Sheer Publishing News

Sheer Publishing : Continental Shift

Aug 10, 2011

After 17 successful years, SHEER PUBLISHING, one of South Africa’s biggest independent music publishing companies, is heading north with a view to embrace and champion songwriters as far as Egypt. And if Sheer Publishing’s MD and founder David Alexander has anything to do with it, every country in-between.

Beyond the likes of Vusi Mahlasela and Freshlyground, Southern Africa and Africa as a whole have very few global success stories. Sheer Publishing aims to change that, to the collective benefit of all who call it home. “It’s not revolutionary,” Alexander says of his company’s bold initiative. “Our success over the past 17 years comes from a place of passion for the music. As an independent publishing company we’re coming from that perspective. We’re on a mission to find, showcase and licence this beautiful music to all four corners of the world.”

Of Sheer Publishing’s many success stories over the years, the biggest to date came thanks to their network of independent sub-publishers who secured spots in Independent films, the likes of District 9 and Tsotsi, for South African writers. “Our aim is to do more deals for songwriters in this way where their music talks to a global market, not only their own,” Alexander explains.

Having recently opened up the first of many satellite offices intended to reach right across Africa, Sheer West Africa, based out of Ghana, is already servicing Nigeria, Togo, Benin and Ghana. “It’s early days yet,” says Alexander, “and already we’re signing writers from these countries and actively promoting their works for synchronisation in foreign films and television shows around the world.” To this end he’s also secured a partnership with a local record label The Music Industry, who will soon release a compilation, titled Ghana Awake Vol.1, consisting of Sheer Publishing signed writers. “While we hope the album will sell well for the label, we also have an arrangement in place to purchase a number of these CDs for distribution to our sub-publishers, as well as film and television music supervisors, for syndication consideration in their own territories. I haven’t been this excited in years!” he says of wealth of talent and opportunity that exists in what is essentially an untapped space.

Until now Africa’s Achilles’ heel has been the lack of a formal music-publishing structure where songwriters were only able to licence their creations for their own local markets and limited potential international release. “The continent has been ignored by the rest of the world,” Alexander points out. “Sheer Publishing looks to change that by taking the rich cultural heritage out of Africa and expose it, commercially, to the rest of the world. Artists and writers with complete songs or recordings can now, through us, take their music to neighbouring countries, throughout the continent, and beyond.”

“So many writers in Africa do not know where to start when it comes to trying to get their music to wider audiences,” Alexander says. “That’s where we step in. Our aim, as we roll out more offices, is to make our established and well-regarded network of services available to all whose works need a custodian – one that will protect their rights and champion their art.”

With the proliferation of mobile technology into Africa, and the growing number of people gaining access, telecommunication is revolutionising the way people are able to engage with music. Today close to half a billion people on the continent have access. Millions of music fans can now download and listen to music like never before, and in so doing usher in a whole new world of possibility for artists in every country that makes Africa whole. Sheer Publishing is keen to play an active role in making music available, legitimately and in a way that assures songwriters and musicians are paid for the distribution and sale of their music across multiple mobile-driven devices. “People who, until the advent of the mobile phone, could not access music with the ease and sophistication they can today,” Alexander says. “It’s our job to make sure that systems are in place than can monitor and monetise the multiform opportunities through digital distribution and sales.”

As Sheer Publishing looks to increase its footprint, Sheer East Africa, based out of Kenya is the second country to gain the benefit of company’s leading intellectual capital. Neighbouring Ethiopia and Rwanda are also being targeted, along with a partnership with Lolhiphop Records, a label representing artists from Cameroon. “This is on the back of the deal we have with the writers of “Zangalewa”,” Alexander explains. “This is the track that became Shakira and Freshlyground’s “Waka Waka” and the theme song to the 2010 World Cup.”

“We are going to be the true pioneers,” Alexander continues. “We’ve already signed artists in more than 20 countries in Africa and we’ve only just started. The 2010 Soccer World Cup was a wake-up call too late. Too many opportunities were ripe for the picking, and only a handful of artists from the continent had the opportunity to benefit. With Sheer Publishing we aim to give as many talented writers the opportunity to showcase their genius.”

The real excitement for Alexander is the plethora of new music, beyond the better-known traditional variety. “The youth market in Africa is expanding faster than any other,” he says. “Language is secondary, especially when it comes to certain styles of music like hip hop. In this space the music is an expression of youth culture, which is little different to anywhere in the world. Between traditional, old-school music and more modern European and US derivatives we aim to contrast the two and up-weight the value of the music emanating from each.”

Africa is vast and a massive challenge to navigate if you don’t understand or respect the space. Sheer Publishing, with its proven track record in Southern Africa, is embarking on an ambitious mission to capitalise on the continent’s wealth to the benefit of the people on it. “We represent record labels right through to individual songwriters,” Alexander says. “We’re the in and the out – a true one-stop solution.”

North Africa is also on the cards for 2012, but for now Sheer Publishing aims to bed down an infrastructure that until now has never existed in quite the way the fiercely independent publisher intends. “We’re in it for the long haul,” Alexander concludes. “We’re spending time and investing in quality people who understand the lay of the land. The better we get to know the places, and the rich talent emanating from each, the better we can service them. Partnerships are the cornerstone to our collective success. Employing local specialists in each country means we have knowledge few others have. That, coupled with Sheer Publishing’s longstanding track record of negotiating and promoting music worthy of a larger audience, is, as an initiative that’s less than a year old, growing exponentially. We know that one size does not fill all. Our job is to take what’s presented, and tailor deals specific to the merits of the maker, and ensure the work realises its fullest potential.”

Southern African Music Rights Organisation

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