Artistes cry foul over online videos download company

          DJ Smallz Lethal of washamba Wenza Hip Hop group Photo: Courtesy

After a group of artistes matched to the online videos download offices claiming they were being 'conned', more trouble seems to be brewing as the download company maintains; "We owe no one", writes ANJELLAH OWINO

A week ago, DJ Smallz Lethal, a member of the hip-hop trio Washamba Wenza matched to Mdundo offices to complain payment of 'peanuts, to artistes signed to the download site.

He claimed that Washamba Wenza was paid Sh47 for their music downloads. The Sh47 covered three months of downloads. Accompanied by artistes Nafsi Huru and Chris Super producer, he went to seek answers.

The rapper explains to Pulse that when they arrived at the Mdundo offices at 3pm., hip-hop activist Humphrey Ondu was on his way out of the venue where he had gone to raise a similar issue.

The artistes demanded their way into the offices. However, the rapper says Mdundo officials told them to have the talk outside.

"When we came to sign the contracts with them, we did so inside the offices. There is no way we could discuss matters outside the office," vents DJ Smallz Lethal.

Four of the artistes met with Thiru Mungai, the head of music at Mdundo, and unnamed lady who allowed them to air their grievances. The artistes claim that Mdundo had been using their songs to advertise for their clients without their consent adding that it was not part of the agreement they signed.

DJ Smallz Lethal says that Washamba Wenza received Sh47 for the three months payment while Chris Super producer was paid Sh34.

Mdundo was launched two years ago to enable artistes to distribute their music online and attracted artistes across East Africa. The artistes at the website have one song for free download while the rest of their videos are on premium. DJ Smalls Lethal though says that four of his Washamba Wenza's songs are free while the other 15 off their album The Common Mwananchi are on premium. The artistes get Sh4 per download with 30 per cent of the cut; every three months.

"There is lack of transparency in monitoring how many downloads we have in a day. Thiru himself admitted that there lacked a breakdown of funds coming in. We are also displeased with them promoting their clients through our own songs yet we do not get any income from that. Thiru told us that he had no idea that Mdundo was making profits from our songs," claims DJ Smallz.

Chris super-producer, who was paid Sh34, informed us that he joined Mdundo two years ago and his first royalties were worth Sh800 while Smallz say that another one of his songs was on free download last year, a month after he joined and sorted the matter. This time he left Mdundo for good although he says Mdundo confessed to have faltered and would pay artistes off the adverts.

Humphrey says that he had a discussion with a PR practitioner he only identified as Liz on why Mdundo gets the 70 per cent cut yet they are not involved with the marketing of the artistes.

"She talked about logistic issues. I don't think they should dig into the money they get from artistes to run their company. They did not give us any valid reasons even in the boardroom meeting later on how they handle the company and artistes. They do not have clearly defined roles like other companies," says Humphrey.

Thiru Mungai explained that Mdundo does not swindle money from any of the 4,500 artistes signed to Mdundo and artistes can know how many downloads they have made and the amount of money they have made before the cut.

"The contract says that we will try to make revenue for them. When an artiste joins, they imagine that they will make instant big money. The truth is that some artistes are not doing well as others. We push for all Kenyan music," declares Thiru.

Thiru says that artistes are free to walk to their offices if they need to get details of their royalties. He conceded that Mdundo is still growing and there have been challenges they have been facing and trying to solve such as reducing the cut they get from artistes.

"We are making a way to make it easier. People see Mdundo as such a big company. Still I don't see if we made the wrong move to start the company the time we did. Like every company, even those that stood for a long time, we want to try different things to make things better," he concludes.