United Colours of Africa

Music and Festivals in South Africa by Jen Snowball SACO

Following an international trend, the number of cultural festivals, most of which include music, have increased dramatically in South Africa in the last 20 years.

Festivals provide a great opportunity for artists to showcase their work, learn from other artists, and generate the professional networks that are so important for production in the cultural and creative industries (CCIs).

On the demand side, audiences get to experience a wide range of genres (building their own cultural capital) over a short time, socialise with friends and family, and perhaps even meet new people from different backgrounds, helping to build social cohesion.

Festivals also have a significant economic, or financial, impact on their host cities. For example, a study done at the 2013 11-day National Arts Festival (NAF) found that t he total economic impact of the NAF was calculated at R91 million on the Grahamstown economy and between R350 and R370 million on the Eastern Cape as whole.

But even smaller events can contribute: Buyel'Ekhaya Pan-African Music Festival, a one day even held in Buffalo City had an economic impact of R25.8 million in 2014.

The economic impact of a festival depends on the number of tourists it attracts from outside the region, on how much they spend, and how much of that spending stays in the host city as a result of using local suppliers for the goods and services that festivals need to run.

In 2014, the South African Department of Arts and Culture commissioned a study of the Cultural and Creative Industries (CCIs), A random sample of more than 2 500 of these organisations, including 620 producers in the “Performance and Celebration Domain”, were interviewed. Of the 100 Festival and Event companied interviewed, 75% had a least one black, coloured or Indian-origin owner, 45% of whom were women. 62% reported that their main market was SA households or individuals, 28% were non-profit companies, and the average number of employees was 13.4.

Challenges identified by CCIs in the Performance and Celebration sector were mostly around funding and budget constraints, inconsistent and unreliable business, and the high costs of operating and maintain an office. Opportunities and determinants of success most often mentioned were the growing demand for their products and services, the ability to share skills and expertise with surrounding communities and to create jobs. The benefits of a good networking, which helped to grow business through exposure to new ideas and referrals to new clients, were also mentioned.

The realisation that the cultural and creative industries encompass much more that the “subsidised arts” and can make important contributions to economic growth and job creation prompted the establishment of the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) in 2015, funded by the Department of Arts and Culture. SACO is a national research centre which support the collection and analysis of data on the CCIs, and conducts policy relevant research on the economic and social value of the arts, culture and heritage sectors in South Africa.

One of the current SACO projects is to test a valuation framework for publically funded events, like music festivals. Case studies include the Royal Heritage Festival in Vhembe, MACUFE in Bloemfontein, and the Indoni Youth Festival in Durban.


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