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Vispop controversy: Artist Ko responds

Artist Ko’s Insoy Niñal, Vispop (right most) with (from left) Jojo Lopez, Vispop screening committee member; Kenneth Cobonpue, Vispop creative director; and Barney Borja, Vispop project chairman. | Michelle Joy Padayhag

Cebu City, Philippines — Days after Cebuano composer Jude Gitamondoc aired his side in the Visayan Pop Songwriting Competition controversy, Artist Ko responded with an official statement released on March 6, 2019.

Artist Ko responded on three points: the trademark registration; the Filipino Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, Inc. (FILSCAP) concerns on Vispop’s growth; and royalty issue.

For them, one of the many benefits of the trademark is that a brand can better accelerate its economic growth and it provides an inexpensive protection.

Read related story: Vispop 2019 producers amid issue of Vispop co-founder’s leaving: Have faith in us

“A trademark is also a better alternative when the direction is to reach a greater audience with minimal investments,”

Artist Ko claimed that the trademark was actually done to protect not only Artist Ko’s business interest in Vispop but also Gitamondoc’s conceptualized advocacy.

“While they say that VISPOP is for all, Artist Ko believes that loosely using VISPOP not only destroys the brand and the concept, but Mr. Gitamondoc’s advocacy as well, him being a member then of Artist Ko. This Artist Ko cannot allow. Hence the trademark,” the post reads.

Artist Ko is a cooperative with members who are artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs.

Read related story: A co-founder’s take on the Vispop controversy

As recently posted by Vispop on its Facebook page,  Artist Ko owns the Vispop name.

The competition first staged in 2013, hoping to promote Visayan music and language.

Why was there no Vispop in 2018?

Artist Ko admitted that it was Gitamondoc who presented Vispop to them in 2009.

Gitamondoc pitched the idea to Ian Zafra, Lorenzo “Insoy” Niñal, and Cattski Espina.

“The four collaborated on how this brainchild can be materialized. Thus the core group was completed. The concept was Mr. Gitamondoc’s, but it was also Artist Ko’s Mr. Zafra’s, Mr. Ninal’s, and Ms. Espina’s efforts that made it work,” the statement reads.

Jude Gitamondoc. | contributed photo

For Artist Ko, Vispop would have not taken off without its help, including budget plan and executive summary to FILSCAP.

Artist Ko recognized that FILSCAP had been the primary benefactor of Vispop since day one.

They also denied that the reason why there was no competition in 2018 because FILSCAP stopped its fund support.

“Artist Ko decided not to hold VISPOP in 2018 because the Cooperative focused on its other business endeavors, including its duties as an agent of FILSCAP’s licensing operations in Cebu,” they said.

Artist Ko also claimed that FILSCAP called them in the last quarter of 2017 and asked for their proposal.

However, Artist Ko told FILSCAP that it may not be organizing one in 2018.

The statement also revealed that it was only in its third year when it made a marginal amount from the ticket sales.

The money used to singers and songwriters includint Jewel Villaflores, Jerika Teodorico, and Lourdes Maglinte to Manila to represent Vispop  in celebrating the Linggo Ng Musikang Pilipino.

Addressing the royalty issue

Based on their statement, Artist Ko, ICO Music, and Ian Zafra communicated with persons involved privately.

They also requested for a meeting “to personally discuss and resolve pending issues, disburse their respective royalties, and move forward.”

The statement also claimed of unsettled payments for some of the songs of Artist Ko’s members that were used in the Gugmang Giatay Musical (GGM), a play that Gitamondoc co-produced.

GGM had numerous shows that ran for several years and even earned nominations.

Artist Ko claimed that it has not even allocated to pay even a single centavo from these songwriters.

“If he sincerely believes in supporting the artists, he, too, should pay. He must have forgotten that he posted the above message a year prior to the play’s first run,” the statement reads with an attached screenshot.

Since day one

Before they ended their official statement, Artist Ko revealed that there was tension in Vispop since day one.

“It initially peaked a week or so after the first VISPOP, when A BOARD MEMBER WAS CAUGHT DOING AN UNETHICAL ACT to the detriment of the cooperative. The misdeed resulted to the voluntary withdrawal of some members,” Artist Ko said.

A year later, some of the VISPOP songwriters in the same circle refused to respond to calls.

Artist Ko also admitted that Artist Ko had financial challenges which is not a unique story for a small startup cooperative.

“Even on some bad years, which actually happens more often at the moment, the board of directors had been generous to still release dividends to the members,” they said.

They also did not present as a perfect cooperative.

Despite the challenges, Artist Ko also believes that they did not deviate from its core principle.

“It was formed with the vision that the community of artists will have a common resource of funds by the artists and for the artists. It is never the intention of Artist Ko to create disunity and distrust. BUYING AND SELLING OTHER PEOPLE’S GRUDGES IS NOT THE COOPERATIVE SPIRIT AT ALL,” the statement said.

Artist Ko also claims that “Gitamondoc and his group” has been the immediate beneficiary of Vispop.

It had the same production crew and the same group of musicians worked and performed every year.

They have also successfully built their reputation around Vispop in its five-year run.

The cooperative believes that Vispop would not just be possible by being a concept alone.

“Would VISPOP be made possible by just being a concept? Artist Ko doesn’t think so. Would VISPOP be where it is now without the help of Artist Ko? Maybe, probably, but this is left to speculation,” Artist Ko said.

Artist Ko ended its statement with, “To those who understand the vision better, VISPOP IS NOT AN “I” BUT A “WE. /bmjo

TAGS: Artist ko, Cattski Espina, Fliscap, Ian Zafra, Jude Gitamondoc, Lorenzo "Insoy" Niñal, Vispop controversy
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