Duo says you play, you pay

Dubai music makers Hollaphonic want to be rewarded for their efforts when their music is played in the UAE and hope there are changes ahead to ensure that happens.

Oliver Wood, left, and Greg Steiner play about in their Dubai studio. They would like to see performance rights royalties collected. Satish Kumar / The National
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ABU DHABI // When Dubai electronic music duo Hollaphonic's single Dangerous became a hit on radio locally and in the UK this year, they happily watched the performance royalty cheques start to roll in – but then they noticed none came from the UAE.

With no performing rights society in the country to enforce copyright laws and collect royalties on behalf of musicians, radio stations and other businesses using protected works are not being asked to pay up.

So while Hollaphonic’s single got more airplay, the only cheques they received came from the UK, their home country.

“Because of that exposure, it became more evident we don’t get it from the Middle East at all,” said Oliver Wood, who partners with Greg Stainer to form Hollaphonic, signed to Universal Music Group.

“I think it is a key discussion point that needs to be addressed as to why we are behind the curve on this,” he said.

“There is an immense cultural revolution happening in the UAE and for me part of that has to be to reward the people producing that creativity.

“It needs to be in the form of support and revenue streams that have been identified to work globally.

“There’s definitely a willingness to make this happen, it’s just a culture change, and that’s the most difficult thing, how this will impact a large number of people.”

Nick Robinson, deputy programming head at Dubai’s Radio 1, said most radio stations in the UAE, including Radio 1, do not pay royalties but argued that they still helped artists make money.

“You can look at the iTunes charts and the Shazam charts and reflect that against our playlists, and realise that although we’re not paying the royalties directly, the artists are still generating revenue because of us,” he said. “Artists generate revenue in the region through iTunes sales and other means like that, so it’s often radio that pushes those sales.”

While that may be true, artists still need performance royalties as well as sales royalties, said Hollaphonic’s Mr Wood.

Once sales revenues are shared with labels and management, little cash is left over for artists like himself that are making the music, he said.

While artists may not be getting performance royalties from all UAE commercial outlets who play their music, online streaming music service Guvera – launched in the UAE in August – says it will be paying “royalties to the artists and record labels responsible for producing” the music it streams.

“Being a legal music service, we licence music from all the music labels,” said Ananya Amin, Guvera’s head of business development in Asia.

“We’ve got tracking and analytics on the platform, so every time a stream happens for any artist or any song, it’s reported back to the labels.

“Whoever is the rightful owner of that content gets rightfully rewarded, so we obviously pay royalties to the artists and everyone involved.”