Moroccan Artists Earn Applause but Little in Royalties

The Hoba Hoba Spirit band performing in El Jadida, Morocco in 2010.

From The New York Times:

CASABLANCA — The Moroccan rock band Hoba Hoba Spirit has legions of adoring fans.

When they are on stage, the audience sings along with every word. They play across Morocco and abroad. Words from their lyrics, such as “fhamator,” or know-it-all, have entered urban slang.

Still, after 10 years and 5 albums they don’t earn enough from their recorded art to live on. They have earned just $220 in royalties from their music, which is a mixture of reggae, rock and the North African indigenous music called gnawa.

“Once we gave a concert with a French band, and when they heard the crowd singing along with us, they thought we were rich,” said Reda Allali, the lead singer of the band. “They told me that in France with only one hit, an artist can live comfortably for years.”

Many artists around the world complain about lack of funding, but in Morocco it seems particularly difficult for a singer or film star to obtain a fair slice of the revenues his or her work produces for others. Arts funding in Morocco is so poorly organized and endowed that King Mohamed VI and his government are trying to remedy the situation by handing some of their favorite singers or film stars licenses for buses and other businesses to subsidize their acting or singing.

Of course, the ability to download music and other media through the Internet has made protecting artists’ copyrights a global problem. But in Morocco, artists say that the agency responsible for monitoring and issuing royalties is not protecting their rights — even when their works are broadcast on Moroccan television and radio.

“Every day our rights are violated,” said a rock singer, Khansa Batma, 33, who comes from a family with a long tradition of making music.

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