About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

16 February 2011

SA Music Audience Demographics

Madam & Eve's cartoon on U2, in this specific instance is not as accurate - but the general demographics in most music events in South Africa are far from representative of the Rainbow Nation. U2, was proportionally the most representative of the shows I have been to in the recent past - and it is not a white thing, or a black thing or <insert a race here> thing.

I frequently attend the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra performances and other classical music concerts. There, the audience is predominantly old white men and women. In contrast, gigs for rock and metal music (including concerts for bands like Rammstein) is predominantly frequented by young white guys and gals. Jazz concerts on the other hand, are often more predominantly black audiences; though more mixed in terms of age groups.

I am not sure, what is the reason for such discrepancy - especially when it comes to age. I know a lot more young people who listen to Classic FM compared to those that actually attend the concerts. Likewise, I don't think race is a predominant factor when it comes to the enjoyment of music styles - the varied audience and music playlist of stations such as 5FM are a testament to this. But it does not seem to translate to actually attending events - is it money, is it location or is the existing audience itself a barrier?

14 February 2011


I have been a fan of U2 for a very long time - and probably more than any other band, U2 was the band that I really wanted to see live. Last year, I considered very seriously to go watch them live in Dublin (around June), but the costs were slightly more than my bank balance. Due to various reasons, I didn't manage to get the tickets I wanted (General Admission, though I would have paid for Red Zone) - and instead only managed to secure seats, fairly high up. While that was certainly a loss in the intimacy offered in the field; it also provided a spectacular view of the stage and lighting effects.

All in all however, the experience was, as I told my colleagues this morning - 3 and a half hours of pleasure followed by 3 hours of logistical nightmare ...

The Support Acts
I didn't know anything about the first support act, Amadou and Mariam, other than they were from Mali, so I wasn't too sure of what to expect. The music was a cross between rock, blues and jazz - but it was well blended, and some excellent solo pieces from the various band members. Language aside, it was a great performance, but perhaps the music was better suited to a more intimate venue.

I have been a fan of The Springbok Nude Girls for a long time, and their set did not disappoint. However, I am not sure if their punk-/rock music style was really suitable as a support act for U2. While Arno and the guys put on a great show, I think that a band such as The Parlatones would have been better suited. This comment is supported from my observation on the number of people around me who actually knew songs from the Nude Girls.

The show from U2 was everything I expected - a mixture of the great hits (Where the Streets Have no Name, Pride (In the Name of Love), I Still Haven't Found What I'm, With or Without You and off course Sunday Bloody Sunday); with the newer hits, including Vertigo, Beautiful Day and some songs from the latest album (most of which I don't know, and to be honest, don't really like).

And as expected, there was an integration of politics that Bono is well known for, into the show - from the support of the recent Egyptian Revolution, Ang San Suu Kyi, Madiba and a message from Desmond Tutu.

The two hour set was well paced, covering the ballads and the more harder rock songs; with great interaction with the crowd (unlike Rammstein a few days previously), and the stage really allows for a better interaction with the crowd.

The Stage and The Show
U2's Claw like stage, deserves its own mention - a behemoth that was taller than the stadium - is an impressive sight. In fact, it looks like one of those Martians from Spielberg's version of War of the Worlds. The opening bands didn't get to use all the nifty features of the stage; but U2's entire show is really based around all the nifty things that are enabled by the stage.

There is the simple stuff - moving bridges that allow the band members to walk between the inner and the outer stage, interacting with the golden circle from above. Then there is the lighting - brilliantly constructed not only in the various spotlights (manned by people hanging from the "legs"), but also how it all combines to cover the entire stadium. The lighting is one of the effects that people in the ground level will not be able to fully appreciate. But the most amazing part for me, was the screen, that is actually built up of many smaller screens assembled in a weblike fashion - allowing it to be expanded and contracted according to requirements. Hydraulics further allow it to be lowered and raised, allowing the band to be almost totally enveloped by the screen if needed.

And like Rammstein's pyrotechnics, U2's stage show is worth seeing; even if you are not a fan of the music.

The Logistics
I have been to 3 matches in FNB Stadium (or Soccer City), during the World Cup. It was a slick operation, where getting to and from the stadium was a breeze (except the well known problems on the first day), and food and drinks at the stadium were plentiful and efficiently delivered. The concert was a mess - and it seems that all the learnings from the world cup were mostly ignored.

Starting with the food and drinks inside the stadium, the problems are many. There was the confused system of tokens, where it was unclear whether tokens were needed or not needed. The lines at all the outlets were long, and insufficiently staffed. In the one I stood in briefly (I left after 5 minutes when the line hadn't moved a bit, and the guy in front said he was waiting about 20 odd minutes), was staffed by 2 people who were serving 6 queues - this is two people doing the cash handling, the order taking and serving. The average fast food restaurant employs more staff during its off peak period. The only vendors that were efficient were the ice cream vendors, although they did seem to have a problem with change. Seeing the ridiculous prices, and the restrictions on what could be brought in to the stadium, one would expect much better service and organisation.

But the worst part was the transport logistics. I took the park and ride option, parking at Constitution Hill and then getting a bus. Instead of the highly efficient Reya Vaya buses, we were saddled with coaches that didn't utilise the efficient bus lanes. In addition, the parking lot was jam packed with the buses fully loaded but stranded in the parking lot for about an hour. There was no crowd control in the buses, so people had to hunt for the appropriate bus, further complicating the bus system. I heard from a colleague, who took the train, that the train was equally messed up, with it standing in the station for a good hour or so.

The transportation and the food and beverage service for the world cup was well organised. Perhaps, instead of throwing away those lessons, it would be best to improve upon that system for all future big events at the FNB Stadium? Otherwise, the logistical nightmare would be a strong detterent to any attendance ...