Musicians make digital leap to survive amid Covid-19

SA Jazz great Nduduzo Makhathini. Picture: Facebook

Like a scene from the movie ‘The Show Must Go On’, local musicians have found new ways to entertain people.

Despite the impact of Covid-19 having taken a heavy toll on local and international artists, due to social distancing, South African musicians who have not stopped releasing new albums are making a digital leap to survive during hard times.

With several high-profile live events – the lifeblood of many entertainers – cancelled across the world, music experts have seen artists using online platforms like YouTube as a positive development, which has taken the industry by storm, with some musicians turning to virtual concerts.

According to Tebogo Seema, head of artists and repertoire at Universal Music, musicians found Covid-19 and the lockdown “tough, because we were unprepared”.

“While I cannot quantify how much artists have lost due to the coronavirus outbreak, it should be several millions.

“Those affected include producers, songwriters, singers, session musicians, poets, freelancers, writers, authors, directors, event managers, club owners and promo teams.

“With family responsibilities, we have been drained mentally, physically, emotionally and financially,” said Seema.

Like a scene from the movie The Show Must Go On, local musicians have found new ways to entertain people.

Seema added: “Lately, there’s been a lot seen with many musicians releasing new albums on digital platforms, which has transformed most of our minds to another generation.

“There has been so much to see on creativity from home – a new era, which we have been forced to transform to, with music enthusiasts consuming new content, especially videos.

“We have used digital signal processing as a platform to distribute our music worldwide for a while, now using this to maximum impact.”

Describing the platform as “the new radio with reach”, Seema said: “It is about how an artist becomes a curator, building a new fan base. There are many ideas. TikTok and Thriller are also great.

“Artists need to do their research and understand that giving music out for free isn’t good for your income. YouTube is one platform that you can make money on. But we can’t do the same thing. It is important to think out of the box by creating great engagement – bringing out new ideas.”

To mark the 81st birthday anniversary of the late jazz maestro Hugh Masekela, Universal Music in South Africa this month launched Township Grooves – a compilation of his homegrown music, in a new album reflecting Masekela’s music between 1965 and 1974.

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