Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Week 9 (music success in 9 weeks)

Creating a continuum program


The final chapter in Music success in 9 weeks is a recap of previous weeks, and a look to the future.
The idea is to create a way to get fans to buy from you on a regular basis.

Some of the plans we want to put into action from next year:

  • Fanclub for kids, with free gifts when they join
  • Monthly newsletter
  • Freebies in every newsletter (MP3 downloads, videos etc)
  • Competitions
  • Merchandise for sale
  • Teacher’s packs for use in classrooms

And we’re hoping to bring out 2 more albums in the series in 2011.


These 9 weeks have flown by, and I have learned a lot. More than anything it highlighted the need for setting up systems, and routines. I have a ton of ideas to begin implementing in 2011, and we will be more structured and focused in our future marketing/P.R. campaigns.

I intend referring back to the book on a regular basis, and will post further updates on our progress in 2011

Thanks Ariel for giving us some great tools! And thanks to all the other blog contestants for offering great advice on the forums!


Graeme Sacks

Monday, December 13, 2010

Week 8 (music success in 9 weeks)

Networking tips

Going cheap! Only 1 owner!Week 8 is about networking IRL (in real life).

Best tip: (from the music success in 9 weeks book) “The more they talk, the more memorable you are”. People love to talk about themselves, so asking them questions about themselves & what they do makes you more memorable to them…
BUT: I’m not selling a dodgy used car to someone I hope never to see again. Networking is about building relationships. I truly believe in my music (I still find it difficult to call it my “product”). That said, when I’m at a conference/gig/event etc where there are networking opportunities I try to make real connections, and therefore ask people real questions about themselves that I am really interested to know the answers to.

Follow up: When I’m networking with people I ask if they would mind me contacting them, and when would be convenient time for them. This way I make sure that they are expecting my call.

Graeme Sacks

Friday, December 10, 2010

Week 7 (music success in 9 weeks)

Alphabet tree cover

How to build your mailing list

This weeks’ chapter goes hand in hand with week 6, which was about writing newsletters

Firstly, some of the previous ideas have already helped to grow our mailing list: Giving away free songs on our website and getting a blogs review our CDs and/or host CD giveaways. Our Facebook page has grown from by about 40 fans in the past two weeks!

I am slowly trying to mine my email inbox, CD Baby sales reports and Facebook page for prospective mailing list recipients. I’m planning to start sending out the first emails towards the beginning of next year. I feel that some planning is needed first, and am also brainstorming ideas for a kids fan club.

I love the idea of devoting a set time each week to growing the list. In fact my creative partner and I have realised the necessity of a weekly meeting to plan ahead, and to divide the marketing/P.R. and distribution work up accordingly.




Graeme Sacks

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Week 6 (music success in 9 weeks)

Connecting with fans via newsletters


As the weeks go by, I’m getting busier, and the tasks are becoming more difficult.

This weeks’ chapter is titled “Connecting with fans via your newsletter list & conducting surveys”.

Until now, I’ve only contacted fans on my mailing list to announce specials or new releases, once or twice a year (AKA “Spam”?). I now realise we have a long way to go. Firstly we need to build up a substantial “fan base”. As a direct result of ideas garnered from “Music success in 9 weeks” this is actually slowly happening via these blog posts, our Facebook page and the “freebies” on our website.

My creative partner and I have spent hours discussing this chapter and how to go about writing engaging newsletters that will be read by fans, and will be interest/value to them. Since there isn’t much of a live aspect to what we do we struggled to find ideas to write about, but eventually hit on something:

As a kid, in pre-Internet days (no comment on my age here!) fan clubs were the thing. You’d write in to an address on a cereal box/newspaper/magazine (and perhaps have to send a small fee) and receive a parcel in the mail a few weeks later. There would be stickers, badges, a colouring in book and various other odd-and-ends. But aside from the free gifts, you were now part of a special, members-only club. Then there would be the writing/drawing/colouring-in competitions to keep members engaged. Prizes were often a just a poster and a certificate with the winners name hand written neatly with a calligraphy pen.

So the kids fan club is one of the ideas we’ll be pursuing in the new year.

I also love the idea of creating surveys: I’d love to know more about how teachers use our songs in the classroom, which songs kids enjoy and which ones they don’t. There are many things we can learn from surveys that will help us with every aspect of our business plans.

We have some more brainstorming and planning to do regarding the ideas listed above, but look forward to implementing them in due course!



Graeme Sacks

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Week 5 (music success in 9 weeks)


A bit of everything

When I started Music success in 9 weeks, I was going through a quiet spell. My new album was completed, I didn’t have too many gigs and other than a few small studio projects, I figured it was the perfect time to tackle this blog challenge. Then things went crazy. The last two weeks brought on a whirlwind of rehearsals, gigs, sessions and an educational project for a school in Soweto. Which brings me to a point highlighted in a blog by a fellow challenger Meghan Morrison: I’m currently marketing “African Numbers”, an African-style, “world music” CD for kids. But that’s not all I do. I’m a freelance guitarist, a composer, jingle writer, music teacher, studio owner/engineer.

In her book “Music success in 9 weeks” Ariel Hyatt highlights the importance of having a consistent look and message across all platforms. I’m finding this rather difficult to do. The only consistent thing about my career is the fact that every aspect of it revolves around music.

Onto this week’s chapter….

A few of things in the book regarding blogging aren’t new to me as I’ve been blogging for a couple of years now. But something that stood out for me was the instruction to “Identify 50 blogs where you want to be reviewed.” I have had a few reviews on blogs (mainly through my connection with the bloggers via Twitter). BUT FIFTY!? That is a challenge. And I’m always up for a challenge. So I am going to start working towards this goal.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Week 4 (music success in 9 weeks)

Social Networking

African Numbers, inside CD sleeve

The task this week is to setup and learn how to “water your social media garden”

(In case you haven’t been following, here’s what this is all about: “Music success in 9 weeks”)


I’ve already been active on Twitter for around two years I’ve found it to be one of the most valuable tools for spreading the word about my music. I’ve made many connections with people, and the relationships are often symbiotic. This isn’t a platform to push products, rather it is a platform to connect with people. If people I follow are producing music/literature/art or any product that I think is valuable or interesting, I will share the info with my followers on twitter. Almost every review or article that has been published about our music has been through my twitter friends. Some examples: Portfolio Collection Harassed Mom Times Live



I started a Facebook group a couple of years ago, and made a rather unfortunate mistake in doing so: I invited, coaxed and cajoled all of my personal Facebook friends to join the group. I had a few hundred fans in days. Then I began to push the kids CD and promote live kids shows which we were doing at the time. I did this regularly for months. Then one day I bumped into a friend who mentioned that she had hidden all posts from my Facebook group. Turns out I was posting way too often, and the majority of people that I had enticed to join the group were not in the least bit interested in kids music! So I sent an email to the entire group announcing the closure of the group and apologising for the spam. I also announced a new fan page ( and requested that people only join if they are interested in kids music. So from a few hundred fans, I ended up with around 50 on the new page. Its growing a little every month and I’m planning a contest to get more fans. But the best thing is that those who joined the new fan page are there because they want to be there.



By the time I had got into social networking (around 2 years ago) MySpace was dying. I decided that Facebook & Twitter (and my website) were enough. MySpace has recently been revamped so I may reconsider.



We have a YouTube presence, but I guess I should try and update it a bit more regularly


Music Alley

I had never even heard of Music Alley before reading “Music success in 9 weeks”! It is a fantastic site for podcasters to source music for their podcasts. I have just signed up and uploaded some tracks. Too soon to tell if any of our music will be used, but watch this space….

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Week 3 (music success in 9 weeks)

Week 2 was about creating the perfect pitch…we’ve created a pitch. But is it perfect? It’s a work in progress!

Screen shot

This week is about optimising the website:

Some of the concepts suggested in “Music success in 9 Weeks

  • We’ve added our current pitch to the site.
  • It should load in less than 3.5seconds…however with our “broadband” speeds in South Africa, this is rather difficult to ascertain! I think it loads fairly quickly though.
  • I ditched the flash site months ago. It was slow, and not compatible with all browsers.
  • I’ve added free downloads – and as a result have already had new fans sign up to the mailing list!
  • I try to keep the home page current, by regularly adding news & reviews.


Side Note: African Numbers got the most fantastic review from “Portfolio Collection”!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Music Lessons–a new approach

My talented 9 year old "aspie" nephew is nuts about about music. He's been going to piano lessons for a few years, and has perfect pitch as well as great rhythm.

I had an idea to start giving him music lessons in my studio, and approached a friend of mine (an adult with Asperger's) for suggestions on how best to go about it. She gave me some valuable advice:

1. Remove clutter/distractions. Since this was not possible in my studio, which is littered with cables, guitars, sheet music, microphones etc. I turned the keyboard around so that my nephew would be facing a wall when we worked.

2. Don't busk. Have clear goals. I sat my nephew down and explained the process. I told him that the song would take weeks, possibly months to complete. Every week I reinforced this, explaining the day's activity & outcome, and how the lesson fitted into the long term goal of completing the song.


Here's how the first song was put together

I chose a song (“These boots are made for walking”) which I new would be fairly simple to record.

Every week we programmed a bit of the song in my studio. Starting with the kick drum, then adding snare, hi-hat and tambourine. Then the bass intro, followed by the rest of the bass line bar by bar.

I made sure my nephew played everything in himself. We did it over and over until he got it right. (I did quantise the tracks, but since he played them so many times until he got them right, they didn’t require much correction).

I taught him how to copy and paste, so bits that were repeated didn't have to be played in again.

The only part played by me was the guitar part. But he operated the computer when I played the guitar: He armed a track and pushed record and stop. Then I got him to cut the guitar part where I’d made a mistake so that I could drop in and fix it.

His homework every week was to listen to the CD and prepare for the next lesson.

The last thing we recorded was vocals. He learned the lyrics so well that we managed to lay down vocals for whole song in about 30 minutes!


The song took a total of six, one hour sessions to complete.

I've added a bit of compression and some reverb to the vocals, and this is what the end product sounds like:

My nephew’s recording of “These Boots”

Next week we’ll start on another song. If all goes well I’ll post the second song here, once it is complete.


I'm also teaching him reading. We start every lesson with 15 minutes of clapping rhythms. I'm only concentrating on quarter note rhythms for the time being. As we progress I'll add smaller note values and eventually start working with pitch too.

If you'd like to hear the music I compose for kids, please visit:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Week 2 (music success in 9 weeks)

The Pitch

The perfect pitch
We’re into week two of Music Success in 9 Weeks (you can read the intro here, and about week 1 here)

This week is all about building the perfect pitch.

This task has been rather difficult, but at the same time quite a valuable exercise. In Music Success in 9 Weeks Ariel Hyatt mentions that writing a good pitch is not unlike writing a song. And like so after much tweaking and many rewrites we ended up with something suitable. I use the phrase “ended up with” rather loosely as we may decide to make further adjustments later!
We needed something that describes our music, concept and outlook in a short, yet enticing way.
Some points that we wanted to convey:
  1. Our music is decidedly African. It’s earthy and authentic.
  2. Its music for kids but…
  3. We try to write music for kids that isn’t condescending
  4. We use good (no make that great!) musicians on the albums.
  5. We try to make kids music that adults will tolerate (and hopefully enjoy) after repeated listens
  6. We are passionate about these albums and put a lot of heart and soul into them.
  7. The music is educational, it has a sense of humour and it grooves!
After much hammering, chiselling, breaking and gluing bits together, we finally came up with:

Real world music for real kids, made with love, from Africa.

No purple dinosaurs were used in the making of this album.

Disclaimer: Adults are not immune to the contagious rhythms

If you'd like to listen to our music please visit:

What are your thoughts?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Week 1 (music success in 9 weeks)

African Treehouse
Week one is about getting mentally prepared and setting goals.
(If you don’t know what this is all about, please read my intro here)

But first a bit about me: I’m one half of a songwriting/production partnership called “African Treehouse”. My songwriting partner (Erika Strydom) and I have just released our 3rd kids CD “African Numbers” and we’re using the book “Music Success in 9 Weeks” to help us spread the word. If all goes well, you can read about our progress here for the next 9 weeks.

Making an album is an enormous task. It’s sometimes frustrating, sometimes challenging. It can be extremely rewarding. It consumes your life (both in a good way and  in a bad way). It’s a journey, a destination & whole bunch of other adjectives and clich├ęs. But it’s an absolute doddle when compared to actually selling the thing! So with all that out the way, here goes week one.


Setting out these goals has been a great learning experience already. We kind-of-sort-of knew where we wanted to go with our series of albums, but writing them down has put everything in perspective.


One week, to one month. (Some are ongoing.)

  • Write a press release, create a solid pitch and unique selling point.
  • Put together 2 press packs (1 for South African market, the other international), consisting of a press release, CD cover artwork, photos, fan comments etc
  • Update website, Facebook with news of new release, links to purchase & links to listen
  • Alert existing customers of the new CD
  • Contact new customers
  • Post lyrics on website
 Notes: Press release & press packs have been created. Relevant web sites have been updated. We have started contacting old customers – CDs are now available from Look & Listen, and we have found 2 new retail outlets for our CDs (Afro in Norwood, & African Queen in the Parks). Here’s the Press Release

Medium Term

One month to six months
  • Send press packs to (or preferably meet with in person) relevant journalists and bloggers.
  • Contact radio/TV to get interviews
  • Put idea for a contest into action
  • Begin work on CD number 4 (Stories from the Alphabet Tree II)
  • Work on a teacher’s pack to put on the website (with actions & activities for each song)
 Notes: We have started sending out press packs. 2 reviews so far: & TimesLive. We have begun work on the teacher’s packs and we’ve also started writing stories for the next album.

Long Term

A year or more
  • Contact ad agencies/brand managers to explore the possibility of linking the CD to a product or brand
  • Step up international P.R. to drive download sales
  • If contest was successful, look into doing another
  • Begin work on the next music CD in the series
  • Take a vacation!!!
  • Design point-of-sale counter display stands

Very Long Term

  • Explore turning the CDs into a TV series and/or a stage show
  • Begin manufacturing merchandise (T-shirts, stickers, posters, books etc)

Any comments or advice would be welcome…we’re learning as we go along!
Tune in next week for more “Music Success in 9 Weeks”!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Music Success In Nine Weeks

Ariels CyberPRMastermind
I’ve just launched a new CD (African Numbers) and my partner and I are about to start marketing it. We know we need better strategies than we had for previous CDs. We did our best with the first two albums following roughly this course of action:
  1. Buy any magazines/newspapers that look suitable for our CD
  2. Write a press release
  3. Contact the publications and send out the press release
  4. Punt the albums on Twitter & Facebook
  5. Write and rehearse a show to promote the CDs at schools, in stores, shopping malls etc
  6. Contact radio stations
We had some success with these methods, but our campaign was managed rather haphazardly (by us of course!) in fits-and-starts.
Lets face it: We’re first and foremost musicians, and the idea of promoting ourselves is rather daunting. We learned a lot. Some methods worked better than others. But it was difficult to keep momentum and follow up on leads while trying to distribute the CDs and at the same time earn a living from gigs & studio work.
So with the new album we decided to find a way to plan & structure our marketing campaign. This is where “Music Success in Nine Weeks” enters the picture. The book is by Ariel Hyatt, who runs a successful music P.R. company
Is the book any good? Watch this space… On the 11th of October begins the 3rd Music Success in 9 Weeks Blogging Challenge. If you’ve purchased the book you’re invited to enter the challenge (free of charge). You need to write a weekly blog detailing your progress working through the book. On completion, the blogs are judged, and the artist who has performed the best wins a 3 month campaign (among other things) from
So if you’d like to follow our progress, please subscribe to the blog, or check in once a week. And comments/suggestions are welcome, we need all the help we can get!
Note: I’m not affiliated with or endorsed by any of the sites/books/people listed above.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

African Numbers

Inside coverAfrican Numbers

A little bit of shameless self-promotion!

The new CD “African Numbers” is finally here. This has been one of our toughest CDs to complete for a variety of reasons, but I feel it was all worth it in the end. We’re thrilled with the way the CD has turned out, thanks to wonderful performances by some great musicians. The album once again features Relebogile “Lebo” Mabotja on lead vocals, and Kelly Petlane on sax, flute and pennywhistle, as well as the Redhill School kids. This time around we were fortunate enough to record one of South Africa’s top bass players, Concord Nkabinde, who not only played some cooking basslines, but also did a great job as a backing vocalist.

I played all the guitars on the album, and Erika Strydom did the female backing vocals. All songs were composed, recorded, programmed and mixed by Erika & me.

We’ve did our best to make the album as “adult friendly” as possible, and have styled the songs on a variety of African grooves, even making use of some odd-meters (Check out the song “The Big 5”).

Listen to some clips over here:

Our website:

Facebook page:

And look out for the album in a store near you, as well as iTunes, etc.


Photos from sessions…

Graeme Sacks Concord Nkabinde Kelly Petlane Lebo Mabotja Graeeme Sacks, Erika Strydom, Redhill kids

Monday, August 16, 2010

Making and selling a CD

African Numbers CD

An indie album from start to finish

This is a simplified list of the processes I use when making an album. Sometimes the order will 

change slightly and some methods may differ to suit a particular project. I'm not going into any detail, 

but rather highlighting each step along the way.


Conceptualise, compose, compile

Brainstorm sessions, write, rewrite, scrap, start again, write, rewrite.
This part of the process can take (from my experience) anywhere from a few weeks to a
few years. The rewriting continues through many stages of the project, tweaking along the

The skeleton

Once the writing process is complete I record rough versions of the songs. I utilise a
couple of different methods, depending on the project: 
1 . "Band in a Box" is a wonderful program that is primarily a practice/learning tool. I
sometimes use it to map out the geography of the songs and to experiment with
different tempos, styles and keys. I then export the song as a midi file into Sonar
(Cakewalk Sonar Producer Edition is the audio recording package I have used for
many years) 
2 . Lay down rough guitar rhythm and melody tracks (or get vocalist to sing the melody) in
Sonar. I often use a quick and easy general midi VST instrument like Cakewalk's TTS1
during these early stages. The sounds will be replaced later by real instruments and/or 
better quality VST instruments
Very little (if any) of the skeleton is likely to remain in the finished track.

Tracking and programming

Once I'm pleased with the tempo, key and geography of the song, the real recording
process begins. Vocalist lays down a guide vocal (if they haven't already done so). Then
the rhythm section: find suitable bass/drum sounds (these may change later). Record a
more suitable bass line and drum track. Lay down guitars, and keyboards. Other instruments
such as brass, percussion, strings are added.


Sometime before, during and/or after the recording process a designer is briefed on
the look and concept of the CD cover. Track order and final CD credits are usually only
forwarded to the designer later so that no musicians' names are left off the cover.

Barcode and online distribution

I use CD Baby as my online aggregator. I begin the registration process with CD Baby and purchase a barcode from them. (purchasing a barcode directly from them is cheaper than
buying one in South Africa and there's no annual fee). The registration process will be
completed later, once the album is complete.

Mixing and mastering

Once all the tracks are recorded, the final mix can begin. I constantly do rough mixes
during tracking, which makes it easier to do the final mixes. Once mixed, I burn a CD of all
the songs and test it in various systems: my car stereo, the cheap hi fi in my living room etc.
I also try to get a friend or two (who's judgement I trust) to listen to the CD and comment on
the mixes. Then back to the studio to tweak the mixes. Repeat.
On albums for commercial release I prefer to take the CD to a professional mastering
studio rather than attempt to master it myself. A decent mastering job adds a little "polish"
to the final mixes.

Manufacturing, paperwork etc

Get quotes from manufacturers. Before manufacturing can begin, clearance must be given
by the Mechanical royalty societies (there are currently 3 in South Africa). Songs must also
be registered with the relevant society for performance royalties (that would be SAMRO in
S.A.). The master CD and artwork are then taken to the manufacturer. Copies of the final
product need to be sent to CD Baby in the U.S.A
Around this time payments need to be made to the mastering studio, graphic designer and

Pre release sheet

The pre release sheet is a one page document with CD title, cover art, bar code/Order
number, price, release date and a short description of the album and any planned
marketing campaigns. This document is then sent to customers so that they can pre order
the album.

Press release/marketing

I usually draft a press release then ask kind friends who work in P.R. and marketing to help
me edit and proof read the text. Once the press release is done, it needs to be sent (along
with the CD of course) to the media. It is pointless sending out unsolicited mail, so relevant
media people need to be phoned, mailed or met with in person.
Marketing strategies, both short and long term must be decided on and acted upon.
Website and Facebook pages need to be updated with photos, album artwork, links to
purchase the new album and links to listen to it. These pages need to be regularly updated
with press clippings, news and reviews and contests relating to the album.
People on mailing list (and Facebook fans) need to be contacted with news of the new
release, details of contests etc and where they can buy the album.


Old customers need to be phoned or called on in person to be made aware of the new
release and they are usually given a free sample of the CD. New retail outlets/avenues
must also be explored. Existing customers must be contacted at regular intervals to check
on sales.

The Future

When the CD is ready for marketing and distribution, I begin conceptualising the next
album, and the cycle repeats itself.

Our album African Numbers is due for release late September 2010.

Disclaimer: I’m not affiliated to or endorsed by any of the companies mentioned above.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Paper versus iPad


As a song-writer I'm constantly looking for ideas, and when I find one, I need to be able to jot it down immediately before it fades away. So I’ve always carried a notebook around with me.

I have notebooks scattered around my living spaces, each full of songs in various stages of completion. Sometimes when I page through them, old ideas jump up off the pages and spark a series of new ideas. A song that I spent months trying to perfect unsuccessfully, can suddenly fall into place. My notebooks are full of words, waiting to be fitted snugly together like pieces of an intricate puzzle.

But the notebooks aren't just filled with words. They are filled with thought processes - words crossed out and replaced with new words; arrows linking sentences from one paragraph to another; circled words that rhyme; notes on on an elusive emotion that I'm trying to pinpoint; a melody scribbled on a hand-drawn staff.

For years I considered getting a laptop to jot down my ideas so that they will be in one place, easy to access, easy to edit, with spellcheck, encyclopaedias  and rhyming dictionaries close at hand. Then came the release of the iPad. I'm a sucker for gadgets and I thought that aside from being a lovely (if somewhat expensive) toy, this was the portable electronic notebook I've needed all my life. I took the plunge and got a friend to buy one in the States for me.

So I took my shiny new iPad to one of my usual song-writing coffee shop/restaurant/park hangouts with the intention of doing some writing. Only this time I chose my venue based on whether or not they have a WiFi connection. 

Comfortably seated on a couch at the coffee shop, an hour or two passed, along with much caffeine, & I was yet to write a single word. Every time the creative juices started to flow, the iPad beeped an email alert. And then I "quickly" checked what was happening on Twitter. Some tweeter posted a link to a very interesting article. Which led me to another article....then "ping" another email announced....DISTRACTION!

Next time I ventured out to write songs, I purposefully chose a venue without WiFi, and therefore without the temptation of email and internet to distract me. I wrote for a while and then read what I’d written. It was going nowhere, so I deleted everything and started again. I repeated the process, writing, reading, deleting. This happened a few times, and in the end all I was left with was a blank screen.  I began to miss the real pages where lines get crossed out, words are replaced, ideas linked; but nothing gets deleted.

The process is the important part.

So out came the old notebooks again. And once again I spend 20 minutes a day searching my flat for pens (there must be a place somewhere in the world where lost pens, socks and plectrums end up). Perhaps someone will develop an app that mimics/replaces a notebook. I've tried out quite a few so far without success. Until then my iPad has been relegated to a fantastic, exiting & fun toy, ebook reader, dictionary, calculator, radio, video player, iPod, news reader, Internet browser, picture frame, metronome.....but not a notebook.




P.S. this piece was written almost entirely on my iPad.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

SAMA weekend

Graeme Sacks & Relebogile Mabotja at the SA Music Awards


So the SAMAs have come & gone. We didn’t win, but I had a great weekend.

Some thoughts on the weekend:
I loved the fact that while the newspapers have recently been full of fears and racial polarization, musicians on stage at the awards ceremony showed a different side. Die Heuwels Fantasties performed with the Soweto Gospel Choir. Jabu Khanyile and Karike Keuzenkamp were given lifetime achievement awards and a medley of their songs was performed in their honour. The show was slick and entertaining, and the host Trevor Noah did a great job.

While watching the show I was aware of how few of the artists I had heard of and how much new music is being produced in South Africa. I’m definitely going to buy more local music!

This was also a great networking opportunity and a chance to meet people from various parts of the music industry. I chatted to people in retail, record company executives, journalists and of course musicians. Much of the conversations revolved around the future of the music industry and how long we’ll be able to sell CDs. For once, the fact that South Africa is a little slower than Europe & the U.S. may be to our benefit. One retailer told me that they are still opening new CD stores around the country.

It was a real treat to have been a part of this event (see previous blog entry for more info on that!) and with two more kids CDs currently in production (and more in the planning stages) we hope to be back next year!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Awards and retribution


Some years back I was booked for a three month contract, playing background jazz, five nights a week, in a restaurant at a popular holiday resort. Seemed like a great opportunity to earn some money and do some wood-shedding. My partner & I readily accepted and we were soon playing soft bossa novas and jazz standards between fake palm trees to empty tables.

The first couple of nights were great. The enormous restaurant was almost totally empty, but the hotel manager and the food & beverage manger both came to say how much they liked the music, and told to us help ourselves to food from the buffet when we were done. The week progressed and the hotel (and therefore the restaurant) remained empty.

Then things began to unravel. We spent the first week staying in a hotel room while we waited for staff accommodation to become available. Eventually we were relocated to a tiny one roomed apartment. We had been promised two furnished apartments. The place was dark & musty, covered in a layer of dust and teeming with cockroaches. The flat contained a moth-eaten couch and a bed. No cutlery or crockery. No TV. Not even a kettle.

We spent the day cleaning up the flat, and later after the gig, helped ourselves to food from the buffet as usual, a little disheartened at the thought of going back to our dingy room.

The next evening we arrived at the gig and sensed something odd was going on. None of the staff greeted us. They all appeared to be avoiding us. I called the F & B manager and asked him if something was wrong. He sat me down and gave me a lecture, telling me that the staff were pissed off that we were eating from the buffet every night. He said that it was a “privilege & not a right” and that if we asked once in a while he would probably say yes since “the food gets thrown away every night anyway”. I felt the rage build up inside of me, but managed to keep my cool. I told him that we had been under the impression that we were allowed to eat the food, but would never touch it again now that he had told us. I then took out my wallet and said that I’d like to pay for all the meals we had eaten.

Then trouble started from the hotel manager. He’d come to us in the middle of our set and say things like “The previous band played the Titanic song and the Spice  Girls”. We tried to explain to him that we’d been booked to play soft, background jazz, that there were only two of us (a guitarist and vocalist) without backing tracks, and that he should perhaps take the matter up with our agent. The hotel remained empty, and the manger & staff continued to treat us like second-class citizens.

One night we arrived at the gig & the hotel was busy and bustling for the first time. Glamorous people were walking past in evening gowns, tuxedos, Italian leather shoes, wild outrageous hats, dark glasses and various forms of glitzy celebrity attire.

During a break I asked a waiter if there was a function on and he replied that it was the SAMAs. I turned to my partner & said “This is all wrong! We’re sitting playing to two palm trees and 50 empty tables, while the rest of the music industry is being wined and dined and receiving awards. We need to change this situation!”

Shortly after that night, our contract was abruptly cancelled. On enquiring about whether or not we would get a cancellation fee as stipulated in the agreement, our agent told us to “write it off to experience”. Reasons given for our contract being terminated included “playing out of tune, and dragging”! I was terribly depressed by all of this. We were both experienced musicians and had been gigging for years, but it was still a big blow to my ego and self esteem to go through an experience like this.

We sued, and eventually were awarded an out-of-court settlement, but the incident has always left a bad taste in my mouth.

And now fast-forward ten years… We have received two SAMA nominations!
This time I’ll be wined and dined instead of playing to palm trees and empty tables. This time I don’t have to ask permission to eat from the buffet. This time I get to stay in a clean hotel room.

Music isn’t a competitive sport and winning awards doesn’t mean that you’re faster, stronger or in any way better than someone else. For me these nominations are just a reminder of where I once was and where I am now.


Our two nominations:

Stories from the Alphabet Tree          Goggatjie children's songs   

Both CDs are available from Look & Listen stores and

More info:

Monday, January 4, 2010



I have a great idea!

Let’s do things our forefathers did without giving any thought as to why they did them (or why we’re doing them). We’ll do it just because they did. Our parents did it. Their parents did it. No need to question. If generations of people have done it then it must be sacred. And of course, no one is allowed to question anything if it’s sacred.

Well, in theory we have a constitution that upholds freedom of speech, so you can actually question tradition. But you’ll be shouted down:
“How dare anyone question my tradition? It’s been passed down to me from my father, and my father’s father, and my father’s father's father…
You are insulting my family, my heritage, my culture! You don’t understand!”

Some traditions are harmless and fun. Some are chauvinistic. Some traditions cause pain and suffering to animals. Some traditions mutilate children. Some result in death.

But it’s a part of our culture. So it’s OK?