Let's acknowledge that South African artists have been demanding fair play from broadcasters since forever, and that they've been mostly met with various dismissive arguments citing "market demand", "broadcast quality" and such.
Let's also admit that the commitment to new South African music from commercial platforms is a disgrace. That extends to retail platforms, government goodwill and even most of the live music promoters, venues and sponsors – but perhaps that's a story for another editorial.
A commenter on Jon Savage's latest column made what sounded to me like a very practical suggestion for South African radio stations to consider. I reproduce the idea here (with a few embellishments) and post it as an open challenge to said broadcasters (who really should be reading columns like this), to argue why it cannot be executed.
So, with thanks to one Mr. Sean Young (who deserves a Bell's if you happen to know him socially):
The idea is to drive South African radio listeners (i.e. consumers) to expand their awareness of SA music.
Never mind the standard rotation and playlisting system, which will remain largely untouched; Young suggests that radio stations commit to two songs per day, slotted during peak drive-time shows, that fit the following criteria:
1. Must be a South African artist
2. Must not be signed to a major label
3. Song must not be on a past or current station playlist
4. Song must not have been played in that slot before.
That's it. Each station can stick to its supposed genre, but the above criteria must apply.
Further, the two slots can be split up between the morning and evening drive time shows; so that's ONE song in the morning (say, 7:00Am) and ONE song in the evening (say, 5:00PM). More than that, the slots can be marketed as "phone in and tell us what you think" slots, perhaps opening up the opportunity for the song in question to elevate to playlist status?
The challenge extends to every day of the week. And Sean Young went to the trouble of number-crunching the results:
"(Assuming each song averages 4 minutes) ...it'll only account for approximately 8 minutes a day / 40 minutes a week / 172 minutes in a whole month out of their time. The immediate result will be 43 brand new Local artists getting airplay and some exposure to millions of listeners a month! Over 500 new artists' material hitting the airwaves a year, from just one commercial radio station!"
A fine suggestion Mr. Young, and I have to say a fair one. So, broadcasters, what's the problem with that?