Music Exchange: The evolution of a hit and the factory that produced it

Music Exchange: The evolution of a hit and the factory that produced it

(picture: Catch Mark Haze at De Waal Park this weekend)

Happy New Year to all the readers, and may 2016 be fantastic for you all. The holidays are always a time to reflect and to shoot the breeze with friends you don’t spend time often enough with, or read books your never get a chance to, never mind listen to music.
One such conversation took place last week with two mates of mine who are both seasoned music industry veterans. We were unpacking what makes for a hit record. We all came to the conclusion that a hit song is a grower. On the first listen you might not grab it, but by the third or fourth spin the penny drops, the stars align, and great things happen in your aural centre.

By Martin Myers

By Martin Myers

We then quickly moved on to what happens after the hit. That was the focus of the debate. How do you sustain the interest? How do you engage with the audience? What is the performance like? For the three of us the true hit needed to be the song that percolates and pushes the listeners to boiling point, one listen at a time. You, as the listener grow and have a relationship with that song, and then it becomes a part of you.
The hit then forms part of an album – a body of work, and you as the listener then explores each track. It’s like discovering different rooms in a much larger house. Think of those seminal albums from the likes of Michael Jackson, Fleetwood Mac, Miles Davis, U2, Coldplay, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, and you have a narrative that weaves through the songs, each unique in their own special way, and then when you see the band live they put on a show that is clinical perfection, leaving you totally spellbound.

I am not sure if readers remember Depeche Mode at Good Hope Centre in February 1994 when they brought their ‘Songs of Faith and Devotion’ world tour to South Africa? The band was at the peak of its powers, and South Africa got them first. It was 11 shows around the country with The Outsiders as support. Depeche Mode spent a week fine-tuning the show at The Three Arts Theatre, before they rolled the tour out. Another show that had clinical perfection all over it was Sting with four-piece band at the Good Hope Centre, with Vinnie Colaiuta on drums and David Sancious on keyboards. More recently Bruce Springsteen at The Bellville Velodrome was another event of spectacular proportions, never mind John Legend at the Castle of Good Hope, when Cape Town saw him on the rise. I still remember the Afrikaans press writing up the show “Legend Kom.” And today we all know who he is.
It’s one thing to have a song on radio, but quite another for the listener to go out and purchase the album and make it part of their collection. For fans to become ambassadors, talk about it and share it for years to come. The artists mentioned above, we all have something in our collections from them, don’t we? And each holds a special place in all of, each for very different reasons to your neighbour. That’s the power great music wields.

Let’s hope those clinical moments happen on a more regular basis this year. David Kramer has already thrown down the gauntlet with ‘Orpheus in Africa’, his latest musical, which blew minds over the festive season at the Fugard Theatre. I would not be surprised to see it on London’s West End or On Broadway in New York in the not too distant future. The show is simply that good and as we’ve all experienced, at different times in our lives, great entertainment travels very well indeed.

Gig of the week

Nothing like a free/gratis/mahala pet-friendly show – De Waal Park, Moltento Road, Oranjezicht on Sunday, January 17, at 3pm, is the place to be if you fancy a little Mark Haze, Rudimentals and Freshlyground.
And here’s a fun fact to leave you with: the concert will be staged in the original Edwardian bandstand that was manufactured by Walter McFarlane & Co of Glasgow and presented to ‘The Corporation’ in Cape Town by the Traders-Market & Exhibition Ltd. London in 1904. It was moved from the original exhibition space in Green Point to De Waal Park some years later.