IBU wants better music industry

Shaun Berry started Independent Bands United to help grow the local independent music industry.
Shaun Berry started Independent Bands United to help grow the local independent music industry.
Simon Shiffman

Do you make original music? Where and to how many people are you performing? Are you happy with what you earn through music? What is it that you need?

These are some of the questions new music organisation Independent Bands United (IBU) are asking local independent musicians.

The recently formed project, which runs on an initiative driven model, has been started with the aim of developing and improving the local independent music industry by giving local independent artists the platform to network and share resources.

“By working together, we can put integrity and quality back into the local music industry,” says IBU founder Shaun Berry.

After struggling as an independent musician for many years himself, Shaun says he came to the realisation that the industry would only really improve if somebody started to do something about the challenges facing local artists.

“I wanted to provide a platform for independent struggling musicians to actually know where to go in order to grow,” he explains.

The idea for IBU first started brewing about 15 years ago when Shaun returned from Australia, where he had specifically made an effort to see some of the local music scene there.

“The thing that struck me was that as far as the artistic element or culture goes in South Africa, we probably have the best musicians in the Southern Hemisphere – in terms of quality and originality.”

That being said, Shaun says there’s currently a lack of healthy infrastructure in place in Cape Town and South Africa, which would enable local musicians to make a living from their craft.

“People don’t support local music,” Shaun says. “The listening public is unsophisticated in terms of what is good artistically, which is why they always tend to lean towards familiarity.”

From his own experience, Shaun says many musicians seem to think that it’s enough to do what they do, and do it well, without considering all the other elements involved in making a musician’s work successful, like for example, organising gigs and radio play. The result is that musicians tend to second-guess themselves and their music, before listeners have even really been exposed to it.

“There are certain entities put in place that control most of what comes out, very strictly, in terms of the material intended for mass consumption,” Shaun explains, alluding to the small amount of local music companies that ultimately hold a monopoly on the industry.

With IBU however, that is soon set to change. The organisation will hopefully give local musicians the power to “call the shots”, but only with the mutual understanding and respect of everyone involved in the “movement”.

Shaun’s idea is to create a system where musicians will help others, and in the process help themselves.
IBU have already built relationships with recording studios, to help musicians with more affordable recording rates, venue owners to create performance platforms and online radio stations to help expose new original music to listeners – which will all help musicians involved with the organisation.

“All we need from participants is a willingness to cooperate on very easy principles.”

In a nutshell, the IBU will run with the help of facilitators: people who want to help uplift the music industry.

Each facilitator will find music venues in their suburb or area that will be open to running IBU initiatives, work with bands in the area to put these initiatives in place and then get the public involved by advertising the initiative.

One of the initiatives already running is The Listening Room, a platform for original artists to share their music at the Metronome Theatre in Bellville every Wednesday.

While there have already been quite a number of initiatives put in place, Shaun explains that IBU will grow – to cover all of the arts – and evolve, as the organisation does.

IBU will host their official launch at the Metronome Theatre on Saturday 3 September with Diamondback, The Lasting, TOMB, Oceans Awake, The Colours Red and Blue, 7th Wave, Strut, The Signal Rose, Justin John and the Leylands, Playne Jayne, Jonny Luck, A Swift Redemption , Roadie 73, A Cast for Vengeance, Red State and Khemical Krypt. Tickets cost R20 from the bands themselves or R30 at the door.

For more information about Independent Bands United join the “Independent Bands United South Africa” Facebook group or send an email to shaunberry14@gmail.com. To support the musicians already involved with IBU, visit the “DISCOVER! Independent Bands United (SA)” Facebook group.

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