What’s up with the sales?

2011-06-10 15:38

When Brenda Fassie jumped on the stage at the 2000 SA Music Awards (Samas) as the best-selling artist award winner, wearing a black-and-white costume, knee-high boots and with a bottle of red wine in hand, she had all the bragging rights because her album Nomakanjani had sold more than 350 000 copies.

The previous year, she missed her moment of glory as the best-selling artist for the astronomical sales of Memeza, her comeback album which sold more than 500 000 copies.

When David Kau announced Steve Hofmeyr as the bestseller of 2003, there was a collective gasp, followed by laughter – everyone thought it was a joke.

It turned out that Hofmeyr actually did clinch the prestigious award with sales of more than 300 000 for Toeka 1.

Fast forward to this year and the best-selling artist Locnville earned the trophy by selling a measly 60 000.

Admittedly, the world has evolved, but one would think that with the advancement of technology, music dissemination and distribution would translate into higher sales.

But progress, it seems, has hurt CD sales irreparably.

Sadly in the last three years, no artist has sold more than 100 000 copies in South Africa, not even big names like Rebecca Malope, Thomas Chauke, Phuzekhemisi, Thandiswa Mazwai or HHP.

Where have all the sales gone?

EMI’s promotions manager Tyson Mqoma says: “I blame it on piracy. If you release Rebecca, in the first week we sell 15 000 copies and that’s before the pirates lay their hands on it.

After a month, there are no sales or maybe just 300 or 500. I think that is what is killing us.

“The Department of Trade and Industry has also stepped in to conscientise people. Most of the dealers, such as MFP (Music For Pleasure) and Reliable Music, have also closed shop.

“The latter supported black music by selling it at taxi ranks. Now we depend on Musica and Jet. We should worry that genuine music is not reaching the people,” he says.

It is fascinating that kwaito star Professor had four hits, including Jezebel and Imoto, from his album University of Kalawa, but it sold just under 60 000 copies.

Liquideep also had massive hits, such as Alone and Fairytale, but managed sales of just under 60 000.

The group’s crossover appeal didn’t help their cause.

Tshedi Mholo of Malaika, whose band won the best-selling artist award in 2005 for more than 350 000 copies of Vuthelani, argues that nowadays musicians survive on shows or endorsements.

She adds that musicians need to explore other avenues in the entertainment industry because the future looks bleak.

“It’s a bit scary. How do you look nice while doing shows and getting robbed by management? Samro (the SA Music Rights Organisation) also pays late and royalties are not guaranteed because radio has its own choices.

“Musica doesn’t stock our albums and they blame poor marketing. These days, companies give artists clearances because they can’t cope and there are rentrenchments.

“When you sign a contract, the music company takes control of your management and other brand extensions because they want to recoup the cost of recording and releasing your album.

“Fans don’t take our music seriously any longer because of the quality.

“We need a new sound and should therefore explore collaborations with musicians or producers from other lands, or at least maintain the standards and grow with the fans,” she says.

While other musicians bemoan the ever-tumbling sales, DJ Cleo is marching on in his dominance of the digital sphere.

His sales are increasing and accessing his music is easier, but there is still is a risk of piracy.

However, from 2009 to date, Cleo has been winning the best-selling download award at the Samas. His runaway hit Hands Up has sold 450 000 copies.

This year, Nab’abantwana earned him the same award for sales of more than 180?000. Cleo says his total digital catalogue sales are shy of a million at 970 000.

“I embrace technology and change. It’s called keeping up with the trends,” he says, “I am not digitally inclined but I am willing to be led and be taught.”

His latest album Eskhaleni 7 has moved 40 000 copies to date and yet he doesn’t hasten to dismiss CD sales.

He says: “The future is looking more and more bleak, but don’t write the CD off until it’s completely dead. It works for established artists and not for new ones.”

Piracy, the rise of digital and the death of the CD – there’s never a dull moment in music.

But can the industry survive this one?

Previous best sellers
Previous SA Music Awards­ best-selling artist winners:
2011: Locnville (Sun In My Pocket)

2010: Bok van Blerk (Afrikaner Hart)

2009: Lianie May (Vergeet My Nie)

2008: Ncandweni Christ Ambassadors (Izithembiso zeNkosi)

2007: Shwi Nomtekhala (Wangisiza Baba)

2006: Bok van Blerk (De La Rey)

2005: Malaika (Vuthelani)

2004: Steve Hofmeyr (Toeka 2)

2003: Steve Hofmeyr (Toeka 1)

2002: Revolution (The Journey)

2001: Unknown

2000: Brenda Fassie (Nomakanjani)

1999: Brenda Fassie (Memeza)

1998: Celine Dion (Falling Into You)Previous best sellers

Music sales certification

Before 2007


25 000 copies


50 000 copies


Platinum: 100 000 copies


Platinum: 100 000+ copies in multiples of 50 000




20 000 copies


40 000 copies


Platinum: 80 000 copies


Platinum: 80 000+ copies in multiples of 40 000


the US:


500 000 copies


1?million copies

»According to David du Plessis,

the operations director at Recording Industry of South Africa, the decision to

alter the music certification standard in South Africa was made after a

consultative process, where a survey of certification standards across the world

was conducted. Taken into consideration was the total turnover of CDs and the

shrinking market.


sales certification

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