'Mor Lam' groups boycott Grammy due to high copyright fee

Mor Lam performers in the Northeast and Central regions say they will boycott songs owned by the GMM Grammy Group for live performances, saying they cannot afford the annual copyright fee of 250,000 baht.

Groups who perform the highly popular Isan folk music will stop using Grammy songs in their acts from Oct 19 if the company insists on its new policy of charging a 250,000 baht annual fee for a maximum of 20 songs in each performance, introduced on Sept 1 this year. 

Grammy's charges are outside the ability to pay of small and medium sized Mor Lam groups, who generally earn a small income and cannot afford the 250,000 copyright fee, said Pramual Seti, a researcher of Northeast culture at Khon Kaen Technical College. 

They have asked the company to cut the fee by half, otherwise they will stop using GMM songs in their live performances and will not invite artists from the Grammy group to be guests on their stages. 

Ratree Sriwilai Bongsithiporn, 62, a teacher on Mor Lam music who is also known as Ratree Sriwilai, said Mor Lam players in Khon Kaen and other 11 provinces in the Northeast will stop using Grammy songs on Oct 19 which is the end of Buddhist Lent. 

She has over 2,000 students who have also agreed to use songs owned by other companies which allow free use for live Mor Lam performances, or play songs and music they create themselves. 

"Mor Lam groups in the Northeast receive 20,000-50,000 for a live performance, but there are lots of expenses,  for things like lighting and sound equipment, stage set up, costumes, transport and so on. At the end, the performers' actual income is quite low, and they just cannot afford such a high copyright fee," she said.

In the video above, Ratree Sriwilai Bongsithiporn sings a traditional Mor Lam song "Dance Legend (Tamnan Lam)".

The Mor Lam groups in Isan have followed the decision of performers in the Central region, who earlier agreed on three points - no copyright payment, no use of Grammy songs, no hiring of Grammy artists.

Overall,  at least 70 Mor Lam groups have agreed on banning performances of Grammy group music.

Krit Thomas, chief operating officer of GMM Grammy said on his Facebook page that the copyright fee list was needed so the company could correctly pay royalties to the writers of the songs and music. 

He said the fee for each song is 0.5% of the performance fee. For example, if the performing group is hired for 10,000 baht, the fee for each Grammy-owned song will be 50 baht, with the total fee based on the number of songs used in each performance.

However, he said, if any groups want to use many songs, the company will offer a discount, or collect the annual fee.

Mr Krit said performers who think they are unable to meet the copyright charge can discuss it with the company. Several small groups have already met Grammy and left with a package that satisfied them, he said.

However, if some Mor Lam groups decide not to use Grammy songs because they do not want to pay the copyright fees, that is all right, he said. The company does not force them to use Grammy songs.

The music video of "Your Heart for My Number (Kau Jai Tur Lak Bur Toh)" performed by Luk Thung and Mor Lam singer Yinglee Srijoomphol was uploaded to YouTube by gmmgrammyofficial on Jan 23, 2013. The song became a big hit this year.


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