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South Africa: Nearly half of pros to leave the industry

Around 47% of live music professionals in South Africa say they are likely to be forced out of the business as a result of their inability to organise or play shows

By IQ on 09 Dec 2020

SACO executive director Unathi Lutshaba

SACO executive director Unathi Lutshaba

Nearly half of the thousands of people working in live music in South Africa might quit the business for good, according to the country’s biggest-ever survey on the effects of 2020’s Covid-19 shutdown.

Some 47% of live music industry professionals, including artists, say they are at risk of being driven out of the industry altogether due to their inability to continue with “music-related activities” at present, reveals Impact Analysis: Live Music and its Venues and the South African economy during COVID-19, a report by the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO).

SACO commissioned the research in August to discover how the sector has been affected by the measures imposed to control the spread of the coronavirus. “It is important we understand how the various sectors of the industry have been affected and continue to be affected by the pandemic, as this empowers us to provide better insights to both policy makers and the industry,” said the organisation’s executive director, Unathi Lutshaba.

Among the study’s key findings are:

  • A majority of respondents had previously been operating for more than five years, but the impact of Covid-19 has been devastating even on these established practitioners. Around 90% of the live music industry lost income due to Covid-19 and 25% indicated that they would not be able to continue with any elements of their business under lockdown

Around 90% of the live music industry lost income due to Covid-19

  • Industry professionals have attempted to respond flexibly and with agility to the crisis, with 88% attempting various online music alternatives in a very short space of time. However many had to resort to more severe measures such as terminating short-term contracts (23%), retrenching employees (13%) or cutting employee salaries (18%). Only 6% of respondents could continue to pay all employees
  • The predominantly informal and project-based nature of all music-related work means that many industry actors were unable or ineligible to apply for or secure any form of government relief, since all required extensive formal documentation. Only 7% reported that they had successfully applied for the various SMME [small, medium and micro enterprises] support mechanisms available, while 21% indicated that they had successful applied to the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture for funding. Without access to support, many have resorted to the sale of equipment and assets, and reliance on financial support from friends and family
  • The participants also called for decentralisation of programmes, projects and infrastructure, with a focus on the local – including shifting funding away from large-scale events towards local music initiatives, venues and performance spaces

In response to the findings, the SACO report makes a number of recommendations, including launching a national ‘music desk’ specifically to work with the music industry and reducing licensing costs and red tape around the use of public space for Covid-secure performances.

“It is our hope that this report will contribute in some small way towards the industry and stakeholders from other industries who wish to participate assisting in the recovery,” adds Lutshaba.


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