Minister Pallo Jordan’s Keynote Address to MOSHITO, Johannesburg

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22 Aug 2007

Programme Director,
Honoured Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

In recent weeks a prominent South African musician, speaking at the Edinburgh Arts Festival, made some rather acid comments about our government and its relationship to South African music. For his pains, that musician earned the dubious honour of being awarded the Sunday Times’ “Mampara of the Week” title on Sunday 12th August.

Though I obviously disagree with the remarks made by Hugh Masekela, I nonetheless think they should help concentrate our collective minds on the unexplored possibilities of South African music. Speaking at this event in 2005, I said amongst other things:

“Globalization is now a fact of international economic life. Open markets, which invariably also impact on cultural industries, including the music sector, will either be a threat or an opportunity to grow our cultural industries exponentially because of the new patterns of production and distribution. Even though cultural goods and services are consumed all over the world, their production is still concentrated in specific regions of the world. There is, consequently, a highly skewed market with an asymmetric structure. But the global trends are irreversible. South Africa has a simple choice: we either adapt to that reality and learn how to create opportunities for ourselves within that environment; or we go under, to the accompaniment of loud protestations and bitter complaints.”

South Africa’s “entertainment” industry is valued at approximately R7.4 billion A report prepared by “Create South Africa” says that it employs an estimated 20, 525 people. Film and television, alone, are worth R5. 8 billion and have a strong technical base of skills and infrastructure. More than 100,000 people are employed within the music, film and television sectors.

Worldwide, the turnover of the cultural industries makes them the fifth largest economic sector, comprising design, the performing arts, dance, film, television, multi-media, cultural heritage, cultural tourism, the visual arts, the crafts, music and publishing.

Viewed from that perspective, the cultural industries, what we mistakenly call “entertainment”, have globally emerged as important economic engines. We must therefore pay increasing attention to them so that they can assist transform the social and economic landscape of the country.

The cultural industries are serious business.

The South African Music industry has the potential of becoming a major foreign exchange earner and job creator provided we can maximize its potential and market its products aggressively at home and in the international music market.

The receptiveness of the world community to our music is testified to by the success of Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and other South African musicians on the international stage. But the South African musicians who have made a mark internationally have been marketed and promoted by non-South African promoters and record companies. With the return home of many of these artists, it could be important to the future of the SA music industry to use them as the advance guard of a SA musical offensive in Europe, the Americas and the Far East to open up these markets to musical products from this country.

For its success the initiative requires the synergies among the existing South African record producers; the new producers and deliberately created new labels that can reconnoiter the musical terrain and explore the viability of emergent tastes and the durability of old ones.

The greatest single constraint on the launching of a musical career for the new artist is access to recording facilities. Our initiative should seek to lower this barrier by making recording facilities, the pressing of records, their distribution and sale, and availability more accessible to young musicians.

The cost of setting up well equipped, state-of-the-art recording facilities is far too exorbitant for the average entrepreneur to undertake. The risk factor weighed against the investment is a huge deterrent.

We are therefore proposing that:

1.1 The DAC should absorb the risk by itself establishing a number of state of the art recording studios in South Africa’s musical hotspots;

1.2 The DAC should encourage the newly established Creative Workers Union to set up a recording studio and establish a record label. The company could be established with a loan from the IDC or similar institution, head-hunt music professionals to manage and run it in return for performance-linked salaries.

1.3 Acting with such a company the DAC should set up a number of mobile studios to cover the rural areas of all the provinces.

1.4 DAC should establish two websites, one for folk and popular music; the other for modern music of all genres. The collaboration of the established record companies will be essential for the success of such a project.

In the USA and in Western Europe there are two major marketing companies, Virgin and Tower Records. We must build a relationship with these two major marketing companies so as to gain access to these markets that have already been exposed to South African music. At the same time we should explore other potentially interesting partnerships in Asia, especially Japan, India and China, and in Latin America and Australia so that we begin establishing a following for South African music in those regions as well.

The need to repatriate the music of South Africans exiled in Europe, much of it of excellent quality is one other challenge that we must face. The modalities of doing this could include investing in recording companies so as to make certain that they re-issue and distribute old recordings, especially those of South African exiles.

We can begin by making South Africa the centre of an African music and entertainment industry by inviting artists to use our recording facilities and offering our superior marketing and distribution capacity. There are possibilities for a local and African distribution that could assist such a company to expand into a vertically integrated operation that records, promotes, distributes and exports South African musical product and related media.

We are in the immediate future mounting the:

1. Costing the establishment of “State of the Art” facilities in nine provincial capitals.

2. Exploring the talent base and potential in each of these areas.

3. Investigating the establishment of a funding mechanism, searching for cooperation partners for the setting up of facilities.

4. Exploring the internet as an effective marketing tool which can be both cost effective and ecumenical in its reach.

As recently as this past weekend, business journalists have commented on the rising spending power of the emergent Black middle strata. By all accounts the musical tastes of these new markets are unformed. This offers an uncharted, yet very promising market segment that the music industry can service as well as help to shape.

Government long ago undertook to improve the legal regime that offers protection to the intellectual property of our musicians. South Africa subscribes to all the copyright conventions and the government has actively backed the familiy of Solomon Linda, composer of “Mbube”, to receive what was due to them from the revenues earned by that international hit. We continue to encourage performers and composers to deposit original copies of their work with the National Film, Video and Audio Archives. This can be a deterrent against rampant music piracy and other intellectual property right infringements. While government believes that the creators of music should be adequately rewarded for their efforts, develop their profession skills and be involved in a legitimate music business, we have to confront that challenge posed by the advances in Information and Communications Technology. The tough question has to be posed: Haven’t the developments in this area rendered the copyright regime, devised in the 19th century, obsolete?
It is only by discussing this matter frankly together with the stakeholders in the industry, that we can devise effective protection for our artists and explore new ways of exploiting this technology to our adavantage.

Law and legal regimes have a very direct impact on this industry. Labour relations legislation, health and safety regulations, fire code restrictions, noise ordinances, safety policies all affect the manner in which the public consumes music. The old pattern of musicians working without employment contracts is disappearing. I once again repeat my appeal to performers : better protection is a direct function of unionisation. It cannot be proper that unlike others who work for a living, musicians have no rights and those who employ them recognize no obligations other than paying them a fee. The current situation in which performers are excluded from pensions, social security, unemployment benefit, health schemes and workers’ compensation is untenable in the long term. But only the organized strength of unionized creative people will bring it to an end.
These are tough issues, and I do not suggest that there are easy answers. But, how long is the music industry to live with the scandal of the most talented artists dying in poverty, or worse yet, in the gutter?

We are determined to demonstrate not merely the power of music as an agent of social and political transformation, but to prove its capacity to market our country internationally and to leave an indelible mark on the world musical market place.

MOSHITO has my best wishes for its success.

Thank You.