The recent move by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to play 90% South African music on its channels has been welcomed with warm hands by South African musicians. It’s truly a big deal for musicians and something that has been a bone of contention between SABC and musicians for some time now.
It’s an important step towards promoting and growing the local industry. Now musicians who would have struggled for airplay will have a better opportunity to be heard.
Although this move should be welcomed it should be viewed as just one step towards developing the local industry. It comes at a time when the music industry is experiencing challenges globally. In view of the current challenges, it is not enough to enable 90% airplay of local music on SABC channels and stations.
We are now living in the digital age and therefore digital access to local music by SABC should be the next step. More and more people are now accessing their music through digital devices (mobile phones & tablets). Apple Music and Android music platforms are becoming favourable spaces for accessing music. The question is whether South African music is accessible on these digital platforms and if not, what should SABC do about digital access to local music.
Experience has also shown that musicians are not really making money from digital access to music yet. This will probably take off at some point. Some musicians are using digital access platforms to market their music, a necessary step in the commercialisation process. Some have gone to an extent of giving it away for free.
So, if digital access is not the silver bullet. What will be the saviour of local music?
Musicians who are using digital platforms for marketing and giving their art for free are using live performances as platforms for connecting with fans and making money. What does this mean for SABC?
It simply means that SABC can no longer remain the same broadcaster that it was in the 80’s and 70’s if it is to remain the champion of culture.
There’s a need for SABC to create platforms for musicians to perform live. This can go a long way in boosting the local music industry
Experience tells us that SABC will not become a digital 1st organisation anytime soon. It probably will not see any reason to innovate beyond its current infrastructure. So, what options are there for local music entrepreneurs? Technology is probably the only hope for the local music industry.
A collaboration between local technologists and local musicians could create the future music industry for South Africa. Such a collaboration could lead to a situation where an online music platform could be created to access local music and the rest can follow.
Local musicians do not need SABC to commercialise their art. Technology can allow access to music and create a viable industry.