Downtown Studios to get a make-over

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Johannesburg – Downtown Studios and the surrounding areas are to get a make-over, with government committing to make it South Africa's first music hub centre.

During his monitoring visit to the Downtown Studios in Johannesburg on Thursday, Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Deputy Minister Obed Bapela told SAnews that the equipment was outdated and needed to be replaced with modern and more advanced technology.

“It is not yet a state-of-the-art [studio] because the equipment is old and it needs to be replaced by modern technology. It may not even attract young people who are smarter when it comes to modern technology.

“So they should have a digital studio because young people know better the digital space, hence they can do anything with technological devices such as computers or iPads,” he said.

Bapela said while young people might prefer modern equipment, the older generation of musicians, on the other hand, may still prefer the studio the way it is. He added that the analogue machines should also be retained.

Government, in partnership with the private sector, bought Downtown Studios in a bid to create a platform through which South Africa’s talented and upcoming musicians can record their music at cheaper rates.

Bapela said major changes at Downtown Studios, which has so far cost government R4 million, must be done to allow artists from all walks of life a chance in the music business to record, distribute and market their work.

However, the Downtown Studios building is deteriorating and situated in an environment which is not attractive as it is surrounded by other dilapidating buildings. Bapela said there was a need of external investment in the area.

“We will be engaging with the both the City of Johannesburg and the Gauteng Provincial Government to discuss their own investments that will bolster the investment by the national government.

“We will obviously expect them to help us trace the owners of these old buildings so that they can tell us what they are intending to do with those structures that are decaying.

“Our view is to give Downtown Studios and the surrounding area a better look and a safe environment. We would like to see street lights with CCV cameras, as well as regular patrol by the law enforcement,” he said.

The Deputy Minister further said a lot of work must be done on signage in order to popularise Downtown Studios, adding that government was committed to transform it into South Africa's first music hub.

“There must be signage all around Johannesburg that will directly lead visitors to Downtown Studios,” he said.

Bapela’s visit was aimed at assessing and monitoring the functioning of the studios as well as finding the best solutions to improve the conditions of the studios.

Towards the end of last year, artists met with President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria where they said government was not investing in the economic growth of their industry.

According to Bapela, in the next two months, there would be a series of meetings between musicians and a committee comprising other relevant deputy ministers to finalise a report on the growth strategy of the music industry.

Bapela said the report will be handed over to Zuma ahead of his meeting, scheduled to take place before June.

He also appealed to the industry to amicably work on their differences and speak in one voice when they meet with government.

“We want to appeal to musicians not to speak to us with different voices. They should organise their thoughts, even though they belong to different organisations. When they come to meet us, they must have one shared common vision.”

The Presidency takes into account that the cultural industries are not only important contributors to nation building and social cohesion, but offer much more value as one of the key drivers of economic growth. -