Will.i.am. Musicians are entrepreneurs in their own right. Photo: Jonathan Alcorn

JOHANNESBURG – Music is the art that makes us heard. For musicians, agents, managers, marketers and record labels, it’s an industry that employs millions of people and is worth more than $17.3 billion (R250bn) globally. 

However, in the entrepreneurial space, it’s an industry that has not gained much traction. Many people do not see musicians as entrepreneurs, but they are. I doubt there are entrepreneurship programmes or initiatives that focus on incubating and mentoring young musicians, polishing their talents and promoting their talent. 

Sure, TV shows like Idols and The Voice have proved hugely popular and advanced quite a few musical careers, but in a broader context, their contribution is fairly minimal. I might be ignorant, but I think organisations like Sony do have some programmes for attracting music talents. 

The truth is that the entrepreneurship ecosystem has greatly ignored this industry and I'm not sure that the venture capitalists and developmental financial institutions in the entrepreneurship space even consider budding musicians investment-worthy. 

Last week, I attended the annual International Cape Town Jazz Festival. I try to do this every year, yes as a music lover, but actually more as a business person. I find it a great space to network with my peers and key individuals in both the private and public sector within the corporate hospitality village – and jazz provides the perfect relaxed ambiance to do just that. 

The festival had quite a few business A-listers in attendance. I saw Patrice Motsepe and his wife Dr Precious Motsepe, a few ministers, MECs, corporate chief executives and business people. Even Alan Winde, the MEC of Economic Development from Western Cape, who’s set to be the next Premier of the Western Cape, was there. 

We had a brief chat and he jokingly said we must connect in 39 days’ time – showing he’s really counting down the days before the elections. Among other performers at the jazz, Chaka Khan also had a stellar performance with a packed crowd. This is the power of music. It brings people, be they business-minded or social butterflies, together from everywhere and anywhere. So what about the monetising power of music? 

I believe that young, upcoming musicians should be regarded as entrepreneurs – even as start-ups. Simply put, they've got a product to sell, yet need support and investment to maximise their market presence. Let’s crunch a few numbers.

Just last week alone, South Africa hosted Ed Sheeran for two shows in both Johannesburg and Cape Town. I think the Johannesburg show had more than 70 000 people in attendance each day, with an average ticket price of R900. That, over two days, equates to R126 million, excluding drinks and snacks sold. Cape Town had more than 50 000 fans each day, raking in some R90m. Both venues (including drinks/snacks) together should have brought in almost R300m for the organisers. 

With ticket prices of R1 300, the Jazz Festival generated some R26m over two days, which excludes sales of merchandise, drinks and snacks. With corporate sponsors in play, I reckon the festival could have generated close to R100m. This is great for South Africa’s economy. Now we must find avenues to empower more “musical start-ups” to get their piece of the pie and be sustainable. 

In addition to TV talent shows, we need to incubate, mentor and accelerate their growth, much as we do with other sectors – or any other start-ups.

Venture capitalists and developmental financial institutions should consider them as a viable business model that needs to be supported and formalised.

Kizito Okechukwu is the co-chairperson of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa; 22 on Sloane is the largest start-up campus in Africa. The views expressed here are his own.

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