/ 18 January 2008

SA’s slim pickings

While a number of record labels overseas have realised that the best way to introduce music fans to their artists’ music is to let them sample it for free, the same cannot be said for South Africa.

Although overseas music blogs have become taste makers and are supplied with free tracks to upload and blog about, local music blogs receive threats of legal action as soon as they dare to try to upload free MP3s.

It is for this reason that you can count the number of decent music blogs in South Africa on one hand — and the ones that give away free music are pretty much nonexistent.

One exception is Load the Show which uses advertising revenue to pay artists for their music, while allowing them to be downloaded for free. Another website worth a mention is Rhythm Online, one of the leading retailers for South African MP3s and the digital retail arm of Rhythm Records.

Load the Show
The brainchild of Daryn Smith and Galen Hossack, Load the Show launched in February last year. Online advertising is sold for the site on a daily basis and then, depending on the amount of advertising sold, a cap is set for the number of free downloads available per day. Local artists can register and load their music for download and they are paid out of the advertising revenue for the day.

For every R3 that is raised per song the artists are paid R2. The most popular artists are Johhny Neon, The Dirty Skirts, Dam Right, The Beams, 7th Son and Hog Hoggidy Hog, but fans will also find music by the likes of The Diesel Whores, Fuzigish, greenisforturbo, NUL and Mtkidu.

Smith says a number of local hip-hop and kwaito labels recently signed up their artists and this area of downloads is growing rapidly.

Rhythm Online
In August 2006 Rhythm Records boss Albert du Plessis decided to launch an online digital music retailer to sell his artists’ music. Rhythm Online now retails a wide variety of local and international music at a reasonably priced R7 per song.

Du Plessis says Rhythm Online has about 9 000 songs available, most of which are by South African artists. The bestsellers are big name Afrikaans artists such as Karen Zoid, Bok van Blerk, Robbie Wessels, Kurt Darren and Chris Chameleon. However, the new generation of alternative Afrikaans rockers — such as Fokofpolisiekar, Van Coke Kartel, Foto Na Dans, Kobus! and A King — are also popular.

Du Plessis says Rhythm Online is a great way for South African artists to distribute and promote their music. He says the online portal is flooded with requests by local artists trying to get their music uploaded for sale.

Another interesting development is that Rhythm Online is uploading older material by veteran musicians such as David Kramer and Anton Goosen, albums that previously were available only on vinyl. ‘That’s the great thing about Rhythm Online. Many of those albums were never issued on CD, so now new generations can listen to them,” says Du Plessis.