Reflections From The Business of Music – Music Exchange 2013

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Cape Town City Hall was jam packed at this year’s 3rd Music Exchange. The highlight of the conference certainly was when Trevor Jones addressed the crowd. He shared his incredible life story, his love for music and film. After being introduced, Jones received a standing ovation from the crowd — his emotions could not be contained from the overwhelming warm response that welcomed him home.

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The conference was opened by SAMRO’s CEO: Nick Motsatse. Nick gave an introduction about what SAMRO is all about. Pfana Lishiva also of SAMRO, brought up the issue of ‘needle time’ — which makes the case for artists to collect royalties every time their songs are played on radio. Pfana stated that millions of rands are in needle time and that the government should change the laws to allow artists to benefit from their music. Pfana got quite excited and serious on this subject and also said that “if government doesn’t change these laws, we should stand together and not vote for them”.

Moenieba Abrahams from Musica addressed the issue of music retail and why it is important that artists cds/dvds should be in music stores. Moenieba argued that digital downloads is still not a feasible format to make money for both retail stores and the artists in South Africa.

However, a new model needs to be formulated which will find a solution to make this a feasible format for selling music since digital sales are strongly increasing in SA. Despite the growth of digital downloads, physical format remain the best selling in South Africa.

Moeniba then gave an example of new comer, Zahara who was relatively unknown two years ago. Music consumers got a taste of her music and a huge number of requests for her cd was coming into Musica. During that time Zahara’s cd was not available in stores. She had a very small record deal and the distribution was weak. Moenieba soon realised opportunity and then contacted Zahara with her record company. Moeniba told Zahara (and her record company) that if she Zahara could make appearances in to Musica’s different stores to sign cds Musica would distribute Zahara cds in their stores. As a result, Zahara was South Africa’s number one selling artist in 2012, only Adele’s 21 album sold more cds then her.

Gillian Ezra of Simfy — a music catalogue streaming service, which lets you choose from a variety of music and you pay for the time period you purchased — brought attention to the fact that listeners want a wide variety choice of music, and if music consumers are given what they want, they will pay. Gillan also argued that music streaming is a new trend and users seem to prefer listening to music this way, rather than downloading. Simfy is fast growing in South Africa and worldwide (with other streaming outlets like Pandora and Spotify). Listening to streaming audio is growing fast and this model might be the way forward and not music downloads. Online radio is also showing hype in popularity. Gillian further pointed out that listeners are now choosing what they want to listen to given that traditional radio has lost some of its power. Today, listeners create the track lists on radio and not the other way around as it used to be.

Rolling Stone’s editor and Chief Miles Keylock emphasized that Content is King. And that users will only respond to good content and that’s what makes rolling Stone SA magazine such a good seller. They are giving their readers what they want from month to month.

Further music greats like Vicky Sampson, Mynie Grove and Sipho “Hotstix’ Mabuse also addressed the audience. New comers Chad Simon, RJ Benjamin and many other also filled the room with their musical presence.

It is clear that this event is needed for the South African music scene and that artist (also up and coming) can only benefit from an event like this. Music Exchange will only get bigger and better in the future, I can’t wait for next year’s event.

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