are otherwise left in the oblivion."
According to Hamin Ahmed of the famous band Miles, who is also the current president of BAMBA and the CEO of BLCPS, this is indeed a positive step, especially where establishing the unity of the artistes is concerned. "It's difficult to make a comment on the music board without knowing what their supposed scope of work is," he says. "If it is for the overall good of the music fraternity like housing, music theater, medical facilities etc — this would be good for all. BAMBA could also play an effective role in the organisation with it's 33 Years of experience in independently working on various welfares, charities and awareness building programmes. However, I would hope that the music board would not play any controlling role over the music industry as a whole or in any IPR related matters as there is a licensed CMO and a Copyright Board that look after these matters. So yes, for the overall socio-economical betterment of creators and performers, the music board could be a solution."
National Award-winning singer Kumar Bishwajit feels that a board like this has been long overdue in our country. "I am happy that this initiative is being taken, since all the different music organisations can present a united front for a good cause under the music board," he says. "As a singer, I cannot single-handedly change anything by speaking up in a newspaper interview, but an organisation filled with renowned names will carry a different weight altogether." The legendary singer also mentioned that in order to make the board and its activities unquestionably legitimate, worthy candidates should be elected to run it.
"We do have talented musicians, lyricists and singers amidst us, however, not many of them have the know-how to live and survive in the real world," says famous lyricist Shahid Mahmud Jangi. "The music board could play a very significant role in guiding these young musicians and writers through workshops and other sessions to help them learn and understand. For instance, how to manage your money, developing soft skills, brushing up on communication strategies etc - this could be extremely helpful for the artistes who are otherwise usually left to fend for themselves with great difficulty."
"We're in the process of forming a new society for music composers — 'MUSIC COMPOSERS SOCIETY BANGLADESH' (MCSB). Similar kind of organisations comprised of lyricists and singers are also in the offing," says composer and singer Naquib Khan of the band Renaissance. "At this point in time, it's too early to comment on forming a music board in Bangladesh. However, this is a good concept, but first we need the three organisations to grow and function smoothly — composers, lyricists and singers. Most importantly, the music fraternity needs reinvigorating 'future looking' mindsets with mutual trust and respect to devote themselves towards development of music."
Previously, there have been various irregularities in preserving the rights and royalties of the musicians. However, along with the artistes, the initiatives taken by the Copyright Office are also creating a positive impact recently. The music industry is going through changes at present and with a positive mindset, the path to recognise and protect the rights of the artistes can be attained.
As Shakib Chowdhury of Cryptic Fate says, artistes are emotional in nature and it is now time to protect their rights and make them aware. "Artistes are generally emotional and prefer to focus more on their creations rather than the business side of the music and the numbers involved," he says. "I am all for the music board if it means there will be more power for the artists, especially where their rights are concerned."