/ 5 October 2018

No jingle in musicians’ pockets

Mpumelelo Mthethwa
Mpumelelo Mthethwa (left), Lindani Ntsibande (centre) and Sipho Zondo claim that Minanawe Marketing paid them below market rates for their music accompanying adverts. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Three young musicians say they composed jingles to advertise some of South Africa’s biggest brands, but were paid peanuts by GG Alcock, the head of Minanawe Marketing.

Alcock is well known for his KasiNomics books on the informal township economy. But Lindani Ntsibande, Mpumelelo Mthethwa and Sipho Zondo claim that the kasi marketing guru asked them to produce 27 songs over a period of about five years — and that he paid them well below market rates.

Alcock fired back, saying he only had a relationship with Ntsibande, who was a Minanawe employee at one stage. The work done by him was the intellectual property of the company, he said.

The musicians said their music was used to market many household names including Mageu Smooth, Iwisa Instant, Just Juice, Omo and Surf.

Ntsibande said the three scripted and produced a song for A1 Maize Meal in June 2015 and were paid R5 000. The previous year they had produced a Mageu Smooth song for which they were paid R4 000.

“We didn’t know anything about the industry standard and how much we should charge and no one at Minanawe told us otherwise either, so we kept on getting paid peanuts,” said Ntsibande.

According to Ntsibande, in 2011 he, Mthethwa and Zondo compiled a proposal for Minanawe about how they could combine music and marketing for activation campaigns in the townships.

“We approached Minanawe in 2011 as a team and GG was there at the meeting with others when we pitched the work we could do. They liked our idea, and by 2013 we were talking to them about music they wanted us to do. We did about two songs and GG offered me a part-time position,” Ntsibande said.

Alcock said he has no recollection of receiving an activation strategy, nor is he really clear on what an “activation strategy” means in this context.

A former employee, who worked with Minanawe at the time but did not want to be named, remembers the meeting in 2011 and said the three guys were very enthusiastic.

Alcock said he employed Ntsibande in August 2013.“[I]was approached by Chris Ntsibande [who was] desperate for work as a creative in the advertising industry. Minanawe offered him part-time employment initially and then, at a later date, full-time employment,” said Alcock.

The jingles and songs were not conceptualised and scripted by Ntsibande alone, he said, but rather in collaboration with the Minanawe creative team.

“As such, his job included writing songs and jingles for various clients. It is standard practice in the communications industry that all work produced by an employee during their employ is the property of the agency, and our standard employment contract includes an intellectual property clause that makes this point clear,” Alcock said.

But Ntsibande said he had emails showing that Minanawe asked him to attend meetings for product briefings before his employment, which he states was only in 2014 — contrary to Alcock’s assertions.

He said these emails,and others, show that the team of three were asked on numerous occasions to produce work for Minanawe but were only paid a few thousand rands for work that, based on industry norms, should have earned them hundreds of thousands of rands.

An email from Minanawe’s client service manager, dated August 10 2013, asks whether Ntsibande could produce a song for the company.

“We would like to set up a meeting with you tomorrow at 12:00 to brief [you] on a song we would like you to produce for us. Please let me know if you will be available. Thanks,” reads the email.

In an email dated March 2014, Alcock offers Ntsibande a position as creative and concept developer— “[a] part-time one for a period of three months, this would be for 2 to 3 days a week, Tuesday to Thursday, effective 1 April.”

But another email in August 2013 shows that work was done prior to this offer: “Thanks Jab’s — Lindani, you may recall that you assisted with the MOVE IT song for Milk-It —along those lines.”

A February 2014 email from Alcock states: “Please let me know if you can get this [work on the Mageu Number 1 Smooth song]done by Wednesday next week and the cost to produce this? If the client decides to use this we will record it properly with you and pay a usage fee, but for now let’s work on the production of the sample version.”

Alcock said Minanawe owns the intellectual property that Ntsibande created during his employment. He said Ntsibande, as a full-time employee of the company, claimed the additional money as “out-of-pocket expenses”and contracted directly with Mthethwa and Zondo.

Queries were sent to RCL Foods, Coca-Cola and Adcock Ingram about the jingles the musicians said they produced. All three companies responded to say they were unaware of the allegations.

RCL and Adcock Ingram said they contracted directly with Minanawe. Coca-Cola told the Mail & Guardian that Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa, the franchise’s bottling partner in South Africa, had also contracted with Minanawe.