On Reflections and Incorporating Change

The only thing that is constant is change. – Heraclitus

As humans, we often struggle with change and how to incorporate this change into our status quo. As someone who thrives on consistency, focus and clarity, change is always difficult to adjust to. At the same time, I feel I’m slowly figuring out how I best deal with change. It seems, whenever change is presented to me, I assimilate the change into myself, figure out the new path and proceed forward on said path, gradually letting my mind catch up to the new path.

This past week was a dramatic week for us in Cape Town. With the loss of a dear friend in George Bacon, as well as the closing down of Mercury Live (a popular live music venue), it seems somewhat difficult to truly know the best path forward in that sphere. A large reason for this post is to explore this change, work through some of the feelings I have around it and (hopefully) arrive at a rational conclusion. Continue reading

What bands and musicians can learn from software companies

“Release early, release often” is what they say in the software game, if you’re applying a LEAN approach. Having a product in the market, and receiving customer feedback, is better than having nothing out there for customers to see, test and give feedback on. “If you’re proud of your MVP, you’re doing it wrong” is another similar quote. This implies that your first version should be quick and dirty, focussing purely on the core concepts of what you’re aiming to achieve, without too many bells or whistles.

For many years, I’ve been involved in and passionate about the alternative music scene in South Africa. While there are a few bigger bands who have “made it”, as it were, there are many independent artists who organise their own events, record their own albums and do everything else themselves to try and make ends meet. These are the musicians who have to keep a day job to sustain their passion for music (ie: they don’t always choose to keep their day job) and have to make sacrifice after sacrifice to realise their dreams. The music industry in South Africa is a true labour of love.

There are, however, a few take-aways from the world of software development, which musicians can apply to their own business, for an almost guaranteed success (provided folks like the music the artist releases). Continue reading

A note to The Parlotones, as they jet off to America

The Parlotones

Earlier today, Rolling Stone South Africa published an article reporting that South African rock band, The Parlotones (or, as Gareth Cliff calls them, The Par-lot-ones), are moving to Los Angeles, California, in an attempt to reach further into the international music market. While I’m not a Parlotones fan, I am a big lover of South African music, and wanted to mull over a few thoughts, here, regarding this latest move by The Parlotones.

South Africa met The Parlotones several years ago. Instantly, the nation saw something in these gents (I’ll bet even your great auntie knows who they are). Since their inception, they’ve played at the FIFA 2010 World Cup, featured on television & radio… hang, they even had their own KFC-sponsored meal. To many South Africans, this is common knowledge and The Parlotones are a household name.

When looking at the South African music scene, there seems to be an inherent divide between the independents and the major labels. Many fans of ska, punk, metal and other, less-commercially friendly genres tend to “rebel”, if you will, against commercial artists, slating them for being “same-y” or “poppy”. While I’m certainly not a fan of The Parlotones (all their songs sound much the same to me), I feel it’s important to say a few things about and to the band, as they jet off to further their careers (as a band, and most likely as musicians in general, I’d imagine) in Los Angeles:

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Musicians know how to promote

When making observations, I make a point of looking at and learning from both positive and negative observations… taking the lessons and learning from them. I also quite enjoy relating one industry to another, taking a lesson or observation from a certain industry and applying it to another. Today’s topic is around promotion, pushing your brand and creating public awareness around what you’re trying to achieve. Much of this, I’ve observed and learned through the music industry.

In the music industry, there are many layers. The layer I’ll be focussing on here is that of the independent artists. The guys who run their own show and manage themselves and everything that goes along with being in a band or performing as a solo artist.

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South African bands and why they rock

I love South African music. There’s something unique about the South African music industry, the culture behind the bands and the unique dedication and passion with which musicians and industry folks go about things. I’ve been listening to some really excellent South African bands lately and the other way, while in the car, it occurred to me that the band I was listening to released the album almost 6 years ago. Despite having released subsequent albums and having grown astoundingly as a band, the album I had on still sounded amazing. This notion lead me to the topic of this blog post- bands I’ll most likely still be listening to in 10 years time and why.

A few months ago, I posed the question of “is it the bands or the musicians?“- this question repeats itself here. It is said that a song, when played in a particular context, can trigger memories and feelings from a point in your history. Below is a list of several South African bands, what they do and what they mean to me. These are just some of the bands that have fueled my love for South African music. If you haven’t heard of several of them, I recommend you try and check them out (well, those that are still around). Let’s kick things off, shall we? In no particular order… Continue reading

Does pop music have a “sell by” date?

Pop music, generally accepted as music that is geared towards being popular with a mass market, flows consistently like a running river. New artists arrive on the scene at a steady pace, and existing artists tend to slide to the other end of the conveyer belt into a “what are they up to since their career ‘ended’?” kind of section.

There are, however, artists that seem to stick around longer than the average.
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5+ (more) South African bands you may (or may not) have heard

Following on from my first list, I’ve continued by compiling a list of a few more awesome South African bands, past and present.

We have so many amazingly talented bands and musicians in South Africa, it’s not easy to keep this list short. Here are a few South African bands that I’ve enjoyed listening to.

Rambling Bones

This acoustic project, staring Jay Bones (front man of Jo’burg ska/punk legends, Fuzigish) and Kustom Kev on congas, percussion and glokenspiel, these layed back tunes are perfect for a fun evening out or a relaxed evening at home by the fire. Elements of Bones’ ska/punk roots are audible in several tracks.

Check out Rambling Bones at: http://www.ramblingbones.com

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It’s never too late to pick up a musical instrument

It really never is too late.

I’ve heard the following from so many people; “I can’t play guitar” or “I’m not musical enough” or “Piano just seems too… too difficult”. The above are all incorrect.

Playing a musical instrument, the way I see it, requires the 4 P’s: Patience, Persistance, Practice and Passion. These four elements should point one in the right direction for learning to play a musical instrument.  Let me explain.
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Is it the band or the musicians?

I got to thinking the other day about bands and musicians, particularly in the South African music industry. Locally, it’s quite common for musicians to play in more than one band, usually varying in genre. Over the last few years, I’ve found that with certain musicians, whatever band they perform in, I enjoy the music. Whether it’s the vocal, the songwriting or the playing style of the musician, there’s usually that “X-factor” somewhere.

This brings me to the question; “is it the band or the musicians?”

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