the United Colours of Africa
Interview Chola Makgamathe
How did you plug into the music?
There are one or two tenants in the building that do the manufacturing of CD's.
Production we do. In two of our studios we have the best acoustics in the country. In two of our studios we have state of the art facilities, a 72 channel duality SSL consul in our studios, our flagship studios for choirs, big jazz bands and people with huge ensembles. We want those kinds of people to use it.
We have plans to build a proper mastering room and that will be in phase two of the recapitalisation.
Education training and development: We want to have partnerships. There is the whole SETA accreditation etc. And to be an agent of change the best thing is to be a facilitator and have partnerships with people who are already doing what they are doing. We don't want to take business away from places who are training sound engineers. We want people to understand the business of music and the value chain and how they can use that. And we want them to understand how the music industry works as a whole. There is a room that used to be studio 4 on the first floor. It was misused, but we could convert it to a training facility on site but a little out the way so students can do their thing there.
Another thing to add on the production: One of the issues that were looked at was us, taking away from the independents or smaller studios. We do not want to compete with smaller studios; in fact we would like to encourage smaller studios to bring whatever products they have to us so we can assist in finishing. We truly believe it is better in a big studio! And we are open to finishing off whatever you have done in a smaller studio and introduce them to bigger desks and help with improving their technical capacity and also working with record labels big or small and we could have a good relation with Indies because they need the studios and we need the partners to take the product through distribution . Traditional distribution people selling CD's are still there; selling CD's at taxi ranks and out of the boots of cars. Online, yes but the market penetration is not that high. Artists are still making more money from doing live shows than from streaming. But that is a space that we would like to be involved in. We have a 5 story building.
The board members that came on board were carefully chosen to speak to various aspects of the music industry?
T he whole point was to have a board that represented a diversity of the music industry. Our chairperson is Don Laka. We have Mandla Maseko who is on the board of AIRCO and MOSHITO. He is also quite a prominent leader in a number of other music organizations. We have got Greg Maloka. He is MD of Khaya FM. He brings that to the fore and the broadcasting element to the fore. Legendary Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Nomthemba Ilonsi, an attorney. Lind Ngoma, huge choral background and great teacher. Oupa Lebogo, former SG of Kusa and also a musician. Hotep Galeta passed away. They were appointed by Minister Xingwani and we are engaging the department on the appointment of further board members into fill the gaps because there have been a number of changes with the ministers in the department. The board we have is a strong board and they truly understand the music industry and contributed immensely to getting the downtown music hub going.
What about Moshito Airco and Downtown what makes it so ?
The structure of the Downtown music hub is an NPC, nonprofit company. Whilst we are charging for the use of our studios we are required to spend any monies we make on keeping the business going and our developmental agenda. A NPC is not prohibited from making profits; the issue is what you do with those profits. Our rates are so low anyway those in terms of us being commercially driven we are not at that stage. We still receive funds from the DAC and NAC going, so we are not going to become purely commercial. What could happen is that companies can be formed for a particular purpose but the purpose of the Downtown Music Hub will remain to developmentally orientate.
How could Downtown affect Moshito ... where everyone needs a chance...?
I believe it can. Where there is a commitment from our stakeholders and where there is leadership from the board and where members hold an entity accountable. Always showing the value of what a developmental agenda can achieve at the end of the day it benefits all of us. It buoys everybody.
How would you affect the Downtown Music Precinct:
But the city is a city for a reason. It has that vibrancy that is required, but at the same time in order to attract people to the city and make them feel safe you have to make some changes to the environment that is there. And that is something that the city of Joburg should be heavily involved in because there is a lot of by law enforcement, looking at abandoned buildings and finding out what is going on, finding landlords and not allowing the urban decay that is happening. There needs to be a part played by the city of Johannesburg.
We have to do what we do best, attract people to come use our studios, our rehearsal rooms, come and see the museum and what is happening. We need to do what we do on a daily basis. In two or three weeks we would have branded quite a bit of the building so it is obvious for people to see that something is happening.
The business was bought. When you are acquiring you acquire a business, company, asset or combination. There was a Downtown as a company. So the brand was purchased. The Downtown studios are a very strong brand in the market and needs to be reintroduced because everybody under a certain age doesn't know about downtown studios. The downtown music hub as an entity needs to be introduced properly to the market which is what we are planning to do and planning to have a launch on the 5th of November.
What about mobile recording studios?
KZN Music House has recently been run by the provincial government and the Miriam Makeba in Eastern Cape and Cape Mic in the Western Cape. Those are all really provincial structures. This would be the national structure and that could be duplicated at provincial level. We have already started an engagement with KZN because a lot of our client base is in KZN. It has an impact if you look at the value chain. We hope to engage in EC and WC and see where else in the country we can do it, North West as well, because we don't want everybody coming to Joburg. We want to see where else stuff is happening in the provinces. We want development to be happening in the provinces itself.
Joburg is great from a location perspective. This is where a lot of producers and engineers are. But we want that to be happening in the provinces so people can make money from where they are and don't have to become a huge megastar but are comfortable in what state they are in.
What about the mobile recording studios ?
That is something that is part of our production vision. It is something that we are planning to do. We want to reintroduce ourselves firmly and get the requisite partners to do that properly. One of the things that the department wanted is for us to become self-sufficient as quickly as possible, so there isn't this reliance on public funding to do things. We want to launch and get that out of the way because we have got the business we are doing currently. And then we want to branch out into other areas, one of which is mobile recording. If you can send a mobile unit to every corner of Southern Africa and people can record there and then the product will be brought back for finishing then that will be great and then people don't have to come. What is happening is people are coming from different countries. But if we had the facility ready we would send the facility to wherever they are and just bring it back here for finishing. It would like life a lot easy.
Education, development and music for the purpose of the music: Do you have a vision for a heart centered approach to music?
Partnerships with organisations like AIRCO are important because they are supporting entrepreneurs in this country who are trying to make a living from music produced in this country and contribute to this country's GDP. Even if it is sold internationally, local artists benefit from the sale. They are doing a great job with that and we need to stay plugged into what is happening. Not everyone can be a big American star. I think there are a lot of African stars. Nigeria is doing awesome things that we can learn from. Not only in film and television they have been able to colonize us with their culture. If you look at TV, a lot of their content is here because their attitude is it doesn't matter what quality it is, just get it out.
Our intention is to be an agent of change, a facilitator, a catalyst, a home for the music industry. For people to be able to come here and get the empowerment that is necessary or get the connections that are necessary or be plugged into whatever conversation that is happening to get the necessary to join the market. We are very sensitive to that because our board members have seen this game; they have seen how this game has evolved. They have seen their friends die poor, giving their lives to the industry. Our board is very sensitive to that. Let's not just think about the money and creating a huge star, let's create entrepreneurs in this industry so they can become employers. That is what we need to focus on and focus on people creating South African music.
The trend of the industry is going in a direction of