Mr Minister and Staff (2 Questions)

Dear Minister and staff at the Department of Arts and Culture

 

It is with all due respect that I ask you………what do you actually do? What is the function of your department and what have you ACTUALLY contributed to the arts and cultural landscape in the past 20 years?

I am confused because I see you take great pride in your ‘work’ however, as an artist on the ground I fail to see your output.

 

We are currently in a vicious cycle where our artists are dying bitter and broke; while you sing “ask not what government can do for you, ask what you can do for Mzansi.”

 

Let’s get this out the way early…….the only time a government can respond in such a manner to the cries of artists, is when that government has No Clue on how that industry operates.

Let’s be honest you don’t know how to run the arts industry.

It’s been 20years and you have failed to create a sustainable creative industry. There are no laws and regulations you have implemented that have progressed nor improved the industry for artists. There are no structures and platforms for artists.

 

Not only do you not have a clue what is going on, but we artists don’t see you at our gigs… however we see you speaking at our funerals.

You are always so ready to feed your egos by moonlighting at our funerals and yet you don’t even know our stories. You have NO clue of our journey. No idea that it is YOU who is creating a system where artists are destined to suffer.

 

I’m going to explain how things work for a musician for it has become BLATANTLY apparent that you believe ‘hype’ and are not entirely in tune with the effects of capitalism on our artistry/spirituality.

 

In the creation of an album there are 4 major steps.

 

PRODUCTION

DISTRIBUTION

MARKETING

PERFORMANCES

 ALL of the above need money.

 

There are 2 types of artists in SA, signed and unsigned. South Africans are mostly familiar with artists signed under major record labels. Majority of artists in South Africa are unsigned artists.

 

Label artists are a small minority of artists who get given access to the biggest share of the market. These artists are positioned to create the illusion of “Glamour and Celebrity.”

A label artist will appear like a ‘bigger’ star than an independent artist, because more money has gone into their artistic repertoire.

Major labels have a monopoly in the music industry and as an independent artist it is extremely difficult to penetrate the market.

 

Studios cost money. Producing an album is a process which requires recording, mixing and mastering. In this country, production costs alone can be up to R100 000. *_* It is unrealistic for the government to expect us to create hats tricks with no hats. Despite this, independent artists will beg, borrow and steal studio time and manage to create an album.

 

For Label Artists non of these 4 steps really affect them………not until they get clearance (unsigned) and then they realise that we are ALL screwed.

 

The major labels have control over the distribution channels too. So basically, the only way to get your music into shops is to go via them. It is a very small industry, so if you have upset one person, then you have upset many.

After managing to create the album with no resources you find that you don’t have a way ‘into’ shops.

 

Then there is the marketing. Record labels have paid, wined and dined their way into the media. As an independent artist, you do not stand a chance. Where payola (a fee paid to have your music play on the radio) is a common way, how is the independent artist expected to keep up? Independent artists don’t have personal relationships with magazine editors so their work will never be recognised. The major labels that also bring ‘advertising revenue’ tend to have their artists prioritised.

 

The south African music awards are run by major labels. As a result, the only artists who get nominated and win tend to be label artists. In other words, the SA music awards are just a platform for labels to pat themselves on the back….nothing to do with art.

 

Independent artists do not have access to big marketing budgets. We cannot afford expensive music videos so our ‘quality’ is never good enough for tv. The media is owned by white capital therefore we are not a priority.

We exist, we are here, we are talented and we give to Mzansi but without financial backing from the department we will continue be unsung and dying broke.

 

When it comes to performances…well…we all know about that SA tendency to book international acts at ridiculous prices while you wont pay R100 to come to our shows. In fact, isn’t that something your department should be vocal about? Is it not up to YOU to set up some rules about how business should be conducted on our home ground? Is it not up to YOU to be putting quotas on radio as to how much local content is lawful? Is it not up to you to regulate the industry?

 

My logic tells me that you should be in constant dialogue with the people you claim to represent. All you do is to invite a few artists to sell out and eat from the cookie jar with you….while others continue to suffer.

 

I humbly ask you again……what do you actually do?

I see so many artists bearing themselves bare, sacrificing themselves to this nation that shows no gratitude.

I see fellow artists living without security for this unsung sacrifice they make.

I see them living in poverty just to fill your spirits.

You don’t even know their stories, you don’t even know their craft……..it doesn’t matter to you.

You get a paycheque every month for the sacrifice they make while you sit in that office and facebook.

 

I have one more question…….

 

“Do you think you deserve to be there?”

 

These are just 2 questions…

 

From an artist….who has given much to my Mzansi and to a government which has never given back

 

 

 

 

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