Launch of the Cape Music Industry Commission – September 2008

Speaker: Lynne Brown

September 2008

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MEC Garth Strachan,
Head of Department, Brendon Roberts,
The Board of Directors of the Cape Music Industry Commission
Honoured guests,
Members of the media,
Ladies and gentlemen

OVER the years, the Western Cape has acquired a well-deserved reputation for economic innovation….

We have, for instance, done some amazing things to showcase our wines … our film industry is worth billions of rands … and our heritage and scenic tourism attractions continue to draw visitors from far and wide.

We spawned one poor relation, though … a nice, but snotty-nosed cousin called music.

Both government and those in the know in the private sector have, for a long time, acknowledged the massive potential of this industry. And yet for some inexplicable reason, we’ve failed to grasp the opportunities it has offered.

This tardiness has proved enormously harmful to the very people whose talents we should have been promoting – our musicians.

But in many ways I’m speaking about the past.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m proud to say there has been a sea change in attitude – at a number of levels towards how we regard the music industry.

We now have a plan – and it is, I believe, a very good one.

A new era for the industry officially starts this evening….

I’m thrilled to be able to stand here, to deliver the opening address at the launch of what I confidently predict will become an increasingly influential body in the Western Cape – the Cape Music Industry Commission, or to give it its shorter name, Cape MIC.

I know I’m going to sound awfully smug when I say this, but tonight I’m too pleased to care: Once again, the Western Cape is at the forefront of pioneering economic development in the country; this is the first commission of its kind in South Africa, and the Department of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism has been instrumental in its establishment.

So Garth and your team, heartiest congratulations – and take a bow.

Ladies and gentlemen, the German poet Bertolt Brecht once wrote: “Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are.”

I think it would be fair to say that those who have slogged away over a number of years to make a decent living out of music in this province would disagree with Mr Brecht.

For a long, long time things stayed very much the way they were.

And, to put it mildly, things (or to put it bluntly, rands and cents) weren’t very good.

But I hope that after the news of this venture starts sweeping through the industry – and that after the initial shouts of “Uiteindelik”, those with an interest in music and those who want to make a living from it, will begin a process of interaction with Cape MIC.

Like many of you in this audience, I’ve always had a strong affinity with local music.

Ladies and gentlemen, as we look towards celebrating a brighter future for new generations of performers, I would like us to reflect for just a few moments on the generation that did so much to produce the type of music that has been hailed across the world as unique….

For many years, through some of our darkest days, these artists brought joy into lives across the Cape Flats.

Through their Kaapse-flavoured langarm tunes … their Cape jazz compositions … their goema liedjies … their blik kitaar Karoo blues … their Zayne Adams-Give-a-Little-Love-type ballads … their Afrikaanse Hip Hop … their musicals … their Gospel … and their Kwaito, they drew a smile to our lips (and a jig to wherever) – when, on countless occasions, it would have been far easier for us to cry.

Through their CDs and live shows, they helped us put our troubles behind us (even if for just a short while), when it would have been easier to be overwhelmed by our many problems.

On countless occasions, the many genres that they developed into forms that became uniquely Western Cape, doubled up as return tickets for a series of fantastic journeys – to the secret parts of our beautiful province … to our past … and even to our present.

I think all of us here this evening will acknowledge that this very, very special group of people have been exceedingly generous in sharing their talents with us – for our enjoyment.

Some even sacrificed their health to put a song in our hearts.

And, in this respect, I think of Basil “Manenberg” Coetzee, who gave us so much pleasure, but who died a pauper.

I think of Robert Sithole, the legendary pennywhistler, who died penniless in hospital.

I think of the Karoo blues artist, Jacob Jaers, the master of the homemade blikviool, who died while riding his new bicycle to visit his girlfriend in the Kamiesberge, just over the border, in the Northern Cape.

I think of the incomparable Robbie Jansen, who gave new meaning to the term “struggle musician”.

I think of Ricardo, who many years ago persuaded boys and girls to look at their daddies in a new light, but who in more recent times (before he developed a throat problem) was regarded as one of the Western Cape’s top Gospel musicians.

And I think of the keyboardist, Tony Schilder, who is living in the shadow of an aneurysm on the brain….

And there have been many, many others.

I’ve often asked myself: How is it possible that such a special group of people, who have given so much of themselves for our enjoyment, could end up receiving so little in return?

One reason that is offered put forward is that musicians aren’t business people. And those who take this tack point to the experiences of world superstars who have “blown millions” almost as quickly as they’ have made them.

A few years ago, one of our local musicians, Joe Schaeffers, said: “I’ve yet to meet a rich musician.”

Of course, he was speaking about local performers – and he was probably right. While the advent of Cape MIC is unlikely to result in a flood of music millionaires in the Western Cape, I believe that through its guidance, programmes and mentorship systems, it will help local professionals to make wise business decisions.

And wise business decisions will, at the very least, enable them to make a comfortable living.

To enable you to understand why I’m so excited about this venture, let me give you some facts about the South African music industry….

In 2006, our national Recording Industry reported that the trade value of the South African music industry stood at more than R1-billion. About R996-million of this amount went to the recording industry and about R50-million to digital sales.

In 2006, South Africa was ranked the 19th largest music market in the world; a year later, it had shot up three places – to 16th.

We’re a market on the move – and the reason for this is simple: few other countries have marched to the tune of the digital revolution as comfortably and, indeed, as enthusiastically as we have.

And the future of music is … yes, digital. So watch this space.

The latest estimates are that the music industry in the Western Cape employs approximately 2,000 people – about a tenth of the national figure.

I don’t really need to tell you this, but it feels so good saying it – so here goes: the Western Cape is renowned for its jazz and Hip Hop genres.

In other words (and I’m not exaggerating when I say this), music fans all over the world love our jazz and Hip Hop.

Up to now, Gauteng has been regarded as the “heart” of the South African music industry. And, I must confess, I find this irritating, especially since many talented local artists and industry players have had to relocate to the north to access the infrastructure and music machinery that their talents required.

Fortunately for us, time and technology does not stand still….

The rise of the digital era, as well as other technological advancements, has presented the Western Cape with unique opportunities to challenge the status quo.

New methods of distribution and digital management systems are shifting the traditional balance of power in the music industry.

New opportunities for production, distribution are arising all the time.

And, I’m pleased to say, a groundswell of enthusiasm is beginning to emerge among industry players in the Western Cape. I know that the board members of Cape MIC are determined to take advantage of these opportunities.

From my side, all I want to say is: Go for it!

Ladies and gentlemen, over the past four years the Department of Economic Development commissioned a series of research studies as part of its Micro Economic Development Strategy (MEDS).

One finding that it noted with keen interest was the significant rise, globally, of the creative industries over the past decade.

Armed with this information, the Department commissioned a study to determine the potential of the creative industries.

The results were of great interest. They showed, firstly, that 7 percent of the world’s GDP could be credited to the creative industries.

They also pointed to a global increase of core cultural goods from R36-billion US dollars in 1994, to R54-billion US dollars in 2002.

As usual, the more advanced economies are at the forefront of this growth, trend with growth in the United Kingdom and the United States outperforming most other countries. But large emerging economies, particularly in Latin America and parts of East Asia, are catching up –fast.

Two developing countries that are demonstrating high growth rates within their creative industry sectors are India and Brazil.

How would you define a creative industry?

Let’s give it a shot: the Department of Economic Development describes it as an area of economic and social activity premised on, or closely allied with individual or collective intellectual or artistic creativity, originality and innovation that have the capacity to provide work and generate income for the original creators.

It’s a mouthful – but it’s important to know.

Music, obviously, fits this description like a glove.

The Department quickly grasped the fact that the key element of Western Cape’s Music Industry strategy had to be the establishment of a cohesive music sector body to coordinate efforts – and to drive the process forward.

I think everyone realizes that the extent to which the local industry is able to harness its collective voice will be a key factor in its plan to take advantage of the opportunities that presently lie outside the Western Cape.

We have already experienced the consequences of a lack of cohesion, so we should not be short of motivation….

Although the provincial government has invested significantly in the establishment of Cape MIC, I would like to acknowledge the efforts in this regard by various industry stakeholders.

Together, we have established a body that will form the bedrock from which interventions and programmes will emanate to the music industry. Cape MIC’s primary mandate is to position and market the Western Cape music industry, support and develop music industry businesses and entrepreneur through skills and enterprise support, collect, disseminate and become a reliable source of data and information, and harness the potential of technology and innovation to place the Western Cape industry at the forefront of development.

Speaking of technology, how many of you use MXit?

Most of you will be aware that this mobile instant messaging platform doesn’t always make the news for the right reasons.

But you have to hand it to those who run the service: they know their market –and their market is young.

Realizing that their largely teenage market loves music, the MXit people moved with admirable speed into the arena of music downloads.

The results have been stunning.

In August 2007, III (Three) became the first pop group in the world to launch an album on a mobile instant messaging platform. Guess how many tracks they sold?

Fifty thousand!

And it didn’t matter that, music-wise, the group appeared to hedge their genres. Their music has been described as a cross between rock, Kwaito and Hip Hop.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have some wonderful talent in the Western Cape.

Consider this: almost annually, the winners and runners up of the Idols competition hail from the Western Cape.

And much sought-after artists, such as Judith Sephuma, Jimmy Dludlu, Abdullah Ebrahim and Freshly Ground are Kaapies.

We also have some world-renowned practitioners, such as Trevor Jones, the orchestral film score producer, who has written scores for movies such as Mississippi Burning, Notting Hill, GI Jane and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

And I haven’t forgotten our boytjie from Belgravia, Jonathan Butler, who (from his base in the US) has performed with an array of the world’s top musicians.

What I’m saying to you Cape MICers is that you’re never going to be short of talent (give or take a sound engineer or two) to work with. So go out and develop what we have. Help budding artists (in whatever area of the industry) to more than dream about success.

Give them the guidance to get to where they want to be – and make them feel that they are helping to grow the Western Cape.

Thank you very much.


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