“When I was in university I was part of a few bands, one of which was signed by jazz guitarist Selaelo Selota and that’s how I got into the industry as a composer, a songwriter and a performer. That later evolved into starting my own company, which was started to really protect the interests of songwriters because that was one of my strengths – the ability to write songs. I started that in 2005, and as I progressed in the industry I studied music marketing and worked at a copyright entertainment law firm. I saw a gap in the market with regards to urban concerts and I shifted my focus slightly. My company Canoc Productions (creating a nation of creatives) started bringing international artists into South Africa from 2010 and that’s been going on since then.
The support I received from people close to me, particularly my family led to my career growth. Your core structure is everything in being successful. My passion for wanting to make a difference and wanting to make a difference in the entertainment industry also drove me. I definitely credit support and passion for helping me to get to where I am now.
My biggest challenge was facing the negative perception around the entertainment industry and in particular the music industry. Having to go to investors and ask them to invest in an industry with such a negative perception proved to be extremely difficult. I had to convince these people that they needed to invest in this and be a part of this and make sure that they trusted that I could actually deliver on my promises. The one way I overcame this was selling the story from a context that they were familiar with. So if they were from the financial sector I shared statistics and numbers around the entertainment industry to better convince them. I needed to speak their language, in essence to say that this is actually a business, there’s a science to the industry and economy around it.
International stars are definitely keen to come to SA, American and European markets are saturated, and Africa is the next big thing.
With regards to international musicians, they’ve performed at places like the O2 arena in London and the Staples Centre in LA so many times and they haven’t been given an opportunity to come and perform not just in SA, but also in the whole of Africa. Because of those dynamics, they all want to come into Africa and just experience it and perform here and get to see what we have to offer.
I’ve been most surprised by the humility of some of the international artists we bring here. Trey Songz in particular was very respectful. We did a luncheon for him with about 150 guests and he actually went around to each of the tables introducing himself to all those present and taking pictures with them. He was so humble and down to earth, he was just real. On the inverse though, there are artists that never actually meet you, that ever actually even talk to you which sometimes perplexes me. Someone can come into SA and spend seven days here and you never even get to shake their hand. They don’t care, they’re just here to do what they need to do and just get on stage, perform, go back to their hotel, and simply go from show to show.
I’ve been raised to look at things in a different way, to be very conservative and down to earth and to not be controlled by successes. I’m not made by what seems to be success or rather by the financial aspects that relate to the definition of what many would term as successful, so that helps me to stay grounded. It’s important to give back when you’re given the platform to be able to share your knowledge, time and experience with those who need it. I’ve been taught that success is not a competition, it’s not about wanting to be better than others but rather about being the best you can be. Create your own cake, it’s not about fighting for a piece of someone else’s cake.
The most rewarding part of my job is being able to make fans happy. Especially because people don’t know me, I can rove around and mix with fans and just experience their reactions when they see someone they’ve paid a lot of money to see. Knowing that bringing these artists here has perhaps at some point made the dreams of fans come true is really amazing. It makes me feel good to see their reactions.
It’s important to me to be a man of my word, it’s all about trust, teamwork and transparency. I live by these principles because I always want to protect my reputation – the one thing that money can’t buy. I do that by playing open cards with everyone that I transact with.
In terms of future plans, we’ve now been able to affect one of our long-term strategies, which is to uplift local musicians. We’ve created a variety of event-based properties, which will serve the purpose of uplifting local musicians who are preserving a variety of SA based cultures. We’re not necessarily throwing away the opportunity to bring out international artists, we’re still pursuing artists that have a big market in SA. But we’re focused on uplifting local musicians and the talent that they have, and merging that with what the local market would be really into attending from an event perspective.”