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Digital Futures Two – Taking Music Online in South Africa



In 2020, Concerts SA (CSA), with the support of the Royal Norwegian Embassy and in association with SAMRO, IKS Cultural Consulting and the Music in Africa Foundation as an online partner, commissioned a snapshot survey on the music streaming models being adopted by South African artists and other industry players. The aim was to understand not only business models but also experience of and knowledge and attitudes to streaming in the SA music ecosystem, at a time when the “pivot to digital” was being widely touted as one potentially useful response to the devastation of the live music scene wreaked by the Covid-19 pandemic and its accompanying restrictions. The original research Digital Futures? Live Streaming in South Africa, offered what Rosin called a ‘trapdoor to escape the lockdown, and ushered in the Concerts SA Digital Mobility Fund (DMF)’. In 2020 COVID all but destroyed the live-music sector. Music professionals started to give up, selling their equipment and looking for alternative ways to earn revenue. ‘Concerts SA (CSA) could not, and would not, abandon its mission to encourage live music in southern Africa and, like so many projects, investigated hybrid models for its programmes.’ Said Mark Rosin, CEO of SAMRO, a partner organisation of the CSA project.

With the support of the Norwegian Embassy, the National Arts Council and SAMRO supporter musicians and those who were part of the live music value chain benefitted from the DMF’s of which the fifth is now taking place.

After two years of lockdowns Concerts SA has grown the research and created a second report – Digital Futures Two: Taking South African Music Online. It seems that streaming isn’t the greener grass everyone thought it was. In truth, the report finds that ‘the Fourth Industrial Revolution remains a distant dream for many South African music professionals.’

Amongst the findings reported in Digital Futures Two: Taking South African Music Online are:

  • Many in SA music were fast followers into the streaming world even before Covid
  • They make skilled use of analytics to track audiences
  • Their streaming is motivated by a strong sense of social mission and purpose
  • They’re not all amateurs who just need to “stream better”
  • They carry most of the risks of streaming, but benefit minimally, if at all
  • Streaming is at best a tiny supplement to earnings, and at worst – because of platform fees – a drain on them
  • Without sponsorship, streaming would be unaffordable for many
  • South Africans aren’t alone: recent international research confirms that even in countries with strong digital infrastructure, streaming barely helps music workers
  • In South Africa, a huge digital divide makes things worse, and proposed new copyright laws don’t begin to address the issues

Andre Le Roux, project manager of Concerts SA said ‘Digital Futures Two: taking South African music Online  (2022) is a broader, deeper study, incorporating theory, unique data on the South African streaming experience, and the real voices of artists and others who contribute to making music. Its practical focus is on revenue streams, who pays whom, who carries the risks and who is best equipped to grab the opportunities, as well as the role of the state in dealing with both music role-players at home and dominant multinational streaming platforms.’



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© Concerts SA. Concerts SA is supported by the Norwegian Embassy between 2013 and 2023, SAMRO and is administered by IKS Cultural Consulting