Pacific Island and Maori songwriters and composers are not being well served by APRA, a music royalty collection society, according to Pacific event organiser Stan Wolfgramm.
Stan Wolfgramm, director of Style Pasifika and Drum Productions, which produces TV3’s Pacific Beat Street, used the PIMA conference to advocate for the rights of Pasifika artists and the role APRA plays in administering Pacific Island songwriters’ performing rights.
“Pacific artists are not the same as Western artists,” he said, addressing a crowd of nearly 100 people. “It’s not a one-size- fits-all.”
APRA, the Australasian Performing Rights Association, is a non-profit organisation that collects royalties from music users all over the world on behalf of songwriters and music composers under the Copyright Act. Of the 6800 New Zealand-based songwriters signed up to APRA, five per cent, or 340 members, identify as Pacific Islanders.
At stake, Wolfgramm says, is APRA’s inability to differentiate between Maori or Pacific Island social events and commercial or corporate events, with regards to music licensing. Furthermore, he says, if a songwriter or composer wants to relinquish their copyright on specific occasions they must go through a lengthy process.
Style Pasifika, which Wolfgramm organises, is New Zealand’s premier Pacific Island Fashion Awards. It has been running for 12 years and although he maintains the event is non-profit, an admission fee is charged.
APRA’s rules state the event must obtain a music licence – which would cost just over one per cent of the gross sum of admission sales. Charitable events with no admission have their fee waived.
In the lead-up to the PIMA conference, Wolfgramm canvassed opinion via email, asking Pacific Island artists if they thought they were being supported or shafted by APRA.
“It’s not about APRA not gathering revenue for Pasifika artists,” he said. “It’s about understanding their rights when they sign with APRA.
“It’s the nitty gritty I’m talking about. Identity is being lost via economics.”
APRA representatives Anthony Healey and Petrina George took the chance to respond to the issues raised at the conference.
“Stan’s communication to the public created some hurt but now it’s good to talk about this,” said Healey. “We’re not convinced our writers want to operate the way Stan is suggesting.”
“In reality the songwriter and composer are who we work for,” said Petrina George, member services manager.
Some of the APRA members questioned Wolfgramm’s motives for raising the issue in the first place.
TV One news producer Tati Urale was not convinced with his argument. “Why should there be different rules for us?” he asked.
But Niuean artists Vela Manusaute and Glen Jackson agreed with Wolfgramm that there needed to be some distinction within APRA.
They were opposed to joining the organisation until their music hit “the big time”.
“What’s that [royalty cheque] gonna buy us now? A pair of socks?” says Vela.
Wolfgramm knows issues won’t be resolved immediately but believes many Pacific Island artists are unaware of the limitations APRA is placing on them and their communities from a cultural and economic perspective.
APRA took these concerns seriously but managing the logistics could prove unfeasible, said Healy.
“It does have a certain amount of sense but it’s difficult to do,” he said.
“1.05 per cent of the gross sum of admission is what APRA collects. If you want writers to earn less than that, well it’s not a lot of money.”