CityLife Arts

The enduring jazz brand Bassline evolves into an online live music class

By Edward Tsumele

What is in a name? Apparently everything and that is why those who misbehave and  are found on the wrong side of behaviour, morally or criminally, and they belong to a a grouping, they are often punished severely for bringing an organisation into disrepute.

But a good name on the other hand represents an opportunity and people and organisations often go all out to associate themselves with such a name, and sometimes are even prepared to pay food money for such auspicious company.

One name that over the years has had brand equity, in the cultural space in general and music in particular, specifically jazz is Bassline. You mention this name to any follower of the genre , or a jazz musician, especially those that plied their trade in this beautiful music genre in the late 1990s and 2000s, they will tell you that in Bassline they trust.

The name Balssline, originally named after a small, but well loved and welcoming space in Melville, is a name that has since evolved into a concept pregnant with brand equity. This` is an example of the value of a name. Its owners, the well known Johannesburg couple, Brad and Paige Holmes have taken this name to new heights, long after Bassline, the original venue seized to exist.

 First it was Bassline`, the music venue that for many years had been known as Mega Music Ware House, where the couple too the brand Bassline to after the original venue closed its doors to several of its faithful jazz patrons in the late 2000. The venue became a victim of the bottom line as it increasingly became commercially unsustainable due to the dwindling of corporate sponsorship for the arts, especially after the banning of cigarette advertising by government. Bassline, along with other live music venues found themselves in the red as operation costs such as rent became unaffordable as gate takings and revenue the liquor sold in such venues could not keep up with the cost of living, barely covering the performance fees of the beloved musicians who regularly performed there.

And when the couple took the brand to Newtown, where they were no longer hosting only live jazz gigs, but anything from kwaito, reggae, house to an increasingly thinning jazz programme, many a jazzofile cried foul as they felt deprived of an exclusive jazz experience in an intimate space, for that is what Bassline had become in its original space, where not only common people like me and you used to go and enjoy an unforgettable jazz experience. Bassline in its Melville iteration was a place where you would at times be seated next to powerful men and women in society cutting across all the spectrum from politicians such as Thabo Mbeki, the former President, business moguls to  off stage musicians, enjoying a performances there regularly as fans of fellow musicians.

However it was a matter of time before Bassline assumed  another life of its own and this time operating as a live music production company taking the concept of  Bassline out of Mega Music Ware House to the outside, organizing the Africa Month festivities every May around Newtown. Again the couple used this brand in a different direction in the country’s cultural landscape.

This brand continued on this trajectory of brand extension as more shows were organized and produced under this brand, including the popular festival  Feta de La Musica, organized around Johannesburg open air  venues such as in the streets of Melville and around Newtown cultural precinct  under the ownership of the French Institute of South Africa, and Alliance Francais. That is pre-Covid-19.

And guess what, the brand Bassline now has just assumed another life of its own, this time launching a school that teaches anybody interestedabout the art and business of live music.

This online music was announced this week, and is open to anyone who cares and wants to gain skills in organizing live music events, from musicians, events organisers, students to those old in the game of organizing live events but who would like to gain new skills in preparation of new opportunities that are bound to open up for live music events post Covid-19.

Again this eccentric couple that is well loved in the jazz circles of Johannesburg have come up with a new innovation, again using the brand Bassline.

Brad Holmes founder of Bassline

Spearheaded by its founders Brad and Paige Holmes, they have brought together an exciting group of industry professionals from across the globe, to impart their experience and knowledge on-line in a pragmatic mode. Presenters from professors to industry champions share their experience and methods to emphasize the resilience, and successful ways forward for struggling performers. The course is accessible purely online, keyed to learning at your own pace and time and functionality here:  http://bassline.co.za/music-biz-essentials/

Says Brad Holmes ” Musicians must have staying power to thrive again in the live music industry through these uncertain times. Online courses are one vital means of ensuring that when the crowds of devotees flock to live music events again, all of us will be ready. Research has shown that, in the past, during post pandemics and global upheavals, the entertainment industry experienced un-paralleled booms. Fans WILL spend more on live experiences as soon as it’s safe.”

“The first presenters of these online sessions give an overview of the essentials of what’s required to reset your career in whichever sector of the live music industry for which you have talent and passion. Whether it is in composition and showmanship, production, promotion, technical, stage, road management, artist management and marketing to healthy psychology and unstoppable confidence, these sessions provide a down-to-earth road map for “getting there”. says Paige Holmes.

The programs feature a selection of veteran experts all having direct involvement with the Bassline and decades of experience, and most importantly, are still currently in the biz, . 

Vocalist and songwriter Simphiwe Dana performing at Bassline

The Essentials are suitable for post-matric students who are unsure of what they want to do after school,.students who know they want a career in the live music industry, industry colleagues, producers, promoters, artist managers, and artists wanting to hone their performance and learn more about the biz.

The course is accessible purely online, keyed to learning at your own pace and time and functionalit..

Bassline Music Biz Essentials: Consists of 6 Sessions. Topics are presented in various formats centred around the online video with these pros. Each provides added downloadable files of professional documents for the learners’ further benefit.

The Sessions and their presenters are listed below:

Opening a Music Venue – Brad Holmes, Bassline Founder

Brad Holmes is an experienced, versatile and accomplished producer, promoter and venue manager – owner from Johannesburg. With the advent of democracy in South Africa, he played an integral role in developing and sustaining the domestic and African music industry primarily though the founding of the Bassline Jazz Club in 1994. As documented in the book, Last Night at The Bassline by David B. Coplan & Oscar Gutierrez (Jacana Media, 2017), this 200-seater club provided a live performance space for legendary and emerging musicians as well as for South Africans and internationals of all backgrounds to come together as compatriots. In 2003 the Bassline moved into the heart of Johannesburg to create the 1000-seater Bassline Concert Hall and inaugurated a new part of the business focusing on producing and promoting standalone live music concerts and festivals. Brad is perfectly positioned to give you the insight required to help you succeed in opening and running a music venue, and to help you troubleshoot the issues, on stage and off, that will confront you. Join his session and share with him, his experience of the successes and pitfalls of the live music venue industry.

Stage Management Essentials  Mabusha Dumisa Masekela

MABUSHA MASEKELA has spent his life in music. From the age of 3 months he has travelled and worked extensively across the globe with various famous friends and family members including Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Stewart Levine, Quincy Troupe and Ray Lofaro. Mabusha has experience in film production and a varied experience in the music business that includes deal making, music and video retail management and tour management, as well as concerts, festivals, and live broadcasts. Detail-oriented, he’s adept at organizing and managing various aspects of live events and productions including logistical, administrative and human resoures. He Worked on (to name a few) the South African 2004 presidential inauguration, served as Assistant Director on the film docudrama The Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela; handled stage/production management at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, music supervision on Late Night With Kgomotso and various multi-broadcast events including Dance 4 Life, the Millennium Show on Robben Island, the 2007 and 2008 live Vuka Sizwe television broadcasts, and the 2010 World Cup Kick-Off Concert. Here, Mabusha presents the Essentials in Stage Management.

Technical Management Essentials – John Mac

John Mac is arguably one of the most experienced technical directors on the planet. He is a technical director to the live events Industry with 35 years’ experience in this field. He has worked as a freelance audio engineer and production manager in Europe, North America, Africa and South East Asia from 1985 until 1996, when he joined Gearhouse SA. There he served in many different roles for twenty years working on concerts with global stars  such as Johnny Clegg, Skunk Anansie & Stevie Wonder to name a few. He left Gearhouse SA in 2016 to become an independent technical consultant/director and continues in this role today. Mac has broad experience in the fields of live music events, music festivals and television production, with excellent knowledge in the fields of production management/project management/ audio/lighting/audio visual/led screens/power generation & distribution/staging/set design & construction/rigging.

John Mac’s session covers the essentials of technical management for Venues and Festivals.

 Introduction to Anyone  Can  Book  A Gig.

Presented by Katherine McVicker from the USA. founder and director, Music Works International

Director Katherine McVicker founded boutique agency Music Works International (MWI) in 2014 after three decades in the music industry as an agent. She developed touring careers for dozens of artists such as Michael Brecker, Esperanza Spalding, Wayne Shorter, Dianne Reeves, Brad Mehldau, Lizz Wright, The Bad Plus, Jason Moran, Richard Bona, Joshua Redman, Joe Lovano, Vijay Iyer, and noted world music artists such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Spanish Harlem Orchestra, and The Gloaming. In 2000, Katherine launched the European touring career of Norah Jones and spent seven years developing Jones’ profile internationally. 

Katherine continues to develop MWI with a focus on expanding opportunities for established artists on the roster as well as fostering the live performance careers of the next generation of global touring artists. Katherine is available for artist consultation, interviews, the state of the industry, international touring, and artist development. Here Katherine presents an Introduction to the Anyone  Can Book A Gig online course.

For more info on Music Works International link:www.musicworksinternational.com/course

Information on the full Anyone Can Book a Gig online course:

Anyone Can Book a Gig is an online self-paced program that is available for individual study, group workshops, and multi-day bootcamps. The course comes with over 60 Essential Artist Toolkit downloads including contract and rider templates, tour history sheets, worksheets, videos, and more. If you want to work with the team at MWI, we provide one-on-one career development consultation as well as a variety of artist services.

Visit us at https://www.musicworksinternational.com/course/ to access additional information and enroll in the Anyone Can Book a Gig course.

Artist Management Essential – Jess White

Australian-born Jess White is a creative and dynamic artist manager, booking agent, music consultant and event producer, providing a platform for music, the arts and creative expression in South Africa, the region and beyond. In 2014, he founded Akum Agency, an independent artist management, booking agency, music consultancy, event promotion and creative production company. Akum Agency represents a diverse roster of artists from South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique, Kenya, Sudan, Ghana, Mali, Senegal and Cameroon/New Zealand, nurturing their respective talents and building their profile among national and international audiences. As an arts and music consultant, White has vast experience in event and festival management, music export, event and festival programming, financial management, music video production, marketing, logistics, workshop facilitation, reporting writing and music journalism. Past clients have included: Australasian Worldwide Music Expo, Apple Music, The British Council, Bushfire Festival, Concerts SA, IOMMA, Music In Africa, OSISA, Platoon, Pro Helvetia, Nafasi Art Space, Sakifo Festival, Sauti za Busara Festival, Visa For Music.  Jess’s session covers the essentials of managing artists.

A History of South African Jazz & Showbiz – Professor David Coplan.

New York-born David Coplan is emeritus professor in anthropology at Wits University and from that cross-cultural perch has been studying and lecturing on African showbusiness for many decades. Prof. Coplan spent time in 35 African countries, but since the 1970s has concentrated on South African showbusiness and professional performance in particular. He is the author of many works, including In Township Tonight! Three Centuries of South African Music and Theatre, (2008), Last Night at the Bassline (2016), and a world authority on South African music and the development of the industry. He has his own consulting group, Ha-Raleqele Cultural Consultants.

His contribution to the Bassline Music Biz Essentials focuses on the against-all-odds history of the South African music industry and the lessons it holds for performance professionals now and in the promising future. Our musicians have overcome before, and they can do it this time.

Bassline Music Biz Essentials are located from here: http://bassline.co.za/music-biz-essentials/

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