Thursday, January 19, 2012


Out of tune? Sayco-Acinpro's office in Bogotá's Teusaquillo neighborhood.
If you have a business which serves the public, you've probably had to deal with them. And even if you don't, you've still probably seen their signs on the walls of businesses around Bogotá.

Sayco-Acinpro may be Colombia's most ubiquitous and least-known public institution - and one of its least fair ones. It's a private organization authorized to charge for the use of music created by some 1,200 Colombian writers and performers and innumerable others worldwide and pay the artists.

In principle, this is perfectly fair. Musicians, like other creators, deserve payment when others use their work - particularly when the user himself profits from the music. A good example is a restaurant which plays CDs of music by Juanes, Shakira or Paul McCartney. The music makes the diners' experience more pleasant, the restaurant sells more meals and its owners make more money, thanks to the musicians' brainwork.

So, it's perfectly just that somebody charge the restaurant for the musicians' benefit - if the musicians actually receive the money.

However, if recent accusations are true, the organization has made exorbinant charges to some concert organizers for the use of music. But, despite this, some Colombian writers and musicians have received little or no payment for their work - to say nothing of foreign artists (as hard as it may be to feel sorry for Michael Jackson or the Backstreet Boys).

But, there's also a micro injustice here. Take the owner of a Hare Krishna vegetarian restaurant in La Candelaria who told me that Sayco-Acinpro tried to charge him for playing music in his establishment, even tho he played only special Hindu music by artists who had given him permission to use their work. Or stories I've heard about parking lots being charged because the attendant was listening to a transister radio, which the lot's clients might just overhear. Or the local pizza joint which has to pay SAYCO-ACINPRO for playing the radio in their tiny restaurant - even tho the radio presumably pays for itself thru commercials, and the pizza eaters hear those commercials.

Wouldn't it make much more sense, and be much more efficient, for  Sayco-Acinpro to charge the radio stations for using music to sell their commercials, instead of charging every little shop and restaurant individually?

The situation here at Bogotá Bike Tours is even more absurd. Sayco-Acinpro, thankfully, agreed that we don't owe them anything, since we play music only for our employees, not the public. BUT, we still have to make Sayco-Acinpro an annual visit and pay them a few thousand pesos for a certificate saying that we don't owe them anything!

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

No comments: