Define Your Sound
The other day I listened to Gauteng MEC for Arts and Culture Lebogang Maile saying they are waging a campaign to have more of local music played on radio and television. I was disappointed I should say. I thought MECs should be busy with policy issues instead of stressing on whose song gets more airplay on radio. I thought songs make their way to playlists based on how deep and recent they are. A song must deserve to be played not advocated to by a politician. Radio stations must not be threatened with withdrawal of advertising if they don't play a song by that guy who gave his time to a political party during the last campaign for election. I'm not saying Bra Lebza touched on that but often you can see the signs - 'menemene tekel'
So, while I was worried about that I tried to fathom why some of the local songs fail to make any impace on the market. My findings were very dodgy but I would share them with you in parables. If you were looking for a ton of bananas for a Fruit Festival you are staging. You arrive at market where fruits are sold and you find a hawker standing next to a big sealed MAERSK container. "I'm looking for bananas, what do you have in the container?"
"I've got a little bit of everything"
"Okay, do you have bananas?"
"I can't say I have or not. I don't want my fruits to be boxed as either bananas, oranges or apples"
"Oright, so you don't have bananas"
"You might find them in this package, but I wouldn't say what I have in here are bananas or oranges. Depends on your taste. I have universal fruits"
Okay, next scenario. You want oranges and you go to a stall. "I'm looking for oranges"
"Okay, how many boxes?"
"A ton of them"
"Okay, this container here is oranges, best from the plantation. This one here is apples, best from the Cape. This one here is grapes, fresh from the Garden Route"
Who do you fancy to make a sale? The muthafucka who thinks being indecisive a sign of sophistication or the guy who is just a plain merchant?
That's the problem with local artists. A lot of them do not know the genre they are in. They obsess with releasing house albums they sell as house but enter competition as kwaito albums. Some release rap albums which they sell as kwaito and enter competitions as rap albums, or vice versa. It's easy to win a kwaito award with a hip hop album cuz it's bloody lyrical. And then artists wonder why they are not getting any fucking airplay. You should know if you are running a marathon, a sprint or a half-marathon. Take the example of Slikour. The chap is a hip-hop head. He releases albums and calls them MixTapes. Afraid to be benched by hungry cats he releases a mixtape without a mix. He then goes on and releases an album and calls it an EP, enters it for awards this year - repackages it for next year and the cycle continues.
Now, if I want to play your music, from your album, how am I going to playlist from a Mixtape? Especially when the damn thing is not a Mixtape in the first place. How am I going to playlist some chick called Luguqa if she tells me she is not playing Afropop but soul? Scared to benched by Lira and Mafikizolo I see.
So, instead of politicians playing the populism card and trying to look as if they know shit about music they need to tell their artists to define their sound. Imagine a filmmaker not wanting to tell if what they are releasing is a biopic, documentary, comedy, thriller, war drama etc. That would be chaos at the box office. You'll see cinemagoers marching out of theatres do demand their money. So, poor artists; define your sound and package your albums to reach the right market. With that you won't need Bra Lebza to advocate for you. Ask Lira and Niggaz With Attitude - no awards for telling what music genre put (s) food on their tables.
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