SPREADING THE WORDS…
David Alexander on why South Africa’s Sheer Publishing is expanding into East and West Africa.
|Over the past 18 years Sheer Publishing, based in Johannesburg, South Africa has become the country’s biggest and most successful, independent music publishing company. In 2011 it went north, and in less than a year has already made startling headway in educating, empowering and ultimately enriching songwriters in both East and West Africa. Having set up a satellite office in Ghana last year, servicing Nigeria, Togo and Benin, Sheer Publishing recently reported the successful sale of publishing rights to no less than two US documentaries keen to licence relevant, quality content. “Our success over the past 18 years comes from a place of passion for the music,” explains Sheer Publishing founder and MD David Alexander.
“When we opened our first office, outside of South Africa, the mission was to find, showcase and licence this beautiful music to all four corners of the world. With this recent coupe, the investment we continue to make is already paying dividends for all involved.”
In considering the move into Africa Sheer Publishing discovered, very early on, that in places like Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso the recording industry and labels perform well in making music available, but most do not offer publishing opportunities for the many gifted writers and musicians in these and other territories. “There are loads of labels,” Alexander confirms, “ but little or no focus on the publishing possibilities that exist if songs are administered and marketed well. Very few of the countries, we are now actively working in have any real understanding of what publishing entails.
“This further highlighted, for us, the need to empower and educate wherever we go,” he continues. “South African music is more licensable, and attaining rights is better managed because the system here is a mature one. This in turn makes our musical offerings more attractive to both our domestic and international market.”
Domestic markets and their border countries are where Sheer Publishing is now active and where it actively looks to support the efforts of each of these territories. Examples include hubs in Ghana moving into Nigeria, Togo and Benin, and Kenya supplementing Tanzania, Uganda and Somalia. “Our aim is to entrench ourselves in each region and roll-out, over time, well-managed and marketed publishing platforms,” Alexander says.
Empowerment through understanding is the mantra Sheer Publishing trumpets in each of the markets they now actively participate in. With ever-increasing mobile infiltration, the partnership opportunities, with global telecommunication companies entering these markets are compelling. Add the proliferation of smartphones on the continent, currently sitting at around 7%, and estimated to triple by 2016 – 22,5% of the cell phone population will then be geared to legally access great content as the incremental rollout happens. “Mobile is a rich space in need of quality, legal content and that’s where we’re leading the drive,” Alexander says. “The telcos build the networks and we plug in the added-value opportunities to get more music played, and purchased, in places most writers and musician would never have considered until now.”
“The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has already achieved 40% mobile penetration,” Alexander says by way example as to the potential to convert these and the remaining 60%. All who will potentially become mobile consumers as the market there matures.
As physical CD sales continue to fall throughout Africa – 19% down year-on-year in South Africa alone, the drive to digital for writers, musicians and their publishers, is becoming critically important – especially if they wish to remain relevant and vital in a space evolving and growing faster by the day.
With Sheer Publishing continuing to grow its African footprint, the year ahead looks set to be a great one. “We’re in it for the long haul,” Alexander concludes. “We’ve made extraordinary headway in a relatively short space of time, all of which bodes well for our future commitment to the continent as a whole.”
Article by Jason Curtis.