The fate of SAYCO, Colombia's Society of Authors and Composers, is in flux following a series of critical reports that led last week to the resignation of its manager, Jairo Enrique Ruge.
Likewise, the Ministry of the Interior also announced it would create a special team of legal, administrative and accounting investigators to launch an audit of the Society's affairs.
"In a few weeks we will turn over to public opinion a complete report not only of the accusations but of Society's administration, using the our inspection and oversight purview," said Colombia's Minister of the Interior, Germán Vargas Lleras, in a statement. Although SAYCO is a private entity, it is overseen by Colombia's Direction of Authors' Rights, which in turn reports to the Ministry of the Interior. The Head of the Direction of Authors' Rights, Juan Carlos Monroy, also resigned.
The uproar over SAYCO and its collection practices began earlier this month after a prominent concert promoter, Ricardo Leyva, complained publicly about the amount of money the society was collecting from him for a Nov. 3 concert by Aerosmith. In a series of public statements, including a lengthy interview that aired on influential radio station La W (which belongs to Spain's Grupo Prisa and is also heard in Spain and the U.S., among other countries), Leyva said SAYCO had demanded he pay $400 million pesos (approximately $200,000) in author's performance rights prior to the Aerosmith show in Bogotá or the Society wouldn't allow the concert to take place. Leyva, who's worked with SAYCO for over 30 years, said he couldn't come up with the money because ticket sales were slow, but the Society refused to make any concessions. The concert finally took place with special government approval, said Leyva in the interview.
But days after the concert, an indignant Leyva paid for a full page ad in Colombian daily El Tiempo with the headline "No More SAYCO!" and then took to the air on La W, which is known as a medium that wields wide political influence. During that same interview, Juan Carlos García, assistant director at SAYCO, stated the Society has collected approximately $15 million between January and October of 2011. That led La W's director, Julio Sánchez Cristo, to repeatedly call for the Ministry of the Interior to investigate the organization.
In turn, SAYCO, on its website, published an official release stating it welcomed an investigation into those who did not recognize author's rights.
SAYCO also stated it will continue to continue to work for author's rights in Colombia as it has done for the past 60 years. According to the organization, in 2010 it collected $37,000 million pesos (approximately $20 million) of which $6 million were distributed to local composers, $4.5 million to local publishers and some $6 million to foreign rights societies. During 2011, SAYCO says it has invested $3 million in programs for its writers, including social security, health and retirement.
Like another embattled author's society-Spain's SGAE -Sayco has also came under attack for its aggressive collection practices. While critics of SGAE decried how the society would, for example, crash private weddings to collect performance fees, SAYCO has been criticized for its high fees, which it applies even to free concerts, classical music concerts and charity benefits.
But lost in the maelstrom has been SAYCO's work as Colombia's only author's society, and the fact that its collections have increased and improved through the years. More importantly, the scandal has opened a door to those who don't want to pay fees to SAYCO, and already, there's a proposal before Congress to exempt small business owners from paying SAYCO fees.
"How wonderful it would be if it didn't hurt businessmen to recognize that songwriting is a job like any other and that us composers have families who we need to maintain," said Colombian composer Wilfran Castillo in a missive published on his website. "I'm not willing to allow media to continue talking about the author's society as if it were another carousel of corruption while I personally lead a dignified life thanks to the fees collected by SAYCO."