SA musos weave something magical into fabric of life

We back our artists with every drop of fuel we've got in our tank, the writer says.
We back our artists with every drop of fuel we've got in our tank, the writer says.
Image: Supplied

We're experiencing a huge talent boom in SA and the local music scene has never been more exciting.

It's also never been more competitive or challenging for artists in an era where streaming technology has upended the industry and demanded that it adapt.

Importantly, there's never been a more crucial time for record labels to empower their artists in building resilience into their lives - not only in terms of learning how to take creative knocks, but particularly how to future-proof their finances for unforeseen circumstances.

In an era of digital downloads, streaming generates very little income unless artists are generating millions of listens. This is a global reality. Record labels like Gallo - who've been in the business for 93 years - are constantly evolving their approach to marketing and promoting talent.

Mobile technology and digital streaming have radically changed the model for attaining wealth that was traditionally expected to sustain an artist's creativity.

However, this same technology has also created a window where access to new genres and new artists is now increasingly affordable and often only a few clicks away online. As a record label it is our mission to make that journey as short as possible for the audience and profitable for our artists.

While "pay-as-you-go" streaming has opened the doors for one-hit-wonders to cash in, it is also largely catalogue-driven and has placed additional pressure on artists: every new song needs to have immediate audience appeal; every new piece needs to be a winner.

And achieving a consistent level of quality takes time, resilience and practise. Artists that have built success and sustained it are those who are willing to work hard and give their heart and soul for their audiences. At Gallo we recognise this and value it. And we back our artists with every drop of fuel we've got in our tank.

With new artists being exposed at a younger age we understand our responsibility to guide them on their journey to success. It's an ethos that makes us proud of our work with legends like Lucky Dube, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Sipho "Hotstix" Mabuse, Jonathan Butler and Mango Groove (who've been with us for 30 years).

And we're doing the same to establish more icons like Paxton, Jeremy Loops, Lungisa, The Parlotones, Nathi Mankayi, Lection and Yanga, to literally name only a few.

Our commitment to supporting the growing pool of musical talent is also why Idols SA has held a relationship with us since 2016: our artists become part of a larger musical community that we regard as our family.

We're not only there to get them air time and exposure - we believe our role is increasingly to equip them for the professional challenges they'll undoubtedly face in the future and enable them to build resilience into their lives. It's a responsibility we take very seriously and regard as a privilege.

This resilience we speak of is not sexy or glamourous. It's not the stuff stars often talk about. And it's why we focus on it as an aspect of artist management: encouraging financial prudence and planning.

It's important for our artists to make sure they have a proper will, succession planning, and are registered with relevant collection societies that may also have facilities like funeral plans, investment portfolios and retirement plans to support them when they're needed.

Although music is our business, at Gallo we do our best to equip our artists as business people.

For every aspiring musician [or family member of an aspiring musician] our strongest advice would be to start planning for the financial future from the moment they get signed.

Use your talent to build wealth into your life as anyone else would do in any other profession.

Plan for your retirement.

For every South African, our appeal to you is to support local genius - buy their music, stream their songs, play their songs on the radio and go to their concerts.

They will weave something magical into the fabric of your life.

*Cowling is general manager of Gallo Record Company

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