Digital world is taking over and it comes with challenges that cripple digital content producers. For now I’d like to focus on the music side, piracy and Internet of Things (IoT) (you might have to Google this one to get the meaning). 

South Africa is number 6 in the Africa’s top 7 Ecommerce ready countries with Senegal leading according to ITWeb article.

Yes it is not surprising at all… simply because we haven’t dealt with issues that suppress the growth of Ecommerce in our country.

Our music industry is facing problems because of digital shift, Cds are no longer a hot thing, we have to deal with it and move forward with the times. The said digital shift is so ruff and I surely bet it left many musicians without bread on their table. As humans we usually blame it on something else “piracy” “technology evolution” etc. Yes it’s totally fine to blame these things, as they are a contributing factor to breadless digital content producers. However we have ignored things that are bigger than what we see, simply because we are not united. We individually see a portion of what’s visible to us (a piece of a puzzle) but not the entire picture.

There are 3 things that need to be articulated here. These 3 things are major barriers and unfortunately if they are not dealt with, our musicians will continue to starve. These major barriers are: Connectivity, payment platform and trust.

Connectivity

We somehow know that connectivity in South Africa is way too expensive. Here I am going to focus on Internet connectivity simply because music consumers need to be connected to download a song (remember CDs are fading out and you and I can not reverse that). Connectivity is the backbone of Ecommerce in general and the same applies to music downloads, without cheaper connection consumers pay double and they somehow feel punished for buying content online. For instance: a consumer spends R10 to buy 80MB (size) high quality (wave) song and the final cost can come to R20 or even more in some instances where they loose connection or downloads fail.

Basically this drives people to search for free music because they feel they already spent a lot on connectivity. At some instances this can encourage them to pirate songs with or without intention. (Yes trust me some people think they are supporting artists by downloading their music through mobile apps that enable them to search and download any artist they are interested in)

Payment Platform

Well well well we still have a long way to go. Our payment processing platforms are not suitable for all citizen classes. This is due to lack of innovation, and financial institutions that push their business agendas and little has been done to close the gap in demographics. As of today, one needs a debit or credit card to buy a song online, this doesn’t sit well with music consumers who cannot afford to have these accounts with financial institutions due to various reasons. In essence we have no payment-processing platform that accommodates every South African music consumer, this will continue to have a negative impact on digital music downloads and musicians.

Trust

Many South Africans who have or qualify to have a credit or debit card still fear to use them online due to cyber crime. This reduces the number of music consumers significantly and yes I say it again, if its not addressed musicians will starve. We don’t see much initiatives from Government to promote culture of online shopping (except with the eTolls….bastards!!!), even though we do have state controlled power media houses, our government has done little to support and educate people about digital world.

Solution

As South Africans we need to find a solution that’s going to work for us. We need innovative thinkers, financial institutions that support developments the South African way and a government that cares about digital content producers. Most importantly musicians need to stand up to lead and shape developments that are brought by technology evolutions. Musicians cannot change times, piracy is part of the digital world and the least they can do is to counter act, react and being proactive.

Conclusion

It’s a norm for most musicians to rely on gigs (performances) to put food on the table, however if you can process what I’ve highlighted here you’ll get to the point of understanding that not all musicians are supposed to be confined to believe that gigs (performances) are the only viable income stream. With the number of music consumers on the internet you can hit 1 million downloads easily (provided the major barriers have been shifted) and many can live of their digital content sales (yes by simply selling music online).

Author: Mlungisi “Nkokhi” Mlangeni 

Nkokhi is a South African based music producer, remixer and DJ. He’s also an IT Systems Manager for a Johannesburg based Information Technology, Security and Business Processes company. 

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