A new application that facilities the purchase of music using mobile air is said to revolutionize the music industry in Ethiopia circumventing long contentious copy rights issues.

The brand new marketing scheme, which is expected to commence after seven months, includes a mobile app, web application and USSD Medias. Using the app one can purchase a music album for 15 birr and a single for 4 birr and 50 cents.

The app was officially launched by Awtar Multimedia Plc and Ethio Telecom on Tuesday at Sheraton Addis. Awtar Multimedia, led by musicians such us Elias Melka, Hailemichael Getnet a.k.a Haile Roots and Yohannes Bekele a.k.a Johnny Raga, proposed the idea to Ethio Telecom and formed the partnership with the telecom monopoly.

According to Elias, the app will be a solution for several problems that are crippling the music industry. He noted that many musicians face daunting challenges due to widespread copyright infringement. “Even though the law protects musicians’ rights and they are granted with privileges such as enjoyment of their rights for life plus 50 year, we don’t see this law implemented on the ground. Many musicians are poor not because they don’t work enough but because their musical works are robbed in broad daylight,” Elias said.

The new app that many musicians hope would change the industry is structured to divide profit among the singer, lyricist, music arranger, melodist and producer. Each party is granted a 20 percent share of the profit. Elias said the system gives effect to the provision of the copyright law which stipulates that a music producer is entitled to five years of economic right after an album is released. After five years the right will be exercised by the singer and the rest of the musicians who participated in the making of the album.

He also elaborated that the app includes music produced from 1950 until now. The app provides music under the categories of singer, producer, name of the album, year of release, lyricist and melodist or music arranger so that everyone involved in an albums is credited.

Haile Roots, on his part, pointed out that the escalating illegal purchase of music these days using flash disks and memory cards is distressing musicians. “Musicians are doomed to live in poverty due to illegal music purchasing.”

According to Johnny Raga, the app assists musicians to release albums within a short period of time and for a lesser price. He noted that from compact cassette to compact disc, every format is aging out and that a new system must be applied. Similar apps known to protect musicians’ copyright has been applied all over the world.

Tadios Asefa, technical director of Awtar Multimedia and developer of the app, said that the platform can be used not only to sell music but promote music related news, concerts and workshops. “Musician can regulate their sales and since the files are encrypted one cannot transfer music using Bluetooth or other wireless means. It also shows which type of music genre is bought the most for research purposes,” he explained. The app has search options in Amharic, Oromiffa and Tigrigna. He stated it is applicable in android phones and other phones that have any media player. One can use the app without internet connection too.

Mussie Desta, indirect partners’ manager of Ethio Telecom, said the company is free to make the app available on terms and conditions the musicians set. He said it is possible to make the app suitable for other music purchase modalities like subscription or other means. They are also flexible when it comes to the amount of money charged.

He cited an Ethio Telecom project called CRBT (colour ring back tone), a service which allows mobile subscribers to replace the standard ring back sounds heard by callers with a song of their choice, as an example. However, the musicians posed questions regarding the profit sharing between Ethio Telecom and the musicians.

Tsegaye Eshetu, a popular musician, argued that the company should work in favour of musicians given they had been victims for decades. “We have been denied our economic rights for so long. Therefore, the company must be considerate of our needs,” he said.

Pioneer musicians such as Dawit Yifru and young talents like Henock Mehari and Michael Belayneh also expressed similar concerns. They pointed out that Ethio Telecom already takes 85 percent of the revenues from CRBT and the new app must be different in regards to benefiting musicians.

Abdurahim Ahmed, communications head of Ethio Telecom, confirmed that the telecom provider is on the side of the musicians and would not do something that only benefits the company.

Details including the financial share and other specifics about the app will be announced in the near future as Awtar Multimedia is currently in the process of collecting and digitalizing music.