Column: Want a Band to Tour South Africa? Buy an Album!

I must admit that I enjoy reading all the bitching and moaning about Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber’s impending arrivals in South Africa. The trolling and irrational hatred always makes for riveting reading and lots of LOLs. Even so, there is a certain type of comment that always makes my blood boil. You know, the “Bring [insert rock/metal band name here] to South Africa instead” remark.

Want to know the reason why Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga tour South Africa and your favourite band doesn’t? Because Bieber and Gaga fans actually buy their albums.

There, I said it.

Despite what you might think, your favourite band doesn’t know what’s going on in South Africa. They don’t know that you have their ringtone or screen wallpaper. The only way they can measure and track their success in a specific region is via sales.

Social media can provide them with stats of their fans, but it doesn’t provide them with the accurate stats of their customers.

What’s the difference between the two? Let me explain.

Anyone and everyone can ‘like’ a page on Facebook or follow an account on Twitter. Hell, anyone can download an album for free, or copy it from a friend (I know people with entire discographies, who haven’t bought a single song). However, before a band makes a decision to invest in touring halfway across the world (because it will still cost them money. Travelling isn’t cheap and, geographically, we are isolated from other hot “tour zones”), they need to see how many people in that region actually buy their product(s) i.e. their customers. In other words, are they coming to South Africa to play to a half empty club and make no money, or will they have enough fans at the show to make it worthwhile? There are tons of factors to consider when putting together a tour – if the simple ones aren’t clear enough, it will automatically be deemed a waste of time.

I’ll give you an example. In 2008, local organisers wanted to bring out metal legends Megadeth to our shores. When they did their research, they discovered that Megadeth’s United Abominations (their most recent album at the time) had only sold approximately 800 copies, in the country, throughout the year. Now, judging by that figure, it looks like Megadeth only have 800 customers in South Africa. Nonetheless, I can assure you that there are more than 800 Megadeth fans in SA (and a whole lot more who have United Abominations on their computers), and the heavy metal band would probably fill any arena in the country. But there’s the problem: “probably” doesn’t cut it. When you look at regions where they’re selling 60, 000 copies in a week, the band will undoubtedly choose those places over here. It’s common business sense – and no management company (or organiser, for that matter) would make such a risky decision unless they had money to play with.

“They should come here for their fans – and not the money. They’re rich, anyway.” Of course, the global recession didn’t affect the music industry, nor the fact that you steal music consistently and feel entitled to free entertainment, asshole. I’m not going to debate piracy in this article, but this is a consequential effect of it. Sales figures play a big role in whether you’ll see bands out here or not. Don’t like it? Then, go watch a band overseas or pay them to play at your house. Unquestionably, as piracy gets worse and worse, the decision to come out here will depend more on guarantees and other figures – but it still won’t make the process quicker or easier. Remember, no-one wants to lose money or put themselves in financial turbulence – whether it’s you, the band or promoters. Even with commercially successful bands, the way to make them come here quicker is to show them there is a market here. It’s called an industry for a reason.

Let’s be realistic here. Commercial artists will always get played on radio and TV. They’ll always be mass distributed and receive tons of publicity – this is just the way it has always been and will continue to be. Therefore, they will always sell more albums and be more attractive for concert promoters, who want to make cash without much fuss. However, if rock/metal fans make more of an effort to get behind their favourite artists, they increase the chances of them coming out here. If the CD store doesn’t stock the album, order it. If the radio station doesn’t play the band, request them. If you hit a break wall, you break it down and make a plan. Instead of being passive and just whining about the scene, stand up and make a difference. The internet, for example, has given us a platform to order things, which normally weren’t available anywhere in SA, from online stores.

(Oh, and if you think we aren’t a rock market, then explain why Rammstein, Coldplay, U2 and 30 Seconds to Mars were sold-out events?)

Basically, what I’m saying is that we can continue to complain and do nothing, which will result in nothing, or we can get behind the artists and show them that SA rocks. If we do the latter, and they still don’t come out here – then, we’re allowed to call them names and hurl abuse. But how about giving them a chance, at the very least?

- Sergio Pereira

Written by Sergio Pereira

  • Samantha Slabbert

    I think this article speaks more sense than I’ve read in a long time. Thank you for the wake up call!

  • Andrew

    Great read so many good points covered. Won’t stop the moaning I imagine but it will hopefully give the fans more food for thought.

  • Wayne Boucher

    Great article!

  • bryanopines

    BRILLIANT article! Nice one Sergio!

  • brenda Rayne

    Amen to that! Great article

  • Lav

    Well said!

  • Brendyn

    Really loved this piece, I agree with you about buying the artists music but my issue lies in the following.
    I went to LOOK for an August Burns Red album at one of my local CD stores. An album advertised online as being $12.91 for the Deluxe Edition on Amazon. Not having a credit card or an ability to buy PayPal credits I decided to say a pray and walk into a CD store. It was priced at over R300 for the album!
    I immediately put the album down and made a mental note to just go home and listen to the album on youtube. The crux of the matter is that a JB album costs a third of the price of any band that I’m into. I’m sure this is true across the board when it comes to underground music. I just feel that doing the right thing is met by a greedy corporate trying to take advantage of you.
    Just my two cents.

  • DW

    Brendyn- DON’T support Cunts like Look&Listen & Musica- Go to & you will get any import album for under R200. You will have to wait a little bit longer- but worth the wait. Cheers Mochacho’s

  • Art

    I will tell you what I cannot stand.
    Online fukken petitions to bring a band to South Africa. It is the laziest way to support and is also a tool for assholes to show how cool they are by clicking that damn Like button. Another is arguements with idiots on why downloading albums off pirate bay and such is wrong and that they do not make their money from tours as you would believe. I am not painting myself with ‘immune dust’, I have also downloaded music ‘illegally’ as I am sure all of you who have commented have. But I at least buy when I have the money to replace what I downloaded. It is not the model to follow, but it is what i do. Some bands I don’t download untill I get the physical album. I never download copies of SA bands. Mostly, I cannot stand how the internet has given everyone a voice. Some deserve it, such as Sergio here, others do not (the trolls and people who think music should be free). The unfortunate thing is, this act will not stop. Trying to convince an idiot is like convincing a cat that he is actually as cool as the hipsters make them out to be. There are just way too many ‘in the way people’ in the world.

  • Wade

    Great article and true point to Sergio. However, Brendyn’s point is just as valid. In my case, majority of the artists I want to buy is R200 and much higher. I honestly cannot afford that because there are too many good albums releasing at once, as much as I’d love to support my bands. And I do support them. But I have a monetary limit. Music is just too expensive and that is a huge reason for piracy. Working at Musica has taught me these things, as I learn from customers.

  • Brendyn

    DW you are a legend! Thank you for pointing me in the right direction!

  • Wade

    The other thing is that there are many of us who do our utmost best to support bands by buying their music, etc. And we are the ones who feel like crap because we deserve the opportunity to see these bands while every other asshole that downloads everything not thinking of the consequence causes these groups not to come here.

  • Sergio Pereira

    With regards to the pricing of albums, I won’t disagree that we’re often ripped off by import costs, absurd profit margins, etc. However, it’s also about shopping around and looking for bargains. The special edition of ABR’s Leveler was R129.99 at CUM Books (cheaper than a JB album anywhere) about a month ago, for example.

    Secondly, some labels have slashed album prices. I’ve noticed that albums from Roadrunner Records, for example, have dropped in prices, locally. In 2007, I paid R219.99 for Machine Head’s The Blackening. Last year, I paid R169.99 for Unto the Locust.

    Money is tight for all, and we obviously don’t know what each other’s financial standings are – but think about it this way: what did we do before piracy? We saved up and bought the albums we really wanted. Perhaps music has become far too disposable – but that’s an issue for another column. Thanks for all the feedback and comments :)

  • Gareth

    Great article, Sergio. I don’t think enough people understand how costly it is for a band to tour and too many people are still under the impression that every rock band out there are millionaires snorting up coke through their hundred dollar bills. The days of labels handing out blank cheques to bands are over. Most bands out there, particularly in our own country, struggle with daily expenses as much as everyone else.

    I think another problem that makes piracy such an easy option for obtaining new music is the sheer lack of availability in music stores and the lack of decent online shops at competitive prices. Most stores only stock music from the larger record labels (Warner, Universal, Sony etc.) and don’t really have stock of smaller ones (Hopeless, Epitaph, Fueled By Ramen, etc.)

  • Wade

    @ Gareth: The buyers for music stores are too afraid to buy music that isn’t popular. A problem in my store is that we have really poor availability, especially when it comes to rock/metal artists, as well as reggae and world music, while we are overstocked with nonsense.My argument is this: employ the right people to sell the product. Just recently, I recommended 5 albums each to 2 different customers, and they both bought all 5. Artists they didn’t know. Slightly off the point, but a solution nonetheless.

  • Gareth

    @ Wade: You make a good point regarding employing the right people for the job. Too many times have I asked about specific albums where I can give them the artist, title, label, release year and even a description of what the album cover looks like, and all I’ve received is a blank stare with “it’s not on our system”. It would be great if stores could put in a bit more of an effort to acquire stock of albums that their customers are requesting and willing to buy.

  • JP Swartskaap

    Great article from writer to writer.
    I agree supporting bands by buying albums, before we copied tunes we recorded them onto tape. The best reference to what has happened in the world of record sales that I can think of is virgin records. A smart man like Richard Branson opted out of the industry knowing its not going to make it. CD sales are dead. The smarter musos know that. Pennywise brought out a album for free download on myspace and had sponsors making sure they still make some cash. People like Gaga and JB know the real money is in playing live and play about 300 shows a year. In the past cd sales where a great way to see how much interest there is for a artist in a country but now you have webcounters that can count from what country the most traffic come. (unless your with netdynamix.)

    I got to see Mad Caddies in 2006 in cape town, and I’m sure they don’t really have any cd sales in SA. Venues got packed in CT and Jozi. To me social media has a big role to play now in deciding who comes here. If there is a big enough hype online the company’s with the cash to bring over the big names will try their best. You think its biebers worry over if people come to the stadium show he is playing? NO the kids getting cash from say big concerts. The publicity, ticket sales, merch, everything got to get planned by the promoter so they make profit on bringing the artist over.

    We don’t make enough noise as the underground for the big guys to hear.

  • Wade

    Agreed, Gareth. That is why I offer the best possible customer service that I can. Problem is, sometimes certain stores like Musica are limited to what they can order. Which REALLY sucks. Therefore I always recommend other alternatives to the uninformed, and people are so appreciative. One customer was so happy with my service, she said she wanted to marry me! HAHA. If only everyone went the extra mile to help customers support their fave artists.

  • Sergio Pereira

    @JP: Excellent comments and points. With regards to CD sales being dead, in South Africe, the big retailers are still going. Overseas, many retail outlets have shut their doors because of declining sales, but, locally, there is still a market (even if it is dying, albeit a little slower).

    I like the point you made about the Mad Caddies, and it’s a perfect example of an organiser taking a risk on a band and bringing them out. These are the sorts of tours that we need. However, the bigger promoters will always look for the bigger names. Big name = big pull = more cash. Simple economics.

    Social media is excellent, but let’s be realistic here. Those figures don’t always show the true story. Look at it locally: Pestroy has only 2,500 odd fans on Facebook, yet consistently pack shows and secure huge gigs. But, some other band can rack up over 10K fans and play bar shows strictly.

    Any business model bases their decision on sales – for a musician, this means merch sales, ticket sales, CD sales. Making a noise is always encouraged, but unless we’re actually spending money (or showing them there is money here), they won’t take huge financial risks.

  • JP Swartskaap

    Great point @sergio. I think we can have this discussion for days.
    Always good to read a article that I feel the same about

  • Wade

    Another reason why CD sales in general are poor is because of lack of exposure i.e. advertising through TV and radio. If there is no medium through which good bands can be advertised well in this country, how do they expect us to buy their music? There are so many things that can be done that will inevitably increase CD sales. This is the ironic part – it is through piracy that bands are actually getting exposed. People download things and show it to their friends. Something to think about

  • Nilton

    everything that was commented is so true. that is the reason i started a children of bodom site. the band and there agents are aware of my site as that is ware i got the idea to start the Children of bodom South african hate crew site. it serves the purpose of seeing what support they have in our country. (they cant see what true support is here threw sales because of piracy) but can see what support is they have threw facebook.
    yes when i started the site i could have taken my entire friends list of 500 strong and added them to boost members but that would result in a unreal stastistic. so all my personal friends that i added were hand picked threw music taste. +- 50 people and within 1 week i have 90 people who have joined. the new people that have joined i also check there music taste. if its not rock/metal i decline there request. trying to keep it real. check out the site if you like.

  • Nilton

    also to add i purchase all my cds directly from nuclear blast records and pay between 100 and 200 a cd. much cheaper than our local stores. i proberly have about 10 pirated cds in my collection but they are from when i was younger and was not working. and most have been replaced with the origenal now.