Finding your favourite artist is a simple ‘Google’ search away, or is it?
We saw the first iTunes Music Store open in South Africa on December 4th 2012 and it was around that same time that Idols winner Khaya Mthethwa topped the charts. For a music industry that is a little over two decades old, it is remarkable how the Internet has become a platform for artists to showcase their work and reach out to a global spectrum.
Artists have multiple avenues where they can sell music, interact with fans, get reviews and most importantly get their shine in the limelight, yet with a resource like the Internet that create the biggest platform for an artist, a low number of sales still plague the music industry.
Hip-hop is still clawing it’s way into relevance amidst the hierarchy of big sellers in South Africa like Gospel music, and on a ratio – there’s at least five hip-hop acts to one gospel act that can be found online. That said, what are our rappers doing online if it doesn’t translate to sales or endorsements? On the daily, your favourite rapper’s music video can be seen on television channels that spread across Africa and the rest of the world, yet digital sales remain minimal. Instead we have overseas acts topping the sales charts in our country’s version of the iTunes Music Store.
Another issue is the availability of music, or the lack of local selection, that can be found in the SA iTunes’ store archives. They have a clear guideline on the submission of music to be put up for sale on the site. It’s no surprise that with SA artists and their unclear release dates, we can’t put the blame on the Internet but rather the artists’ complacency on getting their music out.
On the flip side, applause is deserved to the artists that have put the Internet to good use. Some of these artists are known beyond their country’s borders and have a loyal fan base all over the Internet. Black Vulcanite, originally from Namibia, have caused a stir all over the country with their music and are largely found on the web more than your record bars. The trio’s “Remember The Future” has brought them thousands of adoring fans without being at shops nor high rotation on music video channels. Illiterate Skillz are an outfit from Cape Town with two mixtapes, once Head Honcho ambassadors and dozens of performances including a Cape Town International Jazz Fest, the duo of Uno July and Jimmy Flexx are best known outside the traditional channels of popularity.
This goes to show that artists need to be using other mediums of getting their work out and not just rely on the usual broadcasting and print mediums. The decline in album sales versus the rising in numbers for smartphones is a paradigm shift for artists to get into the market that will result in them seeing their relevance improve. This is also another opportunity for artists to reap revenue for their hard work. Funkmaster Flex recently released his mixtape via an app available for free on the iTunes and Google Play. Timbaland has a new app called Hang/w. There are multiple avenues on the web that artists can exploit in getting their music to the people, it’s just a matter of them taking the time out to research and weigh up their options.
Understandably the SA market is considered a growing player in the music world but having a specialised South African iTunes Store shows belief in our industry’s continuous growth. In order for artists to prosper online, they will need to be disciplined in their marketing campaigns. In fact, the NEED a marketing campaign of sort to begin with. They need to familiarise themselves with industry rules and regulations; each action is a lesson learnt and thus a stronger presence in the market. iTunes requires that for the album to be put on sale, it needs to be submitted to them ± 4 weeks prior to the release date. This means, you will need a release date and that onus is on the artists to be disciplined and stick to the promises made.
Instead of directing people to a link on your Twitter timeline- which can easily be reported as spam, have a central place where people can find whatever you wish to publicise; blogs are here for this purpose. Instead of random videos, have a channel on YouTube, Vimeo etc. With these alternatives, your brand may appear in a Google search thus meaning people know where to contact or and support you. The importance of maintaining your Internet presence cannot be stressed enough when people spend a large portion of their time online. All types of social media are great in consolidating an artist’s presence and can propel them to greater heights.
With this, we can only hope that you see the Internet as more than just a playground of fun and games and look further at how it may help you grow your own career. Use this medium to better your brand; it not only serves as a tool to market yourself but also as a source of income. Be great and prosper.
Written by : @SDotJR_