My 2 Cents on the State of SA Music

If you ask me, the SA Music scene is alive, well and growing faster than most of you think. Today I’m giving you my 2 cents on the State of SA Music. I hope that you’ll find the views expressed in this post interesting.

The State of SA Music currently is great, but it can be better. First of all, there’s a lack of top class venues for bands in South Africa in general. Cape Town and Pretoria are probably the best cities for live music. Johannesburg and Durban has a lack of venues – residents of these two cities will most certainly agree with me.

Tickets to shows in Pretoria are selling out because of the exposure that local acts get on South Africa’s only rock radio station, Tuks FM. Being a Pretoria resident I can safely say that there’s definitely a live music culture here (thanks to venues like Arcade Empire) and that its completely being ignored by the mainstream South African media. Pretoria is being regarded as a “One horse town” by some, which is actually quite sad, cause there’s more gigs happening in this town on one weekend than any other city in South Africa.

I haven’t been out in Cape Town in a while, but I’m under the impression that venues are doing well and people are quite aware of local music.  Like Pretoria, Cape Town has plenty of live music going on. I’ll have to go and investigate the Cape Town scene in the near future to find out what the state of SA Music is there. If all goes well I should be in Cape Town next year before I make my way to Up The Creek 2013, I might be able to elaborate more about the Cape Town scene after my trip.

Fact is, there’s still not enough exposure for SA Music on commercial stations (like 5FM, KFM, Highveld, Jacaranda FM and others). Upcoming and established artists are truly struggling to get airplay on these stations. Local music airplay has improved, but its not where it should be when it comes to commercial radio in South Africa. On the flip-side it’s good to see that Internet Based radio stations like Assembly Radio, Interwebs Radio and 2 Oceansvibe Radio have been established to provide music lovers with alternatives. If you ask me, the solution would be to have a national radio station completely dedicated to SA Music, but I doubt that something like that will happen in the near future. Also, South African TV stations also need to embrace local music more. There has been some positive development in the industry towards this, but there’s still huge room for improvement.

There are many underrated and overrated bands in South Africa. Some genres deserve less exposure and some genres deserve more exposure, in my humble opinion. Actually I don’t mind the genre, the main issue is that quality SA music in all genres deserves exposure over overrated music from the USA or the UK. There are some really great SA bands out there that are being ignored by radio stations.

That was my 2 Cents on the State of SA Music. A while ago I e-mailed a few people and asked them for their opinion about this. I also asked on Facebook. This what some of them had to say.

“The state of the SA Music Scene is certainly improving at a great rate. The only problem now is that we need to weed out the shitty local acts from the good ones. Good music is good music, no matter what country it comes from. But praising a band because they are South African when they actually make tos music isn’t cool. In fact it is in no way helping the SA Music Scene.” Stix (Gevaaalik.com).

“As you know. Some of us who gave our lives to SA and its music industry were discarded like old rags, and forced to leave SA in disgust for greener pastures! Returning now even for a short while has just confirmed that I made the right decision to leave SA and this time to never set foot here again… Begged agents here to no avail, went abroad and got signed up by a top Milan based agency.

Begged bands here for a gig, nothing… Sat in with a group in Vancouver and got asked right away to join them. Beg musicians here and no one could be bothered yet I work with top names from  across the USA…Go figure! The SA music scene is an idiot with its head stuck too deep up its butt to appreciate what it has. Great musicians like Johnny Fourie and Lionel Martin died in poverty and
oblivion in this grave yard.” Avzal Ismail

“I think South African music still has space for a lot of growth. The big bands are BIG and the small bands are.. well small.  The gap needs to be filled, and to be filled, there needs to be support from a number of players. People say R30 for a gig is ‘’Too expensive’’ yet you will pay that in a heartbeat for 2 beers? Commercial radio stations also need to step up to the plate now. SUPPORT SA MUSIC!!!” Ryan Brunyee

“It’s almost too simplistic to say that the South African music scene has witnessed many false dawns. But when the “next best thing” fails to deliver on the hype and never quite live up to the billing, such cynicism is not without cause. While the “veterans” suffer the frustrations of an industry that subsists on corporate “handouts” – and the inevitable accusations of selling out – the emerging acts seem to believe that all that is required to succeed is a working knowledge of social media and an attitude of entitlement.

Of course as far as sweeping statements go, this one too is no different in overlooking the incalculable contributions of those who really want to grow and develop the industry. But such statements are based on elements of truth and a certain reality. I’ve long had issues with managers who care more for personal financial gain (and reputation of course) more than they do for their artists. Promoters and venues that take more than they give and expect genuine and sincere gratitude for the crumbs they throw at hard- working artists.

And let us not forget those lazy and “misunderstood” artists who forget that music is no longer a hobby, not a vacation but a vocation. There aren’t enough “Support Local Music” messages and initiatives that will turn the buying public on to their product if the artists themselves fail to take it all seriously. The South African music scene is in a bad state – not a horrible state, but one bad enough to warrant concern.” Menzi Hlongwa

“SA Music is narrow minded because it’s ruled by the Afrikaans pop culture as well as the township house scene where the majority follow their neighbours and new artists almost have no chance to get into the scene if they don’t follow the norm. Yes there is a big ‘underground” scene, but it will always be Underground and underpaid.” Will Norman

“SA musiek is uitstekend, mense moet net meer kleiner artists ondersteun veral as dit by gigs kom, baie goeie talent gaan verlore omdat daar nie genoeg ondersteuning is nie. Daar is so baie goeie SA talent daar is iets vir almal” Renee Weber

“After watching Die Antwoord’s last vid, it’s time we state out opinions loud and clear” Shawn’s Axeguitar

” For me, having been outside Southern Africa for more than a decade, looking in from the UK, SA has been booming, music wise! I constantly hear songs from new bands, new twists on old songs, or new songs from old favourites. I’d say the state of it’s pretty good!
But as with everything, there is always room for improvement” Cobus Van Schalkwyk

If you would like to voice your opinion on the State of SA Music, feel free to comment on this post. Also share this post with your friends on Facebook and Twitter to spread the word. Let’s get everyone involved on this topic, it will be great to get some opinions on here, so let’s get a debate going. I would really love some responses from anyone reading this post. If you are tweeting about this, use the #StateOfSAMusic hashtag so I can keep track of responses.

Watch this space for regular updates in the Music and Opinion categories on Running Wolf’s Rant.

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Henno Kruger
Blogger, Desktop Activist, Twitter / Facebook Addict, Music Festival Addict, Avid lover of South African music, Founder and owner of Running Wolf's Rant and co-founder of SA Music Zone
Henno Kruger

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  • Well, firstly, I believe that you can no longer classify the entire music scene in SA under one umbrella. To judge Afrikaans Pop and SA Rock on the same level, would be absurd. Fact is, the Afrikaans pop is doing better in SA, but has very little export potential. In contrast to this, the SA Rock scene is vastly under-supported in South Africa, but they have much more potential to go big internationally. That being said, most of them wont, coz they suck.
    (side note: Dear band: You can have great musicians, awesome lyrics and great marketing, but if your lead vocals sucks, you won’t make it. I don’t care if he is your friend. Kick out the weaklings and let in the talent (this goes for all members, vox merely an example))

    Secondly, I also believe that it’s time for fans to get their heads outta their asses and realise that supporting a band does not mean “liking their fb page”. Ok, that too, but even more so it means GOING to the gigs, BUYING the music (or at least sharing it if the band is open minded enough to allow it) and generally putting some actions to your empty clicks.

    Lastly, the need for rock to be played on radio has been made obvious by the rise of at least 2 more rock-oriented stations (that I know of). Rock FM in Randburg is making waves fast, and then there is (if I’m not mistaken) Mix FM in the Cape. And let’s face it, Henno this Article is abou the rock scene in SA. If we were to start going on about stuff like hip-hop etc, I’m sure you will be surprised to learn how many of our local acts go to perform in other countries.

    • Thanks Baas 🙂 Some interesting insights there 🙂 And yes I mean mostly rock 🙂

      • Levy

        After seven years of listing to Rock Music, i came to the conclusion that rock in South Africa has really changed who i am. firstly, i was under the impression that rock was for people who do drugs and drive superbikes and love loud and stupid music. Rock artists have this pure writing skills that enable us the ROCK LOVERS to relate to… for instance, if you had time to listen to some shitty girly songs from artists like Brandy and Rihanna or maybe, just maybe Beyonce, i am sure you will agree with me when i say they sing about their dysfuntional relationships and some making love lyrics.

        Rock has really grown to half of the South Africans citizens including BLACK such as me. Levy grew in the township and after listing to rock music people’s perspectives where like “what the F***?”. Forgive me for complaining, but i just can’t help the love i have inside of me for rock.

        The Fact That Rock in SA is so epic that our artists are recognized internationally makes me proud to be South African. I don’t know if you noticed this, but now we have every artist in the globe wanting to come rock in our country, which is a good thing considering the fact that most African countries don’t get the opportunity to see and hear their favorite rock bands. I am a rock fan and proud of our local bands: Sesling, Van Coke kartel, Winterstasie, Gazelle, 7 Stukke Silwer, We Killed Elvis, Fokofpolisiekar and those whole loud of bands that influenced me to listen to rock music. I will like to thank them for that and for the perspective i have regarding rock and white people. To those who were surprised to see me at rock gigs, well you still going to see me, that’s a fact!

        • Thanks Levy 🙂 Some nice insight there 🙂