Thursday, October 14, 2010


Allen L. Johnston – The Music Specialist

In 2007 a new era of partnership began in South Africa. The Creative Workers Union of South Africa (CWUSA), a union of musicians, actors, poets, technicians, writers, composers, performers, independent producers, television presenters, radio disc jockeys, general disc jockeys, arts administrators, artist directors, photographers, arts educators, choreographers, dancers, designers and other sector practitioners, came together to lobby government on the many problems facing its’ constituency.

Even though riddled with internal problems this union has been able to develop a Performance Rights package (Needle Time), a social security plan for the creative arts sector, an anti piracy campaign and an educational campaign for the arts.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is a state owned corporation of 18 radio (AM/FM) stations and 3 television stations. This corporation’s programming has been criticized ever since it’s inception in 1936 by the South African Parliament. The SABC played only South African and African music on 15 of its radio stations from May 2010 and during the soccer world cup because it wanted to "further promote our home-grown music and music from our African counterparts". Now that the World Cup is over the corporation has said that it will discontinue this type of programming.

"CWUSA is shaken by the announcement from [SABC] radio to discontinue with its 100% South African music play that has been enjoyed by the public," said CWUSA general secretary Oupa Lebogo. "The move simply says playing our content on radio will forever be a favor and it is unacceptable." CWUSA demanded that the broadcaster re-think its decision to stop playing only African music because "it is quite clear that there are more benefits for artists as long as our music is played on our radios”

On the surface this looks like a reasonable request, however there are a few problems that have not surfaced in the press. Most programming decisions are based on financial foundations and a look at the revenue received via advertising avenues during the period when 100% African music was played is needed. An additional look at the revenue created for the creative artists during this same period is needed to determine if radio airplay has really impacted the creative community.

Americans have yet to understand the strength in placing ALL of the creative art movements together for a common good. In our country the arts are segmented along creative, financial, political and racial lines. Certain organizations don’t recognize other organizations or unions doing the exact same business even when their memberships have some of the same people within them. What’s even crazier is the “better than” concept. One organization feels that they are “better than” other groups or elitists and start setting rules and regulations for the validity of art, be it physical, audio or digital.

Being in the entertainment industry I have seen many different versions of the “better than” concept. Radio programmers determine that they know “better than” the artist or record label that has delivered a song to them. It doesn’t matter that the song is a potential hit or that the company creating the song has placed blood, sweat, tears and money behind it, arrogance and a profound sense of elitism by the programmer kills the songs advance. I have never known a human being that could determine a hit song; if such a person is alive the major labels would have hired them years ago. The only way to determine a good song is to let the populace decide if they like it.

And this is the meat of this article, does the South African populace like the ALL African music programming that they have had since May? Where are the facts? Where is the undeniable evidence that there has been an increase in popularity, an increase in national pride and an increase in revenue? Where is the evidence that the South African populace wants a DIFFERENT type of programming? What is really going on?

Telling a man he is wrong and you are right based on belief alone is ludicrous and self serving.

America does not have the luxury of a government controlled broadcast system geared directly to the public. America does not have cooperation within the arts on a massive level solely for the betterment of the creative artist. What we do have is a corporate run media monopoly geared to playing the same 30 pieces of music across our country on their radio stations. America has a corporate controlled media system that has created formatted stations and self censorship regulations solely for its’ own financial benefit and not for the public at large. The true American musical art forms, Americana, Blues, Gospel, Jazz, and Soul can not be heard over the airwaves on any regular basis in America.

A change in radio programming worldwide is coming.

1 comment:

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Essay on African Music