|The South African music industry in crisis|
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South African culture is being undermined writes Angus Kerr:
It was with much hope and anticipation that the ANC election victory in 1994 was greeted by people involved in the South African music industry. For the first time in years, there was a sense of commitment and support for our musical heritage and culture from political leaders. Their hearts were in the right place. Most of the industry had reason to be optimistic: The Independent Broadcasting Authority was established with a clear mandate, and legislation was drafted that required broadcast media to include a minimum of 20% South African content in their programming. Until about 1998, the demand induced by the legislative requirements created a massive explosion of music and local artists, and the standard of these artists increased rapidly until they were truly world class.
Now, in the year 2000, the South African music industry is teetering on the brink of collapse, reeling from a number of crucial blows:
Some kind of development program needs to be put in place in order to address skills development. Musicians need skills in management, marketing, performance, song writing, audio engineering, arrangement and production. A good idea is to establish conservatories in the major cities. They could be financed by the national lottery but run as non-profit business units with the focus primarily on development. World class recording facilities could be provided as part of this and marketed to international artists and top local artists, as part of an 'African Experience' package that includes a tourist experience. The funds that this facility generates could be channelled into development programs that would produce world class performers, recording engineers, producers and arrangers who would become stars in their own right.
South African music facilities are limited, and many are operated on a shoe-string budget simply because there is not much demand due to the current status quo. The high cost of equipment is also debilitating. (Costs are high because most equipment is imported from Europe or America. This is a problem in itself since South Africa has the electronic and manufacturing expertise to manufacture, but this is not part of this discussion). Unless a sustainable demand is created by legislation and the enforcement thereof, the industry will continue in its death throes and hobble from year to year without any significant growth. It is the feeling of many musicians and players in the industry that the local quota should be increased to 40% and rigidly enforced by the imposition of heavy penalties for transgression (i.e. loss of licence or a heavy fine payable into a national music development fund). It is unrealistic to expect that South African artists who record albums on shoestring budgets can compete with international artists backed by companies with resources in the multi-million dollar league. They are able to afford marketing and promotional campaigns that result in exposure on virtually every media type that exists - in effect a global cultural onslaught.
South African music needs to be marketed to South Africans themselves. This requires public statements of commitment by prominent persons (i.e. politicians, sports personalities etc.) and an advertising campaign. After all, when South Africa plays rugby against New Zealand, South Africans do not support the opposition. They are zealous patriots. The same should apply to our culture - we should passionately support it. Unfortunately, this type of campaign will need to sustained over a number of years in order to counter decades of anti-South African propaganda produced by the apartheid regime.
It is the perception that the political commitment to the South African music industry has waned over the years to a state of indifference. South Africans look up to their leaders and often take their cue from the politicians, and it would be great to hear some passionate, rousing speeches by some prominent leaders.
I Love South African music, and the beautiful people who make it. What's wrong with everybody else?
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