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Country Profile: South Africa

The world’s leading promoters & the 55 top markets they operate in.
Click the interactive map below to explore the top 55 global markets.

The lack of robust market data makes South Africa’s live sector hard to gauge precisely, but those in the market say that 2023 has been buoyant and that major acts are
coming to the country.

The instability and unpredictability of the rand means that some tours are being pulled for economic reasons. Others are increasing ticket prices as a counterbalancing measure.

“People have started to push the average ticket price up a little bit in order to still be able to reach the required fees,” says Damon Forbes, founder and CEO of key national promoter Breakout Agency. “All of a sudden, people have been saying, ‘If we can’t get this tour to happen, the only way we can do it is pushing the ticket price up.’”

The country is keen to become a touring hub, be that a stopover between North America/South America and Asia/ Australia or a launchpad into the rest of Africa.

“Our plan is to try and become part of a band’s tour routing, be it after Dubai, before Europe, or on the way back from the US,” says Forbes. “We actually can be a point that fits into multiple elements of a tour.”

“Our plan is to try and become part of a band’s tour routing, be it after Dubai, before Europe, or on the way back from the US.”

There are still some problems to overcome. Justin Van Wyk, CEO of Big Concerts (which was acquired by Live Nation in 2016), says the market is still recovering from damage caused by Covid to the production value chain.

“We lost a significant portion of the country’s organisational capacity due to Covid, with many event professionals leaving the sector entirely or relocating to the Middle East where their services have been in high demand,” he says. “We also lost the largest arena in Johannesburg, the Ticketpro Dome, which closed down in 2021.”

Major international acts playing this year include OneRepublic, Sting, Backstreet Boys, Bryan Adams, and Imagine Dragons.

Rather than only come when acts are global superstars, the message from local promoters is to come to South Africa early and build up through the venues to reap the rewards.

Forbes cites JP Cooper, Calum Scott (who recently did 20,000 tickets across three shows) and Rainbow Kitten Surprise (who did 80,000 tickets) as proof of this approach working.

Van Wyk concurs. “The secret to success is patience – and building your business from the ground up,” he says. “Start small, promote club and theatre gigs until you’ve learned the tricks of the trade, and grow into larger venues over time. We see too many promoters who have never done shows at scale and want to enter the industry at stadium-level straight out of the gate.”

“The secret to success is patience – and building your business from the ground up.”

The lack of smaller venues, however, has been an issue in South Africa, but this year has seen more effort in getting venues with capacities of 1,500-2,000 up and running.

Van Wyk is hugely optimistic for the future. “We anticipate a boom in new venue development and also expect touring to expand across Africa, with new markets and new venues being added to the touring circuit to bolster the economics for tours,” he says.

Outside of music, comedy is growing in the market, helped by the international fame of local star Trevor Noah.

Alongside Big Concerts/Live Nation and Breakout Agency, other key promoters of international acts are Glen21 (focusing on urban), Rocking The Daisies Group, and Anything Goes (who run Ultra and Corona Sunsets Festival). The smaller local players tend to focus on specific genres, making that their niche.

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