The South African Broadcast Commission has just dropped massive news. It has retuned the music selection policies on all 18 of its radio stations. From tomorrow, all public broadcasting stations will be required to play 90% local music. 

“The SABC has taken a radical decision about its local content offering across all its radio, television and digital platforms,” said Chief Operations Officer of the SABC, Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

Radical indeed. Up until now, radio stations in South Africa were under the obligation to play just 35% local music.


The radio stations affected by the SABC’s new “90% Local” policy

In the past five years, over R500 million rand’s worth of royalties have left the country in order to pay international artists.This is money that could have been reinvested to aid the starving musical economy of South Africa. Earlier this year, South African jazz giant, Don Laka, spoke out on social media against the lack of support for homegrown talent. He claimed that this crisis had caused the local industry to lose over 15’000 jobs.

“Sometimes when you invade a country, you don’t need guns you just need Lil Wayne. Send him with (American rappers) Birdman and Drake and you can change a country completely, mentally…those artists look richer than us, they look better than us and get more airplay than us…we simply lack patriotism.” says SA kwaito legend, Zola.

The concept of quotas are common in the music industry. Little over a month ago the BBC announced its plans to better support British songwriters and musicians by introducing new playlist policies for its premiere stations BBC Radio 1 and Radio 2. These stations have a combined weekly listenership of over 25 millionCanada’s national public radio stations have a have a quota of 50% Canadian music. Australia’s national youth station runs a program called Triple J Unearthed – a platform dedicated to offering up-and-coming Australian artists an exclusive opportunity to gain radio play.

Drastic change is a scary thing, but it is also exciting. For the first time in years, South African artists now have the chance to show the people of South Africa what they’ve got. But for the listeners it is a little uncertain. Let’s be honest: for the most part, we’re just a bunch of millennials that surf the net and listen to the latest mix on 8Tracks, YouTube etc. We don’t really know what local music is out there, or what the quality is like. Radio is what we listen to when our iPod battery dies, our aux cable has disintegrated, and we’re sitting in horrendous traffic on the M3.

Let me break down what the 90% news really means for both you, and for the musicians in this country:

What does 90% local actually mean for the listeners?

A resurgence of older South African bangers – While South African artists get to work on creating new content, it is very likely that local radio stations will start to bring out older catalogue to fill the quotas temporarily. I’m not referring to the sokkie-treffers from the 60’s. Many recent releases (the last 3 years or so), that were sidelined in favour of Nicki Minaj or Nickleback will start to get the attention that they deserve. Don’t worry, you’ve probably never even heard of them before, so they will sound brand new.

Local replacements – Drake and Kanye will be replaced by Cassper Nyovest and Okmalumkoolkat. Beyoncé replaced by Lira. Arctic Monkeys replaced by the likes of Kongos and BLK JKS. When you hear the quality of what some of these artists are producing, you will be gobsmacked. You might just find out that your new favourite band live right across the road from you.

What does 90% local actually mean for the artists?

Meaningful exposure to a wide audience – We live in a country that is still scarred by the legacy of apartheid. Our communities are still largely segregated, and it is incredibly difficult to get the necessary exposure to build a career. With greater support from radio, our musicians will now be able to reach more people, build sizeable fan bases and sell more records.

Royalties from radio play – For hundreds of local artists, the royalties received from radio play would allow them to quit their day job and focus on music full time. In a study done by the Future of Music Coalition, it is shown that performance royalties (the money that gets paid to the composer when their songs are played on radio) is the one of the biggest income streams for professional musicians.

Fulfilment – For an artist, it is extremely inspiring to hear your music being broadcasted on your country’s airwaves. Radio play is now an achievable dream for many South African musicians.

I urge all South Africans to tune in to their public broadcaster of choice tomorrow morning. Listen up, and show your musicians the same amount of support that you show the Springboks.

If you enjoyed this article, read more about how we can uplift the local music industry here.

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One thought on “Tune Up: 90% Local Music Now on Radio

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