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Shyne resigns from BSCAP saying artists are being chanced Print E-mail
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Thursday, 17 August 2017 00:00

Shyne Barrow, Belize’s Music Ambassador, has resigned from the Belize Society of Composers Authors and Publishers (BSCAP). He is accusing the board and the former CEO of financial mismanagement,  which he thinks is going to hurt the over 100 artists who became members to collect their earnings for the use of their intellectual property.

In a letter dated Thursday, August 10, Barrow wrote, “Dear BSCAP members, I resigned as CEO… I cannot justify why my predecessor, Heather Cunningham, currently the Chairwoman of the BSCAP Board, is claiming $600,000 in expense and salary from 2010-2013… Yet, at this year’s AGM, the paltry sum of $2,500 is being proposed to distribute to BSCAP members… The only reason I agreed to become CEO of BSCAP was to empower artists!”

So, his letter makes it clear. Shyne believes that BSCAP, which was established to protect the interest of the artists and the music community, is not living up to its mandate. He held a press conference to explain further that the board of management is attempting to saddle the artists with debts even before the entire Belize becomes copyright compliant and artists truly start to make the money they deserve for the use of their work.

Confidential financial statements from within BSCAP have ended up in the hands of the press, and they reveal that in 2010, the board agreed to pay Heather Cunningham, an attorney residing in the US, $50,000 for her salary as the CEO. For the year 2011, 2012, and 2013, she got an annual pay increase of $10,000. She’s now claiming $260,000 as compensation for her time as CEO of the organization, but that debt hasn’t been collected as yet.

Shyne questions the prudence of that in addition to the expenses of $389,061 which are being reported as the organization’s expenses incurred over the 4 years that she was the CEO. According to the financial statements, that’s a total of $649,061 in debt that BSCAP has incurred during her tenure, and at the upcoming annual general meeting, a total of $2,500 is going to be distributed to the over 100 BSCAP members.

That disparity between what the organization owes and the shares that the artists will get is what Barrow is specifically complaining about, and at this time. He told the press that he is hoping that the membership of BSCAP will demand answers from the board and specifically from Heather Cunningham, who is serving as the Chairwoman of the BSCAP board.

In a strong condemnation, Barrow said, “My mindset was to use BSCAP as I have used the office of the Music Ambassador, to empower the artists, to assist the artists, to help the artists. So, certainly, I wouldn’t burden BSCAP as an organization with any hefty salary or any hefty expenses, or anything that would prevent the artists from getting maximum payout, especially knowing that it’s an uphill battle to get people to be copyright compliant. We don’t know when monies of any significance will be coming in, and certainly, I don’t want to be the hurdle to artists getting maximum payout… I am removing my endorsement and my support for this organization because I do not support that type of financial irresponsibility and mismanagement in my opinion. You cannot spend that type of money with absolutely nothing to show for it and all you will distribute to your artist is $2,500 after 13 years as an organization.”

He is being supported in this stance against the board by Belizean artists Tanya Carter, TR Shine, TY, and Cecil “Cocono Bwai” Jenkins Jr. Carter a member of BSCAP,  also spoke candidly about the struggles of making a living as an artist in Belize.

Well known for her rise to prominence as a local artist, Carter told the listening public on national radio and television that she intended to leave BSCAP because it did not appear to be producing any sort of measurable results. She said, “Maybe 5 or 6 years ago, we received a cheque for $20 dollars, and I didn’t cash it because I think it was ‘pittance’. I left it right there, and from since then, with that CEO and the team that they had, there was no work being done… We’re trying to elevate ourselves, and that’s what we believed in. That’s what we believed that Shyne was doing for us. So, I only have one thing to say, if Shyne is leaving, I am leaving. That’s done.”

Under increasing public pressure, the Board organized a press conference with Heather Cunningham via Skype. Responding to the allegation, she said, “The figure of $600,000 is absolutely preposterous and incorrect. I don’t know where it came from and if you are looking at the same financials that I am looking at and I am not the best with math, but I don’t know how $600,000 even with expenses and salaries and anything else that was pulled into the mix, it still doesn’t equal $600,000. So again, it’s highly inflammatory what Shyne is saying… I started in 2010 and it is now 2017 and I have not been paid a dime for BSCAP. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy without compensation… I decided on my own accord to help the Belizean artists, to help them understand how to navigate about rights and the value of the rights and to have somebody turn around and shout out or put out to the public that there is a mismanagement of funds, funds we don’t even have, I think anybody in their right mind would get emotional.”

When she was asked to justify her claim to $260,000 in compensation for her time as CEO of BSCAP, Cunningham said, “My salary is what it is. It’s been approved by the board. Let’s be very clear on that. I think that my background, my credentials and all that I brought to the table speaks for itself. It speaks volumes. Now, the distributions, what Shyne did not let you guys know or let the media know or the public know, is that I am not claiming or asking for any of that money to be paid out right now… Once we get the financial audit completed, I said that whatever the auditor says is not justified will be excluded, but what we were told to do is to make sure we put on the record all expenses. Once the audit is done, only the expenses that can be justified will stay.”

There is no indication yet how the high profile resignation will affect the credibility of BSCAP, or the decisions which the membership may make at their AGM in October. What is clear however is that in a year since Shyne held the office of CEO he brought copyright and the rights of artists to collect royalties to the forefront. So much has been Shyne’s impact on the industry that there were a number of music users who were already lining up to make payments for royalties. That has not all been shot and Shyne says it is the principle behind the entire matter that drives him. He said he could not stand by as artists who rightfully deserved their royalties to be paid to them to be deprived because of expenses that were incurred. He added that he no longer has an interest in heading any organization that will serve as a collection agency for artists however he said in his capacity of Music Ambassador he would fully support any move by artists to form their own organization in order for them to do the collection of royalties.