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A musician and his royalties

Multi-platinum and gold pop artist Trésor explains the significance of royalty income for those working in a precarious industry.
‘You don't always have to live in the moment’ – Trésor. Image: Moneyweb

In November the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) put together a payment plan to ensure that it clears its backlog of royalty payments to writers and composers after racking up over R250 million in unpaid royalties. 

Royalties, also known as needletime rights, are payments that are made to recording artists, performers, songwriters, composers, publishers and other copyright holders for the right to use their intellectual property.

In South Africa, these payments are administered by different agencies such as the SA Music Rights Organisation (Samro), the SA Music Performance Rights Association (Sampra) and the Association of Independent Record Companies (Airco). 

In the case of Samro, for example, the SABC has committed to paying its outstanding debt of R160 million by April 2020. 

With all this money now being distributed to musicians and the festive season upon us, pop artist and Sampra board member Trésor Riziki, drawing on his personal experience, speaks to Moneyweb about how musicians can be financially savvy over the holidays. 

Spread it out 

“You don’t always have to live in the moment,” says Trésor. 

What we are really blessed with as artists is that we receive a lot of money in bulk and quite often,” says Trésor.

“A lot of artists forget that there is a lot of income stream when you are doing good because it is harvest season – but then there also comes dry season.

“You have to master the craft of how to spread it out,” he adds. 

Sampra has administered needletime rights on behalf of over 15 000 recording artists and more than 5 000 recording companies over the past two years, distributing over R400 million in royalties to its members. 

Ownership is important 

The multi-platinum-selling and multi-award-winning Congolese-born artist has had great success both locally and internationally since he released his debut album VII in September 2015. Today Trésor has three albums to his name and two of his singles – Mount Everest and Never Let Me Go – have reached number one in Italy.

The singer-songwriter recalls the first royalty payment he received for writing songs for South African artist Zahara’s second album, saying he was able to save some of that money, buy his “first little cat”, and see his family for the first time in six years. 

“It felt really sweet and I started to discover the power of writing songs and fine-tuning your craft.

“If you write songs that have done well in the mainstream market, equity and ownership is something that is very important.” 

Trésor says he writes about 90% of his music himself, and collaborates with his friends on the other 10%.

Passive income

He says that while there is much more money in performing, especially if an artist is at the top of their game, “the long game is having classic songs on your catalogue that can play for the next 20 years, 30 years and 40 years”.

“We still listen to Bra Caiphus and Brenda Fassie,” he points out.

“For me, that’s the legacy – if your music can still feed your kids and your grandkids, that’s what it’s all about. It’s about building something that will last a lot longer than you will.”

The classic

Trésor has earned a lot of royalties in South Africa, Europe and Mexico, with the key song to his success being Mount Everest. 

“A lot of people don’t understand – I have made a lot of money from Mount Everest, like when it comes to royalties more than anything, and it’s because of the success that it had in Europe,” he says. “People still stream it and still play it.”

He tells me that people discovered it on Youtube in Italy and in six weeks it became the most Shazamed song in the world. (Shazam is an app that can identify the album, artist and song title based on a short sample of the music – ed.)

“It was crazy it happened so fast,” he says.

Invest, invest

And where does the money go?

I have learnt to spend money on necessary things, so it all depends,” he says. “Sometimes I am investing in an album recording or I am investing in assets that produce money for me like music videos and things that I wear.

“Most of the time when it comes to bulks of money, the first thing I think of is saving and investments,” he says.

“Because you have to learn the craft of splitting the money right when you earn in bulks and then maybe don’t earn for a while.”

Listen to Nompu Siziba’s interview with Mike Pinggera, head of multi-strategy at  Sanlam Investments UK:





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A quality product will garner financial rewards. Most local music cannot be described as the former, however.

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