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Thursday, 28 April 2005

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Fon

The government of Cameroon occasionally and reluctantly recognizes the contributions of individual citizens whose private efforts glorify the nation at home and abroad. No one for sure would know when government appreciates the efforts of any individual in any domain. The minds of our politicians have been so polluted with jealousy, and suspicion so that no one for sure actually understands when the government would frown or appreciate an effort. All the politicians see is someone trying to steal their show and thus their livelihood.After putting his all in footballthe government grudgingly made Milla an ambassador of sorts and now Manu Dibango is having his turn. When they do things half heartedly like this the citizen they want to acknowledge can easily be caught in their traditional web of blackmail, intrigue and betrayal.
I won’t waste time here trying to judge this venerated citizen of Cameroon. Rather I would like to question the purpose of such organisation like the CMC anyway. Its predecessor SOCINADA and other contraptions before it had similar tales to tell. What has been the difference with the Cameroonian musician ever since? What in the first place is the purpose of such an organisation? Things like that were created in the dark days of monolithic political dispensation to control musical content under the guise of propping young talents and assisting the music industry at large by controlling and enforcing copyright laws. In short to stamp out piracy. But since the staggering level of ignorance in Cameroon is so profound in nearly all aspects of human existence that it does not longer look like simple ignorance, the irrelevance of such an organisation in today’s competitive market systems economy is beyond the comprehension of our musicians and even the society at large. Take for example university students take to the streets to demand that government abolishes library fees they are asked to pay. I feel humiliated, embarrased and too scared to even think that these children are ignorant of what goes on in other countries. Yes, if the government can offer free education let it, but is it not normal for fees to be paid in any school? In our days the government paid us to attend school. We loved it and wished it could continue. But that was an abnormality because back into the 17th century people paid to attend school. But before I heap all the blame to these unfortunate students it is good to understand too that those in charge of these universities - from politicians to school administrators must have failed to make the students be aware of what is going on in the civilized world. But how would students even know better when basic learning facilities are just absent? If there can’t be toilets in school would there be internet?
Indeed things have gone so bad in Cameroon that one wonders how they keep up in this fast pace-high tech world of today. Imagine this bizzare scenario. I was in Bamenda last month and a friend of mine shot a drama and recorded it on a single CD. He had trouble convincing people that it was a full production of whatever he had put together. Why? Because the average Bamenda man because of the proliferation of Nigerian films always on two CDs has come to know that films must be on two CDs and any other thing is just not a film. Tell them that there is another gadget called the DVD player and they would think you must be a con man. Even put a DVD player side by side with their popular VCD players the difference is still light years from them. Yes, at one time all of us were not abreast with all these but for Christ’s sake its about time we know better. I could not believe anything like that. This DVD ignorance surprisingly does not exclude even the so called computer experts in town. In every level of common daily awareness in Cameroon gross ignorance is so manifested that I have come to understand why our socio-economic development has not only stagnated but derailed so much. But if you agree with me that our so called leaders are also just normal Cameroonians like us all you can now begin to understand the source of our plight. Like I mentioned above their concept of development is myopic so any attempt of a contrary view from whoever, that would be interpreted as a challenge to their self esteem, manhood, and above all their source of survival.
I decided to expose what I see as gross ignorance by most Cameroonians in many aspects of modern life to try to make more emphasis on the music industry. In 1993 I left the US and returned to Cameroon with the idea of letting some budding musicians in Bamenda see why they should detatch themselves from that SOCINDA mafia. When they cited piracy I was prepared for an answer. Simple economic theory holds that consumers would buy what would give them utmost satisfaction for the least possible cost. For example I had observed that the Washington Post at the time sold for a meagre 25 cents a copy in the Washington Metro Area. How many copies they sold each day is for the reader to guess. One could even buy one copy from the checkout counter in Giant, forget it at a filling station and won’t hesitate to buy another as he stops at a neighbourhood Seven Eleven store. After all it was only 25 cents - change money. But if you make a relative comparison with the cost of any newspaper in Cameroon one understands why the newspaper sales in Cameroon are so low. I know people will just chirp in now about cost of production. I have been in the business and I understand that unfortunately one important price determinant is quality and that quality is simply associated with price. So most Cameroonians think that lower price reflects lower quality, and secondly surprisingly conventional wisdom in Cameroon holds that a certain amount is the price that should be - and in this case 300 frs cfa. is that price. Just glance on almost all papers in Cameroon. Each costs 300 francs cfa. But consumer common sense holds that if a paper costs as much as a regular restaurant meal the potential average consumer would prefer a meal to a news paper. It does not need so much scientific analysis to make such a conclusion. Would you get a meal for yourself or a newspaper if you had only 300 frs to decide on? Now compare it with the Washington post. If people had to use what it takes to get a regular hamburger from McDonalds or Burger King to buy a copy of the Washinton Post or Washington Times, sales will plummet overnight.
If affordability could allow thousands of people buy a paper nobody would need to convince businesses before they advertise in papers through which the publishers will make more money. Nigerians know this business and that is why they have a vibrant media industry. They averagely do not earn better than Cameroonians yet one Nigerian can afford buying more than one newspaper in a day.
Luckily papers cannot be pirated but the prohibitive prices in Cameroon create a duplication of readers and not buyers. Who is the looser?
But how does this relate to CMC and piracy? It is simple. For lack of judgement artists have been brainwashed to think that a collective action under the auspices of a powerful organisation would combat piracy and assist young musicians. But firstly the issue of piracy can never be defeated by any law. In any naïve thinking somebody would think the law can do it because he\she visualizes an armed gendarme or policeman pushing shoving and threatening a poor discotheque operator because he was caught taping and selling Petit Pay’s last album. How many pushings, shovings and threats does he make in individual homes where there a dual tape deck stereo where these same albums are made for free for family and friends? What is the percentage of these home piracy? The piracy on the street is just a tiny fraction of that done in legitimate businesses on the streets. The economics here is simple. So long as duplicating an album is cheaper than buying the original the artist will be outwitted by piracy - it does not matter how many SOCINADAS or CMCs are created. It does not matter also how many law officers are deployed in the streets. With the proliferation of computers and disk writers all over the place every body can be a pirate today even without intending to be one since they hardly know the contents of what they are copying or burning. ?. Unconscious piracy? Now with CMC producing artists’ songs and putting astronomical price tags on their CDs it makes matters worse. In Baffousam and many other towns in Cameroon, pirated recorded CDs sell between 400 and 500 frs cfa. They are as good as the originals. Why should I buy a CD for 1500 frs cfa marketed by SOCINADA or CMC when I can buy one for 500? One must be an embecile to do that. Excuse me for being blunt. One reason some would advance is that pirating hurts the industry. If I as a consumer has to take care of an industry, who takes care of me? In the real world the moment I can buy what I like for the best possible price guaranteeing the best possible satisfaction I have been taken care of. Anything short of that is impracticable and consumers must circumvent it by all means. So why do they have to worry when money goes missing in CMC? Why do musicians let crooks handle their money only for them to complain again? The fun here is that nobody compels them to join those organisation. With technological advancement in recording either the CDs or Audio tapes at every door step my advice is for musicians to produce their own songs in any neighbourhood home or office facility. There are hundreds of them now and quality professional jobs can be done even on pay as you sell basis. Sell your songs at affordable prices to make piracy more expensive. Piracy can be fought only with the price mechanism and nothing else. The issue is simple. If a consumer cannot buy what he wants and can make it, he makes it and there is nothing you can do about it. The law officers won’t help you either. They are part of the consumers themselves and I don’t need to tell you how corrupt they are. So if the money does not end up with them, CMC gets it and you the artist will always remain the looser.

Herbert

To FON:

Is that a Comment? That is a whole article on its own. Please you guys should respect words here. We are given the chance to comment and not to write long articles.

Cheers Boy.

shuche

@Herbert man u may be right but you also have a right not to read what you do not like. complaining only shows how backward u can be because the post has not done so.
regards
shuche

Herbert

@ Shuche

Man don't be silly. How do you know whether i read his article or not. Do you think I don't have better things to do. I don't read such crap. For your information I am not sitting in an internet cafe like some of you. I am busy in my office overlooking the alps mountains. This is the last day of the month and I have a lot of financial consolidation to report.

Cheers Boy.

Endale

kai Mr FON...

u think say pipul get time for read dat incoherent jargon wey you write am for up there? You no sabi summarise?!

mai-fren condense dat tin make pipol undastan! what is all these?!

Enow

Herbert,

After following your comments for a while I have come to the conclusion that you need to watch your language and ego. Who the hell cares where you surf the net? Alps what Alps? Man you are taking yourself too high for my liking. There are a hell lot better people out here than you. Fon's comment make for more intellectually stimulating reading that all your contributions on this forum.

Stay quiet and let those with Brains comment.

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