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Economic and Music Industry’ Relationship in South Africa Essay


This research paper aims to analyze those factors that influence economic development of music in South Africa. First, it should be pointed out that music industry includes a great number of stakeholders, in particular: 1) the composers and musicians; 2) the agents, representing the musicians; 3) record companies; 4) advertisers, promoting the product; 5) sales outlets (DACST, 1998, p 9; Krasilovsky et al, 2007). Overall, one can single out several forces shape financial performance of music industry, namely, 1) the demand for the product and its popularity nationwide and abroad; 2) lack of investment; 3) the availability of the product; 4) governmental policies to piracy or any other violation of copyright; 4) cultural situation in the country. On the basis of this discussion, we will be able to map out growth strategies.

The forces, affecting the economic performance of South African music industry

The demand for the product

The performance of any industry strongly depends on the demand for its product and in this case, we can speak about the demand for South African Music that can be viewed both as art and as a certain intellectual product. One of the main challenges, faced by the representatives of this industry is the low level of awareness about local composers and performers (DACST, 1998, p 74). The thing is a great number of people do not know that there are talented and skillful performers who can really produce a genuine breakthrough in quality. Consequently, record companies cannot effectively sell CDs or DVDs.

However, the most disturbing trend is that many talented song-writers, composers, and musicians often withdraw from the industry and choose a different way of earning one’s way. When speaking about low demand for South African music, one should remember that local performers are sometimes underrepresented by radio stations. Some of South African performers even believe that they should be given broadcasting quotas (Meintjes 2003, p 3).

This example shows that awareness and demand are closely connected with one another. More importantly, it indicates that poor financial performance of music industry can be explained not only by the ongoing economic crisis in the country. Certainly, over the last years, the revenues of South African people have declined, and unemployment rates are still very high (OECD, 2010, p 8). The purchasing power of people has weakened, but this is not the only reason why national music industry underperforms.

The origins of low demand should probably be sought in the ineffective marketing strategies. To elaborate this argument, we need to say that the demand for any product is not an independent variable. It can be created by advertising the works of local musicians on television and Internet, by broadcasting their songs and musical pieces on the radio, by organizing festivals for them and so forth. Without this effort domestic musicians are not likely to succeed.

Lack of investment and promotion

One of the most difficult obstacles that South African musician have to overcome is lack of investment and inability to promote their songs (DACST, 1998). It should be borne in mind that in order to become successful, any artist must have financial resources to make a high-quality recording of his/her song, to buy musical instruments and equipment, to advertise concerts, and so forth. Each of these activities is very costly.

It should be taken into consideration that sometimes domestic composers and performers do not know where and how to search for funding. In addition to that, private businesses are reluctant to invest money in music industry due piracy and numerous breaches of copyright (DACST, 1998, p 73). The thing is that these legal activities significantly diminish the returns on investment. One should not forget that rapid development of informational technologies, especially Internet, has significantly decreased the revenues of recording companies and performers.

Therefore, music industry has become less attractive to the investors, and such situation can be observed not only in South Africa, but throughout the world (Sparrow, 2006). Thus, to a great extent, listless performance of South African music industry can be ascribed to technological progress. Of course, we cannot argue that only South African performers have to encounter such problems; such situation can be observed worldwide but the problems of South African musicians seem to be much more aggravated because the government does not make its best to stop piracy1.

The policies of the government and copyright

The governmental policies also produce a very strong effect on the performance of musical industry. In this case, we need to speak about those measures that they undertake in effort to prevent the infringement of copyright. It should be mention that intellectual piracy is one of the main reasons why music industry does not attract much from the investors (DACST, 1998, p 73).

According to Marisella Ouma, the musical industry in Africa is totally unprotected from piracy, and consequently the majority of African recording companies and retail stores do not perform as successfully as they can (2005, p 919). The most disturbing thing is that even at this point the government of South Africa has yet to work out strategies of preventing this illegal behavior. Naturally, one cannot say that copyright infringement is condoned by the state, but the government does make sufficient effort to stop those websites that sell music without the permission of the author and the recording companies.

The problem is that that there is no separate governmental agency that would track down the unscrupulous activities of those individuals, who sell musical albums of local musicians on the web. Besides, we need to speak about such social phenomenon as peer-to-peer downloading: the users can easily share musical files with one another, and as a result, the performers are not given any remuneration. Unfortunately, there are no legal means of putting an end to this illegal practice. On the whole, this lack of governmental regulations is one of the largest barriers which hinders the development of music industry in South Africa.

Availability of the product

The fourth powerful factor that affects music industry is the availability or accessibility of the product. In other words, one should determine whether a person, who may be interested in purchasing a CD, can actually buy this CD. As a rule, such products are marketed through the following channels: shopping centers, supermarkets, specialized musical stores, web-based shops and so forth (DACST, 1998, p 69).

The key challenge is that South African customers do not an opportunity to purchase CDs or DVDs because they cannot find them in neither of these sales outlets. In part, the underlying cause of this problem is the lack of infrastructure in the country and stagnation of the economy (OECD, 2010). Nonetheless, one should not assume absence of distribution network is the only reason why local musicians cannot become financially successful.

The thing is that that the management of many supermarkets or shopping centers believes that their compositions and clips will not enjoy demand. Still, it is quite possible that such a perspective is based on pure stereotype that emerged after long years of apartheid2. Apart from that, local performers do not have a chance of showcasing their talent. It has to be acknowledged that that there are several musical festivals, such as the Oppikoppi Festival (DACST, 1998, p 40). Yet, they are not sufficient for the needs of local performers. This is why many of them claim that broadcasting quotas should be set for them (Meintjes 2003).

Cultural situation in the country

While discussing the economic growth of South African music industry, we cannot overlook such an important factor as cultural segmentation of the country and the impacts of apartheid. It should be remembered that apartheid included not only physical segregation of people, but also a cultural boycott which means that many black musicians could not effectively promote their songs and musical pieces (Muller, 2008, p 100). More importantly, their musical style was labeled as something as something primitive and uncultivated (Muller, 2008).

This argument is particularly relevant if we are referring to Zulu musicians who believe that they are very underrepresented by the mass media (Meintjes 2003). Another harmful impact of apartheid was that many talented musicians left the country (DACST, 1998, p 20). The point is that the effects of apartheid are still palpable, and many musicians are still suffering from them, particular when they try to record and promote their CDs and DVDs.

Discussion of the key findings

This analysis indicates that at the present moment, music industry of South Africa cannot achieve sustainable economic growth due to the following reasons:

  1. lack of public awareness about South African music;
  2. unwillingness of private businesses to invest money into this particular sphere;
  3. lack of governmental control over the violations of copyright law;
  4. inability of the performers to showcase their talent.

Of course, one can maintain that their underachievement is due to general economic downturn and low purchasing power of South African population. However, such interpretation completely disregards the fact the music industry of this country has yet to develop effective marketing strategies, and that the government does not make sufficient effort to promote the local musicians. Furthermore, it completely overlooks organizational drawback of the music industry in the country.

As it has been mentioned before, there are very few festivals, where talented performers can showcase their creativity and skill. Thus, they remain unknown to the general public. Finally, we need to say that those forces that shape the economic development of music industry should not be viewed separately. More likely, they represent a certain chain in which elements are closely tied to one another. Overall, this findings of this research can prove helpful to those people who set to work out growth strategies of music industry in South Africa.

Reference List

Clark. D. (2008) South Africa the Culture. Crabtree Publishing Company.

Department of Arts, Culture, Science, and Technology. (1998). The South African.

Music Industry. DACST. 2010. Web.

Krasilovsky , M. Shemel S. Gross J. & Feinstein J. (2007) This business of music: the definitive guide to the music industry. NY: Billboard.

Lehman. V. (2010) Copyright in the Music Industry. Grin Verlag.

Meintjes. L. (2003) Sound of Africa!: making music Zulu in a South African studio. Duke University Press.

Muller. A. C. (2008). Focus: music of South Africa. NY: Taylor & Francis.

Ouma. M. (2005). Copyright and the Music Industry in Africa. The Journal of World Intellectual Property. 7 (6)., pp 919-932.

Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development. (2010). OECD Economic Surveys: South Africa 2010. London: OECD Publishing.

Sparrow. A. (2006). Music distribution and the Internet: a legal guide for the music business. New Jersey: Gower Publishing, Ltd.


  1. This question will be further discussed in the next section of the paper.
  2. The impact of cultural segregation on musical industry will be discussed in the section
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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Economic and Music Industry' Relationship in South Africa'. 26 June.

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