I’m sure by now most of you have watched the documentary by Resident Advisor titled, Real Scenes – Johannesburg. If not you can view it at the bottom of the page or I can just sum it up for you.
Basically it features some of SA’s top DJ’s, including Black Coffee, Oskido, Black Motion and the like. They give a brief account of their views and experiences within the house music scene and generally paint a fairly pretty picture.
Initially I bought into it but after a lengthy conversation with Dave Mac and some individuals in the industry I realized that all is not as it seems. Now I’m not saying the documentary was lying, but is the South African house scene really as glamorous and the land of milk and honey it’s being made out to be?
South Africa is the place to be right now for any house DJ or producer. Living legends such as Ralf Gum and Harrison Crump are practically residents here. International acts like Reel People and Monique Bingham come at least twice a year and events such as the SoulCandi Spring Fiesta attracts up to 15 000 party goers. Surely we must be doing something right. Elsewhere in the world the situation is dire. In some countries clubs now only play house music on special nights that come once a month at best.
Let’s look at a few facts:
- AfrodesiaMp3 – One of the biggest locally based online music stores shut down early this year. The main reason they cited was low revenue from digital sales and an inability to keep their head above water.
- Although big name DJ’s easily get paid in excess of R20 000 a gig, the average DJ on the street seldom reaches the R1 000 mark.
- Album sales are dismally low. Even Gold status, which is 20 000 units is illusive. A lot of artists barely pass the 5 000 units mark.
- The market is flooded. Numbers vary depending on who you ask but it’s easily in excess of 3 500.
But facts and figures aren’t enough. I asked the head of Baainar records, Lunga Nombewu if he believed one can live off of a career in house music and his response was bluntly honest,
“Not unless you’re a big star with regular gigs, otherwise you have to balance it… you must use your presence to stay relevant and push other business ideas so that you can make a proper living.”
This then explains why the majority of the up and coming and even some of the big name DJ’s I’ve interviewed still keep their day jobs. Some of your favorite DJ’s are still accountants or IT technicians but we hardly ever see this side of the industry.
The house industry is a beautiful one to be a part of, especially in South Africa. It’s filled with people who share a deep passion for what they do and genuinely wish for its growth. But the reality is that it’s still a gamble placing all your eggs in the house music basket.
Change is on the horizon. The local industry continues to grow at great speeds but it also remains far from being at its perceived level. For every major DJ out there, there are easily a hundred other DJ’s struggling to just get by and this includes some of the more popular acts you might know. We must never confuse popularity with financial success. A hit song on the radio doesn’t always equate to money in the bank for an artist.
All in all though optimism remains in this flourishing industry and as long as individuals strive to maintain their work ethic and couple it with entertainment industry knowledge, we can continue to grow as an industry. But for now bedroom studios, paltry performance fee’s and day jobs will remain the order of the day.
What do you think? Have your say in our comment section just below as well as on our Facebook page or tweet us @IDMmag with the hashtag #TalktoIDM