So, 90% local music on 18 SABC radio stations for the next three months? Is this indicative of a positive change or is it the beginning of the South African music scene’s demise? This is not a new broadcasting regulation, but rather one that was introduced in countries such as Australia as far back as 1942 – however; their quota of local music was not nearly as drastic as 90% but rather 2.5%. This was increased over the years and currently stands at 25%. Canada requires a minimum of 35% of local songs be aired while Uruguay requires 30%. Fellow African country, Nigeria stipulates 80% local material be exposed and the Philippines legislature states that every hour should have four local compositions played (approximately 33%). So, why the furor?
Firstly, we query, do we have enough local content to meet a 90% quota? While there may be a vast quantity of local music, not all of it will fit the specific radio station’s ‘brand’ of genres. For instance, if a radio station currently plays commercial pop and house music they will need to stay within their broadcasting limitations and adhere to their proposed music genres. So perhaps, we may have a vast variety of local talent that is yet to be aired commercially on fm stations, but it may not ever be heard because of such restrictions. This may mean that we will hear the same songs on repeat. But, does playing the same few songs on loop really change what we had currently been listening to? Because, in my opinion radio stations tend to play a song straight into its cute little track coffin regardless of its origin. And personally, I would prefer to have local music repeatedly played to this degree.
This brings me to my second point of contention: why are only certain genres being promoted in this new regulation? Is there a reason for choosing kwaito, gospel, reggae and jazz over other genres? Was there a genre pageant that I missed where these princesses were crowned? In a country with a government like ours, how did gospel make the cut – right next to reggae? Are these the genres that make the most money? Because then surely, we are missing the point in promoting local music by elevating those who are already benefitting from the system and completely ousting those that aren’t? Are these genres seen as the ones that need the most support? If so, then we should be told, because then we need to prioritize on teaching the nation about our rich musical history and the origins of such styles so that generation x,y and z can appreciate them. I’m in no way criticizing any of these categories; I’m merely stating that in the fight for inclusivity, and in a land with limited resources and financial aid for local talent, we should not be so prescriptive of the genres that we want to be aired on local radio stations. Besides, local fm radio stations are already rigid in what fits within their brand profile and, as previously stated, need to adhere to what they promise their listeners.
A further point of discussion is the repercussion of such a ruling. If 90% local songs are going to be airing, then we stand the risk of a homogenized musical sound. This is currently a problem in Australia as fm stations play specific sounding tracks and local musicians tend to veer towards making music that they know stations will play. As Nick Clarke states about a local Australian radio station: “Triple J is perhaps the most discussed, divisive station in Australia’s musical landscape. Paradoxically, it is also the most supportive of emerging Australian artists, with an average weekly reach of 1.8 million listeners across the country. Theories about every aspect of Triple J’s policies and operations are debated endlessly in bars, offices and rehearsal studios. But the single accusation that leaves the worst taste in musicians’ and music fans’ mouths is the suggestion that musicians are ignoring pure self-expression in favour of manufacturing a sound to get played on the popular station”. This has been endlessly debated on the internet and other platforms of communication and, should we fall into this trap, our musicians will ultimately pay the price, or will they? We currently hear songs that are so similar to International artists such as Rihanna “bitch, better have my money”, however, the South African versions say “Imma get my money back” and “get them Randelas back”. Since when do we sing about “gold chains”, “hunneds” and “bitches and hoes”?
Not all musicians openly admit to wanting to be aired on local fm stations, some of them are too alternative to ever think of the possibility. But, as a musician, the aim is surely to gain fame and have large numbers of supporters at live events? A larger listenership – prompted by airplay, would surely aid this. For this reason 90% local broadcast is fantastic! Perhaps, with the increased exposure, funding may even become greater and thus more quality music can be produced. Should this protocol last beyond the three months trial period, then the results could be brilliant, with more youth believing that music is a viable option in our country we could have an influx of talent beyond our current standing. Local exposure would surely also result in international exposure, which is furthermore beneficial to our music scene. Live acts would certainly be better attended with listeners becoming aware of who our musicians are and what their level of talent is.
If you happen to be one of those listeners that still wants to hear more international music, or perhaps more local ‘underground’ bands that don’t get aired locally, where would you do so?
One of the popular megatrends being discussed at the moment is the rise of the digital. Countless stats are released pertaining to the percentage of mobile and web-based technologies in the future. So then, an alternate platform for those bands that are generally wanting listenership, but, perhaps not wanting to adhere to fm station’s strict stipulations, by manipulating their sound, is online radio stations? With an abundant increase in mobile users and a promise of better internet access in the near future, why don’t we start supporting online radio stations?
The perks of online radio:
1. There is less advertising
2. Greater room for free reign in terms of what gets aired
3. You can find a station that plays music that you like that doesn’t have to adhere to local versus international airplay policies
4. Ten to one, the DJ’s are doing the work for the passion of music and very little – if any- remuneration, and so they tend to be dedicated to providing the very best that they have to offer as a hobby rather than a prescribed job
5. Soon, cars will be paired with Apps that allow you to stream live whilst driving and you won’t be limited to fm streaming. Other options are also available – m-commerce is changing the world!
6. Surveys show that digital marketing is quickly veering towards a prosumer as opposed to a consumer way of thinking. This means that your voice on social media becomes critical. Online stations can create a platform for transparent, user-centred experience through extensive data analytics that keep them one step ahead of the game, constantly
If these aren’t enough reasons for you to ride the online station vibe, then I don’t know what is! I eagerly await the social media rampages, once the three-month window period of the 90% local airing is up. In the meantime, give online radio stations a listen! Also, support local music, let’s avoid copying other artists by promoting the talent that is already prevalent, but perhaps not financially supported as of yet.