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