The South African music industry is far too insular, says Roach Roth.
He is the founder of African Dope Records and the African representative of Merlin, an international collective bargaining society of independent record labels with 15 000 members. They represent new indie technology. He has been tasked with speaking about the problems, solutions and benefits of the digital era in music.
Roach will speak at the Breathe Sunshine Music Conference which takes place this weekend in Cape Town. The conference has invited international and national key players in the industry to discuss issues pertinent to the local and continental industries and hold workshops educating any interested parties.
“It’s about playing internation- ally,” said Roach. “There is a global digital market which we can reach easily. I will be speaking about how to use digital effectively as a broad industry to export South African music and make the pie bigger.
“Tech isn’t talking to music and they need to be talking to music,” he continued. “Education is also important. It’s about how musicians use Facebook and YouTube. I hope to help educate the delegates about music technology.”
Roach is in the perfect position to speak on this topic as his record company was one of the first in the country to embrace the digital platform for their artists and realise the enormous potential it had in breaking international boundaries.
He cited a few examples of the latest trends to benefit musicians on the internet: “There is streaming which is play on demand, like Simfy and Spotify. It is free music, but you have to consume ads. It is similar to Samro in that you collect blanket rights.
“In the US, bands sell each other access to their fan base. This does not make much sense in South Africa yet.”
He said the internet changed the economics of abundance.
“It used to be that the major labels created scarcity by creating CDs and records that could not be copied. They could leverage their power.
“Then the internet came along and created abundance because it is so easy to copy the master, hence no scarcity.”
He went on to say that successful artists’ power now lies in realising their fan base: “You can’t dictate what is mainstream anymore. People like Lady Gaga realise it’s about communicating with their fan base and not just releasing a song, hoping it will go on to be a big international hit.”
Roach used Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails as successful examples of taking advantage of the scarcity vs abundance scenario.
“With his last album they released a zip file where you just had to give your e-mail address and you’d receive the music and then you pay what you want. Then there was a limited edition set which was $30. The most expensive is a double vinyl of Nine Inch Nails’ choice of their own best songs. Within hours the most expensive were sold.”