Creative Voucher Scheme
Carthage Music Ltd and SOAS
Catherine Steinmann, Carthage Music Ltd
Dr Caspar Melville, SOAS
Valuing Tradition: Making ethical use of music publishing and copyright to sustain musical tradition and nurture music careers
Copyright is the single most important commodity in the music business – the key way in which value is measured and understood and the careers of artists sustained. With the steep decline in physical sales and a move to online across the music industry, rights management is becoming an even more important aspect of revenue generation. This research set out to understand how the global copyright system, as managed by publishers in London, deals with and rewards artists/composers working in traditional musical forms – using the example of the Mande Griots of Mali.
Much of the global repertoire administered by Carthage Music originates in worldwide folk traditions, including the West African griot culture. Together Carthage and SOAS examined ideas of authorship and song ownership in relation to the griot tradition, which has been handed down through the generations since the Mande Empire in the 13th Century. The research constructed case studies, and used the methodology of cultural sociology, based on open-ended qualitative interviews with a variety of stakeholders and experts in the field – World Music labels and publishers, legal experts, representatives of collection agencies, those involved in the rethinking of global intellectual Property structures (WIPO) and Malian artists. Alongside this there was a thorough review of the academic literature pertaining to world music and copyright.
Through this project Carthage Music consolidated its position as one of the foremost publishers of traditional West African music in London. An industry event held in November 2014, and featuring artist Kasse Mady Diabate, engendered public discussion of the project and the issues of copyright addressed through this process. The public event and the research process enabled Carthage Music to raise their profile and to promote themselves more effectively both within the industry and to potential artists. Dr Melville produced a project report that provided a vignette of the publishing process from the perspective of the artists who ‘hold’ this ancient musical tradition and are responsible for its preservation for future generations. The report was designed to serve the dual function of providing a snapshot of an industry in rapid change with a focus on how Carthage manage and maximise the rights revenues for their writers, and a guide for similar independent SMEs and those interested in the creative industries more generally, around some of the key mechanism of copyright and how best to structure publishing deals in the current climate. The report will function as a manifesto for Carthage Music, and, when translated into French, will be circulated and made accessible to potential artists/writers. The report will contribute transparent ethical practices across the industry, protecting and enhancing the value of these traditional repertoires. The manifesto will generate new business and promote Carthage Music as a publishing company within the industry.
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