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One, Two, One, Two: A Step by Step Guide to the South African Music Business

One Two One Two

by Craig Wilson / 23.11.2010

If, like me, you grew up reading magazines like Top 40 and partying at Roxy’s in Melville, you probably encountered David Chislett’s byline (or face) somewhere along the way. In his nigh on 20 years in the music business, Chislett has worked in all manner of roles, from the rad to the ridiculous. Why does any of this matter? Because he’s just released a book aimed at saving anyone hellbent on working in the music business from making the same cock-ups he did.

Aptly entitled One, Two, One, Two: A Step by Step Guide to the South African Music Business’, Chislett’s isn’t the first expose’ looking to tackle the ins-and-outs of the music business, nor does it claim to be a definitive handbook for the aspiring muso or manager. What it does do is provide sobering advice – gleaned from experience – for anyone who thinks a life in music guarantees glamour and groupies. What awaits, according to Chislett, in this short, level and arresting book, are varying degrees of disappointment, disillusion and despair! And that’s just the parents of musicians, nevermind the musicians themselves.

Liberally peppered with illustrations (by Chris Lombard) and photographs (from the likes of Liam Lynch, Warren van Rensburg, Kevin S. Flee and Jacqui van Staden) this isn’t really for the seasoned industry veteran. Realistically, this is the book to get that buddy who’s rapidly approaching the wrong side of 25, still thinks his indie-electro-folk band is going to ‘make it big’, and hasn’t read anything longer than a CD insert since primary school.

Chapters on finance, legalities and intellectual property rights are essential reading for budding up and comers. As Chislett argues, if you aren’t thinking of your band like a business your chances of succeeding are exponentially lower than the competition who is. Further, money is one of the most frequently cited reasons for bands’ falling apart. You may be happy with your front(wo)man taking all of the songwriting credits now, but you’ll doubtless be less happy in five years when s/he’s earned more than the rest of the band combined.

Aside from providing much-needed warnings regarding the machinations of the music industry, Chislett also schools bands in how to leverage their brand and make money – if you’re not making merchandise you’re losing out twice: on sales and free advertising. If you’re not chasing SAMRO you’re probably missing out on royalties. You may think these things are elementary, but there’s little doubt many are oblivious to these aspects of the business, thinking their sole focus should be the music.

At this point you’d be forgiven for thinking this must be the most depressing book about the music business ever. Far from it. Chislett can barely contain his excitement that bands are no longer beholden to major labels, and he sounds delirious about the opportunities afforded by new social media if combined with an ounce of business savvy. He reminds us that a photoshoot atop a mine dump isn’t going to win you points for originality! And an infrequently updated Facebook page isn’t going to encourage nubile young things to sit on your face.

Not only musos need to peruse Chislett’s book (be it by upping their game or choosing to take themselves out of it) but managers, too, promoters, publicists, technicians, and just about anyone “in” music. As this is only the first edition you can be sure that future ones will contain a bolstered ‘Important Organisations’ contact list, an explanation of the intricacies of needle time (if SAMPRA ever get their shit together), and hopefully the dire foreword will get thoroughly proofed prior to publishing next time. Dave’s opus isn’t perfect, but it’s practical, attractively laid-out, and better (and more locally relevant) than anything else currently on the shelves.

*One, Two, One, Two: A Step by Step Guide to the South African Music Industry is available from Look & Listen, Exclusive Books, music equipment stores and independent music stores for R250.

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