Artwork by Lex Trickett

Everybody knows but nobody talks

“Everybody knows that the dice are loaded

Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed

Everybody knows that the war is over

Everybody knows the good guys lost

Everybody knows the fight was fixed

The poor stay poor, the rich get rich

That’s how it goes

Everybody knows.”

Everybody Knows – Leonard Cohen.

Last week Saturday, Riky Rick, in his acceptance speech for winning best single at The Metro FM  Music Awards, gave a shout out to “all the kids who couldn’t get their songs on radio because they don’t have enough money, to all the kids who make music videos that never get their music videos on TV because they don’t have the money.” He then followed up by  saying “There’s a lot of people who are struggling to put out music in this country and I feel like there are too many structures that are blocking people from putting out the dopest music. 90% of the shit I hear on radio is garbage. The stuff is living on the Internet, everything is living on the internet right now. So if you’re a kid, and you’re watching this right now, forget radio. If they don’t let you play on radio, you better go to the internet  and make your songs pop on the internet.” It was at this point that Riky’s mic got cut off.

Riky then took twitter with “STOP PLAYING WITH THE PEOPLE… WE NOT STUPID” and quoted his own lyrics to the song that won best single ‘Sidlukotini’, “If niggaz can pay for these fucking awards then my nigga I don’t want them.” Black Coffee then backed him up and for a few days, musicians from around the country were singing Riky’s praises for exposing the unfairness of the awards and the industry as a whole. The irony of some of them being award-winning millionaires was lost.

Riky is right: The system is closed off to many artists. If you don’t have money or the right contacts, getting on radio can be hard. Getting an award? Even harder. Riky could have been referring to the SMS system of voting, which is just another way of taxing fans who want to see their favourite artists shine. The system is easily riggable by those with enough resources, and could be why Babes Wodumo and Kwesta left empty handed despite having 2 of the biggest songs of the year. Oddly enough, it was Riky’s Mabala Noise label mate Nasty C who took home the most awards.

Judging from the fallout though, it appears that what Riky was referring to is Payola. A corrupt system of getting airplay that has been hated by artists since as far back as 2007, but more recently was investigated in 2015 by ENCA and last year DJ Vukani Masinga was fired for accepting bribes to play music on Ukhozi FM. Basically, it’s when artists or their management giving DJs and playlisters money to play their songs. If you’ve ever thought to yourself “Wow, this song is kak. I wonder how much they paid to get it played.” You were probably on the right track.

Radio and TV will always be out of reach for many artists because of resources, but adding corruption to the mix only continues to make it harder for those deserving a break. After grinding to pay for studio time and getting songs mixed and mastered, now artists must line the pockets of professionals in the industry just to get heard? Fuck that noise.

While Riky is right that young artists should use the internet to it’s full potential, it’s not always enough to sustain a career. One radio hit can help launch a career and the exposure radio and TV give artists is immense. It’s not enough for artists to make vague references to the system but rather, them and their management, those who have experienced this corruption first hand, need to expose those behind the system. It’s easy enough to call out the system but without taking any actions, what will change?


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