Sh40,000 fee not sweet music to online DJs
Shift to internet due to Covid-19 has seen royalty organisation demand the new fee
DJ Bunney 254, whose real name is Judith Kwamboka.

She is among entertainers who have found a niche in online deeyajing due to Covid-19.

Regulator > Kecobo says deejays performing online must pay some money for each session

Entertainer Judith Kwamboka, better known as DJ Bunney, has not been sitting idle despite closure of entertainment spots due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thanks to social media and the youthful legion of fans she has won herself since 2016, she nowadays performs online, serving her specialty of Gusii music to the satisfaction of many. During her online performances, she often displays an M-Pesa number where any touched fan can send a tip.

But with each spin of DJ Bunney’s discs and those of other deejays turning to the internet to make an income, controversy is brewing.

The organisations that collect money on behalf of musicians want DJ Bunney and her compatriots to pay Sh40,000 to be licensed before every online deejaying session. That means that if she streams on a Friday and a Saturday, she is supposed to part with Sh80,000 for a licence.

That message was conveyed to the Sunday Nation yesterday by Mr Peter Enyenze, the joint operations manager for the three organisations permitted to collect fees on behalf of Kenyan artistes.

The organisations are the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK), the Kenya Association of Music Producers (Kamp) and the Performers’ Rights Society of Kenya (Prisk).

Mr Enyenze noted that whenever a DJ streams music live, they have gone beyond a normal performance.

A normal performance was mentioned in a statement issued on Thursday by the Kenya Copyright Board (Kecobo), the body that regulates the organisations Mr Enyenze represents.

Kecobo’s executive director Edward Sigei, weighing in on the DJ royalties’ debate, said a DJ who performs at a licensed facility like a nightclub need not pay any royalty fees. But if that DJ performs at a different place, they should pay Sh750 for every session or pay a flat rate of Sh10,000 a year to enable them perform anywhere for that period.

“For deejays who would like to stream their performance, they are subject to terms and conditions of the platform they may wish to use,” Mr Sigei said in the statement.

“Deejays are required to acquaint themselves with terms and conditions of service of the platforms that they intend to use and comply, including paying for the music usage locally,” he added.

The royalty collection organisations have set Sh40,000 as the flat rate fee a DJ should pay. In Mr Enyenze’s perspective, an online performance by a DJ does not fall under the definition of normal shows.

“As per the Copyright Act, the act of streaming music to a worldwide audience like on social media is broadcasting,” Mr Enyenze said.

“When music is broadcast online, that attracts a different charge other than the normal public performance licence.”

On top of the Sh40,000 that is negotiable, he said, the Collective Management Organisations (CMOs) will monitor the DJ’s performance if it is bringing in cash.

“After we analyse the viewership and all that, we charge nine per cent if there is any income they are getting,” Mr Enyenze said.

But DJs see a lot of problems in that plan. Among the most vocal is Gordon Omondi aka DJ Gordo, a representative of a DJs’ network who last week wrote to Kecobo for a clarification on the licensing fees.

Speaking with the Sunday Nation yesterday, DJ Gordo admitted that artistes need compensation for their music once it is used by a DJ during an online stream but he disagreed with the royalty collection agencies on the way to go about it.

“Why would you tell me to pick a licence from MCSK (Music Copyright Society of Kenya) who are representing these musicians, but when I go to perform online my streams are still taken down because of copyright issues? So, what is this licence?” he wondered.

“If they can guarantee that if I get a licence then I’ll have a stream that cannot be taken down because of copyright issues, I will pay for that,” he added.

DJ Gordo said it would be better if the royalty collection firms worked with social media platforms to find a better way around the matter, and also noted that the Sh40,000 cited by Mr Enyenze is not a gazetted levy.

As the confusion lasts, DJ Bunney complained that reaching the collection organisations is problematic.

“They need to make their operations digital as is the case with eCitizen,” she noted.

She also called for consideration of the charges because a number of DJs are struggling due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“The same people who are complaining that we should play Kenyan music are the ones who are telling us that we should have a licence.

So, we are like, isn’t it better even to play Nigerian music, Bongo music and all that? There is other music that you can play without much bother,” she said.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic started, DJs all over the world have been signing petitions seeking to have social media platforms create an arrangement where DJs can legally play music and make some payment to artistes.

Social media platforms, by their rules, typically pull down any content that is reported to have flouted copyright rules, and that might see a DJ’s performance taken down in the middle of a show.

In Kenya, there is no system of monitoring what music is being played online, and the royalty collection organisations are depending on DJs’ goodwill. My Enyenze said they expect entertainers to inform them of their shows “so that they avoid the legal consequences that might come through after they do that”. 



The provisions of the current Copyright Act are still applicable in the digital environment, especially in relation to reproduction, distribution and sale, among others.

Certain new rights have come up, although they are extensions of existing rights such as the right of making available, which is an extension of the right of communication to the public.

Such rights are important in the administration of rights from emerging technologies such as ring tones, real tones, view on demand, streaming and webcasting.