Guiding principles for successful musicians – Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse

An artist in the South African music industry has plenty to contend with, such as: funding, venues, minimum support from media outlets, international counterparts taking centre stage. Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse addressed the delegates on day one, 22 March, of the 2010 Music Exchange conference discussing why SA musicians are not resilient enough in the industry and hardly ever gain recognition and the rewards for their efforts.

Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse

Exceptions to the rule

Two years down the line, new musicians start disappearing from the South African industry according to Mabuse. Exceptions to the generalisation, however, include Prime Circle and The Parlotones which, in absentia, received resounding applause for their efforts. So what makes the circumstances of these bands different to others who certainly encountered the same obstacles in climbing the success ladder?

Postive relationships

One of the obstacles Mabuse faced was when his band, Harari (formerly known as the Beaters), split and with his “youthful zest, passion and perseverance”, he made the choice of sticking it out and going solo. He was momentarily insecure, but managed to establish great relationships with those involved in his career and pulled through this tough patch. “It is the relationships we establish with others that determine whether the music lives longer,” says Mabuse. The moral of the story being to surround yourself with positive people who believe in you and your capabilities – people who will stand by you through those rough times when your music career looks bleak. For this, Mabuse says, he is very “grateful to the people from Gallo”.

Burn Out in the bag

During the creation of Burn Out (1985), which he describes as being given to him by his ancestors, Mabuse says the idea arrived in his head and he started playing it on the piano, creating layer after layer. It took him an hour to write, after which he called Peter Gallo, describing Gallo as “the kind of recording executive you love to have”, and said to him: “It’s in the bag.”

Embrace self-management

Artists must trust their inner creativity, but it’s equally important to be self-reliant and independent and invest in oneself: “It is important that we create our own independence in the industry. You have to first self-manage; the talent you have is your own and you share it with others,” says Mabuse. Artists need to, in the beginning stages of their careers, go out there and book their own gigs, and realise that they are running their own business and not rely on promoters – they should embrace self-employment.

Tim Lester, a musician present at day one of the conference, asked how one gets past throwing in the towel when encountering challenges. Mabuse acknowledged that these things happen and determination and the way one handles challenges determines whether one survives or not, and that you can only rely on yourself.

Leadership principles

Mabuse, co-winner of the 2005 SAMA Lifetime Achievement Award, proposed three guiding principles for musicians to adhere to steadfastly: sacrifice, dedication and commitment. The three principles, he noted, freedom fighters for human rights used during their struggle.

For more information, go to

From BizCommunity

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s