United Colours of Africa
Interview Concerts SA
Nialla Dollie says, " The trend in venues is that they are very difficult to keep going because there isn't support for funding music and I don't think it is something that requires finding unless you had a thriving business and audience were able to pay consistently. If you are a venue operating you need to staff the venue, you need all the infrastructure for the venue you need sound you need somebody to book the artist to contract the artist. Most venues operate as a music venue come restaurant. But where are the music venues, can we name any? We are moving away from the idea of venue venue (only music, but the focus is sit and listen basically). All though the jazz okes like the idea of a venue venue like the Mahogany room.
People are finding spaces where they can perform whether that be a restaurant, a bar a community centre, museum a street corner. Those are all spaces. The point of it is that no one of those things are getting support from government as support for creating a vibrant space for music to grow. The venues aren't getting support, artists are not getting support, the promoters are not getting support. The support that is coming from government is very limited. Where should that support be focused? We are striving to find the best ways of focusing the little support that we give that has the most impact or presents a way of working that can replicate. It is trying to find those spaces.
Are there global standards how musicians and venues operate?
The music industry in this country is historically informal. And part of what we are trying to do is organise as much as we can in relationships that are now within the sector. We would suggest to venues to draw up contracts, a lot of them still don't. All those formal standardised way of operating in the sector globally doesn't exist in much of Africa. There is a lot of informality associated with the sector. There should be an international standard, some' body' that regulates it.
Does SAMRO be that body, collecting performance royalties ?
That is what they do collecting performance royalties whether it is broadcast or live. The problem again is licencing. Venues don't want to licence. It is a process you do to licence with samro and pay, so artists can earn some money. In Norway you can't even open a venue unless you get your licences in place including your music rights licence. Whereas here you can get under the radar and operate for decades where artists are not earning from that performance. It is getting people to understand the process of how they can get royalties from samro.
It is an important concept to popularise, there isn't any focus on the night economy at this point. Andre presented at CT city interdepartmental planning process meeting where they had these different sectors of local government. He raised the issue of a night time economy and they were very interested. There is one guy in CT, Greek name, big businesses come together and develop the city. He had written an article on the night time economy. This idea is starting to get into politicians heads. It has got to do with policy, resources. It is an important concept that we need to speak about more often for them to buy into because our work is predominantly at night.
What will move this economy to move into the mainstream?
The next step is for local government to and cities to buy into it. Politicians to start doing their planning in consultation with each other. All different department all linked. Tourist place like CT will probably take the lead. I don't see it happening in JHB. There are little pockets of it, but it is only oni the places being gentrified and not in the townships where it is most needed.
The last mapping that was done was Songlines. We are hoping that the baton will be picked up by somebody soon otherwise we will have to do it again. 250 venues, urban based focused in JHB, CT and DBN. It didn't go into the townships or anywhere along national routes.
If I live in Soweto but want to go to a gig in Orlando West but I live in Klipstruit and I feel completely unsafe if I want to travel. TO get from point A to point B within a township none of these spaces are set up for a night economy to work. Obviously you are going to have to start in the cities. But there are a whole range of things that can happen within those spaces.
We are talking about an entire culture, system and consciousness that needs to be changed. This is a small thing compared to what needs to happen on a much more huge and social scale. The fact that we engage in the sector and pick up what should be happening in the sector, it is related to what should be happening elsewhere.
Tagores closed down, Straight no Chaser is now a mobile venue, Moholo Live closed down. Live music venues are very diifcult. Aymeric is in a partnership and he has left the Orbit because the partners set out to make a profitable business and Aymeric's programming was great the problem was it wasn't profitable enough. This is the issue. Live music requires funding from government, direct funding to the venues – straight. For them to be able to keep on hosting performances and creating spaces to collaborate for creativity to flourish. But their entire focus becomes on survival. Our little subsidy has managed to anchor a few of the venues, Nikki's was in a bad space a few years ago, Freedom Station could very well also have gone and still it is going. We try to create something that can be copied by a government funder.
It is the development and appreciation of music. The small schools programme we run is about developing a model that we want department of education to take up. We can only do two schools in a region when there are 300 there. Our resources are limited but we try and do a small programme and hopefully they will pick up on that and pump some money into it. That is the idea to try and create stuff and pick up stuff and run with it on a bigger scale.
"In Heartbeat there is a suggestion, a model that has been implemented in countries with a similar socio economic environment like Brazil. If you don't have a big middle class with disposable income to go out, to buy books, to buy films, how can you address this? You can support the consumption by giving people not the money but coupons that can only be used for cultural activities and products. And that has proven to be quite useful. It is restricted to community based culture. In that way you can facilitate people who do not have resources to enjoy culture. And decide what they want to go. You are allowing them to choose which show to go and see. It allows freedom and creating your self-identity."
Ignacio Priego says,
How Concerts SA came into existence is through a link between Samro foundation and Norway represented by the Norwegian embassy. Norway has had a strong relationship with South African arts and culture and especially with music with bilateral agreements between both countries in '94, '95. Culture was one of the main pillars in that co-operation, and specifically music. There was this programme called Mmino that for ten years supported music in South Africa with Norwegian funds. When this programme finished in 2010, Norway wanted to continue co-operating with South Africa in music. They decided to discontinue the Mmino programme. Their main partner was National Arts Council. They looked first for an organisation that was not directly linked to government and second they wanted to add the live music sector. That is how Concerts SA came into existence in 2013. The negotiations went around in 2011, the signing of contracts between Samro and Norway in 2012 and the programme started with the appointment of Nailla Dollie the project manager in 2013, around February. There was a pilot phase in the year 2103. And last year 2014 was the last year of full activity of the Concerts SA programme. Until March 2014 there was only one person assisting Nailla and then that person had to leave and Violet Maila, the project co-ordinator and I the project administrator came in. We work shoulder by shoulder.
Concerts SA supports live music. The name was chosen because there is an organisation on the Norwegian side called Rietz Konzert which the actual translation is Concerts Norway which is our brother or sister organisation. Music in Norway is very important. In the constitution, or by law, they say every Norwegian student must see a live concert at least once a year at school. It is symbolic of the importance they assign to live music, (especially for) people in areas of society with less income, coming from poorer communities, previously disadvantaged, in the rural or peri-urban townships, etc.
With the amount of funding that we have available, there had to be a selection of what we could do and what we couldn't. The programme operates in the three provinces that are around; the three main urban areas, Gauteng, KZN and Western Cape. The main reason for this is to maximise the impact of the activity with the available budget. And also because in and around these urban centres there is an existing live music scene. It is a good way of spreading what live music is already doing in this country.
How the programme supports live music in this context would be through a couple of interventions, music at schools, to bring music to students who don't have exposure to it and to develop audiences. A more medium long term vision is that kids of today are future listeners. How we roll it out is not with our own production. There are already promoters and operators here. So what we do is partner with them and they are the ones in charge of producing those concerts. We try to be selective and we are involved in terms of our targets and how we roll out the more developmental side of our programme.
Violet Maila says,
The project with the schools takes a live music performance to the schools so that the kids get exposed to the music. By seeing live music and seeing live instruments we are then building an audience of future live music listeners and lovers. The promoters arrange through the schools to set up a live performance for an hour of the school curriculum. The kids are able to ask questions about the music business and about the instruments. The promoters then have contact with government magnet schools which are government public schools which have a particular focus on music and art. Because they already have music students that are in the curriculum, they have more extensive workshops. Then it is only the music students that are work-shopping with the musicians. It always ends up with little jam sessions happening with the students engaging with the artists and asking questions, etc. the kids and how they respond to the music, is quite interesting because the fascination they have is quite something. A lot of them have never seen a guitar or bass guitar being played in real life.
For the school performances it is closed and for only the school children. And then we try and get some engagement for other people who can help spread the word. The public then gets to experience these at public venues because it is a normal everyday venue that exists in the area. The same artists then perform in the evening. And that is open to the public. People are not used to having live performances in a rural space. We are trying to figure out ways to get people to understand that if you are going to see a live performance it means livelihood for the musicians and how can you contribute to that. The shows we have done thus far have been free shows open to the public, but working with the venues and how they understand their market and what we can afford, then we will start to say if you can pay R10 then you can get into the space etc. It is working on that and trying to build on income for everyone involved so that people can enjoy the music.
Are you developing venues in the rural areas as well?
Absolutely because there wasn't much access to places outside of urban spaces, because people were marginalised and didn't have access to live music. It is to grow it two fold, for the musicians and the audiences. For the musicians to gain a new audience and for their music to develop in terms of exposure and for the audiences to experience live music not just as an urban thing and not just as a foreign thing so people can engage and enjoy music whether it is from musicians coming from outside of the area or local musicians in that area, giving them a platform to have the space to showcase what they do and then again continuing to build the audiences.
The vision is that music gets played more often in different spaces. There is actually a kind of circuit that musicians can benefit from. For example there is more exposure for those rural venues in terms of providing a regularity, a continuity of the activity and trying to give it a push to multiply the income activities for musicians and actually that involves the number of concerts throughout the month.
Is there a need for more funding?
There is possibility and desire to really expand and grow the project and make it as big as possible. The impact and the value of this project is already visible. There is room for growth and that is the ideal situation. We are now able to take what we have learnt in the urban spaces and slowly expand and get into the rural spaces.
The school programme we are happy with, but the venue support programme we are finding a few more difficulties in terms of the continuity and the quality of the work that some venues provide. It is not that easy to partner with venues because some of them really struggle to keep up with the standards we try to put in place because that is part of the programme. Supporting live music is not only growing the number of concerts and the number of opportunities for musicians in terms of income but it is also raising the standards in terms of contracting, in terms of sound quality, in terms of access security, etc. That requires from a venue not only resources but also a commitment. That is not always easy to find and to maintain.
There is a selection process we go through with the venues to decide on which venues we work with and it is to help them to be better equipped to have the continuous music circuit in their venue. Because it is still so early in the project, we are mending, we are helping and we are filling in the gaps as we go along, helping the venues to be better in their admin for their business and that kind of thing.
We will speak a little about the mobility fund and how we try and continue that line on a national and regional level. And we also do yearly a bit of research and a bit of training. And for example for the venue owners, and also for the promoters and especially for those agents in the live music sector, once a year we do specific training because we find that it is a process that involves raising the standards gradually. We organise workshops once a year. We have done two editions with the Arts and Culture trust with marketing for people in the music industry. And we are looking now to see what the needs are, and how we keep on developing that. We are also trying to find where we stand and we also produce on a bi-yearly basis some research, “Songlines.” We are currently doing the next bit of research. It is done together with Wits University and it is going to be focused on audience development. That was one of the recommendations that there needs to more understanding about audiences in South Africa and what are the challenges.
Is audience development a modern idea?
In Europe it has been present for the last ten to fifteen years. It has appeared a lot in the museum context. Many museums in Europe are visited by tourists but not by the citizens. When they tried to rethink what is the role of a museum, they saw that they really needed to engage with the people of the city, the people of the neighbourhood, the people of the province and the people of the country, on different levels: And that required different kinds of interventions. That has happened for orchestras and auditoriums in Europe. They have seen how their audiences are aging. Old people are the ones who were going to classical music and opera. The thing behind audience development is trying to rethink and see why you don't have bums on seats, why your audiences don't look like what you want in terms of numbers, in terms of age. That requires specific strategies to address those problems. South Africa has very strong challenges for audiences for the arts in general, just mentioning the heritage of the apartheid, the geographical spread of the towns and the artistic resources. Concerts SA when we go to rural areas we could use community halls for example but we have seen that there are more natural audiences, first at schools and second at venues that have a relation with music and put on music occasionally. Maybe they are not so well resourced for live music as a community hall but they are more natural for where audiences go for other reasons, to meet friends, to socialise, maybe listen to a DJ, but if there is live music they see the value.
For audience development, do you have partners with music development?
Samro foundation, the education side of the foundation has a very strong relationship with the NGO music schools like Buskaid, Miagi, etc. We don't engage directly with them because of the limitations we have. We would love to have funds to support performances in all those music schools that are partnered already with Samro foundation. We do it mainly at schools and at Universities. Samro foundation has a relationship with many Universities and a couple of orchestras. We are slowly but surely trying to holistically complete that spectrum of the spaces where live music happens. We don't touch them all. We have received recommendations that we should engage with religious music and music happening at churches because it is a very natural environment where live music happens and where a lot of musicians get income, but for different reasons, we have not engaged with that. It is an open door. We would be interested. We are trying to build bridges not only within the live music scene but also with the different levels of government. We are trying to make clear all the branches that the project has and are clear with other operators.
Do you focus on jazz?
The project does not only support jazz music. The project is African, indigenous, so called world music. By default, what was already existing, particularly in the urban spaces, tended to be spaces that are drawn to showcasing jazz music. Through expanding into other spaces, the rural spaces have allowed us to go into other showcases with the support of Concerts SA. We are slowly trying to spread out because also the audience in those spaces is not the same and it is not jazz specific. I think it is because of the environment which we found ourselves to start the project that dictated that it was jazz focused but really the project is there to support all genres of live music.
We don't engage so much with pop and rock because we believe that it is commercially more viable, there are live music venues operating in that environment. We are glad that they are doing that work. We see that they don't struggle so much in terms of bringing people through the door and having enough money in the cashier at the end of the night and at the end of the month. Jazz was one of the genres that needed more support. Because there are strong audiences for jazz but the numbers are not so huge in terms of maintaining the costs that are involved in putting together a concert. Jazz is something that has come up like that. The programme that Concerts SA puts out translates in what is happening on the ground.
Do you have an open door with Samro foundation?
Absolutely. We are able to function as an organisation because of Samro's support and via the foundation because that is the arm of Samro that does the CSI activities. We do collaborate as and when we can via the universities. We are looking at using SAMRO's function in the industry, the anti-piracy, the get to know your rights as a musician. We are looking at possibilities of getting Samro to do presentations and workshops to musicians. The collaborations are there whether it is musicians when they are performing at Concerts SA gigs, their repertoires are cleared, and they can then get their royalties. That kind of circle exists.
The Music Mobility Fund is a funding mechanism which offers opportunities for South African musicians to undertake live music tours.
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