Marketing über Alles

Marketing really matters. Genius is not enough.

Let's about Music (but also about Marketing).

In the days before the brevity of tweets and Instagram/Reddit-posts long-form art reigned supreme: books with hundreds of pages, oil paintings on large canvasses and music delivered as albums.

Album Perfection

Creating an album is (obviously?) a bigger challenge than creating a single track. So, how do we rate the greatness of an album? An easy litmus test (created here on the fly now) is to ask "does the album have a gestalt?" I.e. is the album 'bigger' than the sum of its parts.

South African Genius

In another post, we discussed the not yet well-enough-discovered genius of African music, but today we are back in South Africa.

Our question is:

"Which South African album is the greatest of all time?"

There are quite a number of 'obvious' contenders. (Ex-)husband and wife duo Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba are right up there, of course, but bra Hugh just brought out 'too many' albums. Although many of his tracks are perfect, even his best album, "Home Is Where The Music Is" is not perfect. Ditto Makeba.

"Blue Notes for Mongezi" might be another top contender, but it is very 'difficult' to 'get' this music. You have to persevere. If you do, however, 'get' them, there is not much that is better on our planet than this (re-recorded) Fourth Movement.

Other contenders might be the Mahotella Queens (especially with Mahlathini), Vusi Mahlasela (his album "Silang Mabele" with a cover of Bright Blue's Weeping), or Mafikizolo's Afrikaans titled "Van Toeka Af". Joe Mafela is severely underrated and, to many people, he is unfortunately only known for his Chicken Licken ads.

And, of course Johannes Kerkorrel, African Jazz Pioneers, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, David Kramer, Gert Vlok Nel, West Nkosi, Syd Kitchen, and the Radio Kalahari Orkes.

Then there is Letta Mbulu, Juluka and perhaps even Die Antwoord, Anton Goosen, Mandoza, Jack Parow, Ndikho Xaba & The Natives, Brenda Fassie, and Goldfish (although they created better music in a previous incarnation as Breakfast Included).

There are, of course, many more including the recent brilliance of Abel Selaocoe with his Classical/African fusion. And, that reference to classical music reminds one of Pretty Yende.

Before we announce the Winners

In terms of album covers it is a no-contest. The winner, without a shadow of doubt, is The Heshoo Beshoo Group with their Armitage Road spoof of The Beatles' Abbey Road album cover.

And, more people should know about Lesley Javan. He channels the music of certain parts of our country, such as the West Coast, better than anyone else does. If David Kramer is the genius outsider-looking-in (when it comes to some of our communities), Javan is the genius insider-looking-out.

Marketing really matters. Genius is not enough.

Runner Up

Our runner up, today, is Abdullah Ibrahim's album "Water from an Ancient Well". This is an album for the ages. One that, had the international world been able to understand it better, would have ranked even higher on most lists of best albums ever.

And the Winner is ...

No, if you build it they won't come. You can have the best product, best service, or best art ever. And they won't come unless you manage to get the message out.

Sadly, unless you have a great marketing strategy and you execute well on that strategy, even the most sublime diamonds will stay hidden.
Peter Drucker said that only Marketing and Innovation matter in business. Yet, crappy products or services with great Marketing can succeed, but great products (such as music) with no marketing will not succeed.

Our winner is an example of these truths.

And the winner is ... Batsumi's eponymous album, recorded at the 'wrong' time (during apartheid) by the 'wrong' people.

As stated by this Bandcamp article "For local South African musicians, operating under the threat of state violence, breaking through to European and American audiences was much harder."

The music is sublime, entirely new and innovative and fully formed. And they also throw in a few Easter Eggs, i.e. brief references to other music such as to Beethoven's. (Just after 22:00 on the YouTube video).

The album conforms to the notion of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Each of the tracks are brilliant, but the full album is a true masterpiece.

Innovative genius at its very best, but close to zero marketing, meant that it was a commercial failure that is only (very slowly) being rediscovered now through word of mouth.

So, yes, Marketing really matters. Genius is not enough.