The South African music industry has reacted with shock to the closure of Musica music outlets across the country at the end of May.
Clicks Group, the owners of Musica since 1992, recently announced that the biggest music, movies and games sellers in South Africa was shutting down its door, citing the digital era and low sales. The group further stated that the 59 remaining shops in the country will be closed in May, while 19 stores closed at the beginning of the 2021 financial year.
The local entertainment industry said the closure of Musica shops was going to hit the industry hard since some music consumers still believed in buying physical copies. As much as the closure will affect the industry in general, African traditional music (maskandi, mbaqanga and mgqashiyo) and gospel music will suffer the most.
Multi-instrumentalist jazz musician and producer, Pops Mohamed, who also partly distributed his music through Musica, said the closure was a blow to the industry. He said this is going to affect a lot of people, especially the black population. Mohamed said the store’s closure is going to close a lot of doors because distribution companies will also suffer.
“It is like a slap in our faces and we don’t know the reasons … but we know that the buying of music has shrinked because people are unemployed,” said Mohamed.
Gospel diva, Debra Fraser echoed Mohamed’s sentiments, she said the closure of Musica is going to hugely affect gospel artists because of the kind of following they have. She said it does have a positive effect, as it will teach artists to look at other ways like going to churches and markets to sell music.
“The closure of Musica shops will affect our genre big time. As much as many people can buy music digitally, a big number still believe in physical copies. This is forcing us to go fully into digital downloads,” said Khunzani Mpungose, a maskandi singer.
Another gospel star, Bethusile Mcinga said that with more people moving towards the digital route, there is still a margin of people who are not so digitally inclined, such as gospel fans. According to Mcinga, those are people who still believe in buying a physical copy.
“In this regard distributing music digitally can be seen as cost-effective and more efficient. As sad as it is, times evolve and so should we,” he said.
Clicks Group said in a statement that the remaining stores will be closed as leases expire over the next four months when the majority of leases terminate. It mentioned that Musica has been operating in a declining market for several years because of structural shift globally to the digital consumption of music, movies and games from the traditional physical format.
“The inevitable demise of the brand has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic which resulted in the rapid decline in foot traffic in destinations malls where Musica stores are typically located. In the stores which have been closed since September 2020, the Musica staff has been absorbed into the group’s expanding health and beauty stores network. Management is committed to accommodating the remaining staff within the group where this is operationally feasible,” said Clicks Groups.
The president of the South African Music Industry Council (SAMIC), said everything is about digital era, and it is something that people have to accept because the world is going in that direction.
“The problem is that majority of artists still believe in CDs and anything that has to do with digital needs money to buy data. I assume that it was a business decision taken by Clicks Group but it has made us uncomfortable,” said Mpololo.