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Interview: Mzansi Music Magic’s Music Scheduler, Lesiba Marokana, Gets Technical About Radio

March 19, 2013
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“You must be a radio station/And who are we? We must be/A #1 song spinning all day long” – The chorus of Lupe Fiasco’s “State Run Radio”. This chorus becomes an introspective speech for artists that are trying to get their material on radio. In light of wanting to encourage SA musicians to ‘get it right’, CHEKA Digital had a chat with Lesiba Marokana, current Music Scheduler of Mzansi Music Magic and former YFM music compiler, about the ins-and-outs of SA radio.

Whichever frequency you listen to, the songs didn’t magically appear on the play-list. A team compiled the songs and some artists or label submitted the music. Artists are gunning to be part of the demographic and with radio hosting thousands of listeners, what better platform is there for artists to launch their careers? With that said, South African radio is a touchy subject.

There is constant bickering about the quality of the music that’s played versus the amount of SA music versus the quality of the SA music played. It has been argued by many SA artists that there should be a 60/40 ratio with regards to SA music getting the lion’s share. The question that beckons is, do we have enough music, let alone the quality, to reach that quota? Radio is a business and it thrives on its listeners thus, is the music industry reciprocating by releasing music often?

Play local or die? How about “Play quality local or go back to the drawing board”? A mouthful that will not fit in a Twitter hash tag but honesty is embedded within it. Lets hear what Lesiba Marokana had to say….

CHEKA DIGITAL: With your extensive experience in being a radio compiler, what are the common mistakes artists make when submitting music to radio stations?


- Artists not getting their music registered, the Presentation of their music (Submitting blank CDs with no Track Listing, artist info and Publishing)
- Submitting wrong songs for the target audience
- Songs not being mixed or mastered properly
- Giving up once a song is rejected
- Becoming complacent once a song gets play-listed, hence leading to a mediocre second song, when they submit their next material.

The industry believes the quota of local music on radio and TV is unfair to local musicians. What is the current quota and as part of the media what initiative do you have to promote SA music?

I can’t speak on behalf of other media houses, but with YFM its sitting on 65%, which is more than what ICASA has stipulated. They have initiatives such as the BOMB top 10 which plays strictly local music, they also have the Mzansi 100% feature; it plays music from an artist who has never been play-listed on the station before. I currently work with Mzansi Magic Music and the name says it all. We play 70% local videos. We want to play 100% but the content that is available out there is not enough to carry us through. These are of the few of the media houses that are trying to
push local music.

A lot of internationals are coming to SA on tours etc. The concerts are widely advertised on radio, TV, print and online. What is our industry doing wrong when it comes to promoting our own concerts e.g Macufe, Maftown Heights, just to name a few. Is it a promoter’s fault or is SA more inclined to show favour to international performers?

Remember that promoters are like salesmen, they will sell a product that masses believe in, and South African consumers don’t believe in their own artists. To a certain point I don’t blame them because we get mediocre performances from artists themselves, whereas the international counterparts invest in their craft. If the audience or public can convince the promoters that they want to see local acts, trust me there will be more local concerts. SA is more inclined to show favour to internationals because they don’t bump into them at a mall or club, so exclusivity becomes less. Lastly, the promoters themselves pay for TV and Radio airtime, it’s not the station pushing a particular act when they are coming to S.A.

Getting play-listed on radio is seen as a major achievement for artists. What are the benefits of it and is that the highest or only achievement an artist can get from radio?

The benefits would be an artist getting gigs from promoters and endorsements from major companies. Chances are that a major record label can get to sign them. People get to believe in the product every time they hear their song. Accumulating royalties and nominations for music awards are added benefits.

The play-list committee. What criteria do they have in choosing music to be played and who forms such a committee? Are they fans of the music they critique or are they music scholars?

Each media house differs with people they would have on their committee, but from my experience it’s usually open to everyone who works at the station e.g. Presenters: they are the ones that back announce these songs, so they will be excited when doing this, because they had a hand in the process. Managers: they have to see if the music chosen will represent the station in a way that it can be viable for investors (advertisers).

Is there a limit to how many times an artist can submit their music to a radio station?

No there is no limit, however when a song is not working you will need to bring yourself to a stop, bring a different song.

We had campaigns on twitter called #PlayLocalOrDie. Do you believe that the artists and fans message from those campaigns would have been successful if they had the backing of the industry people i.e. music compilers and DJs?

I believe that campaign is working, I mean you have YKTO DJs playing 80% local songs in their mixes so there is always support from
industry people.

What is hot in the street might not be hot for radio. How do compilers distinguish the difference?

Every station has its own music strategy, they will use what works for their listeners/ audience, and 9 times out of 10 compilers will play-list what the streets are calling for and we need to also be careful when saying streets, streets could be 20 people down your street.

Censoring. We have heard songs that the message might be construed as immoral or derailing but get radio play. At the same time expletives are cut out of certain songs. What is the radio’s stance to censoring of music played on its watch?

Once again stations differ in what could be said to be immoral, but what I can say is censoring is part of compliance when it comes to license conditions of every station. They can’t afford to play out uncensored stuff; they would risk a fine or getting their license revoked.


Compiled And Written By: Siphiwe Zwane (@SDotJR_)

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