Work-Shopping The RSA

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When I started to write 1, 2, 1, 2, the last thing on my mind was the idea of teaching. In fact teaching was something I had studiously avoided for years. ‘Who am I?’ the voices were saying, ‘To go and tell people how to do stuff.’

But my father was right. It had to be done with that book. I learned one hell of a lot from the experiences in this environment. It sounds like a cliché, but for every kid that learned something from me, I learned something from them. Every time I stood up and did one, I learned something.

Just Turn Up
Thanks to MMINO, my first work shopping experience was with Deon Maas and Sbu Molefe, doing the MMINO BMW (Business of Music Workshops) around South Africa. Before we did those sessions I was nervous how a middle aged white man would be received by a room full of black kids, trying to tell them how to do things. Here I learned my biggest lesson: Turn up. Go to people. Stay in your integrity; be honest about your intent and no-one cares after 5 minutes what colour you are or where you come from.

This was a big one for me because, of course, my fears were by and large racist. In the four years that I spent travelling South Africa I came to enjoy the township workshops MORE than any others. This was because, one, there you are right in at the base of the pyramid where you can really make a difference. Two, by making the effort to go you stand out as more serious and willing to share so the response is more open. But lastly I discovered that black township kids have a real DIY, Generation X spirit about them that resonates very powerfully with the way I see the world.

Insist On An Exchange
I learned that you can’t just give stuff away for free. Firstly, if its free most people think it is of sub standard quality. Secondly, if nobody pays, they don’t give their full attention. You end up with the double whammy of basically disinterested people attending who don’t listen. Even the measly R20.00 I was charging is enough to get people who are serious to come. Let’s face it, if you can’t justify spending 20 bucks on improving your career, you’re not very serious about it are you?

Don’t Believe The Myths
I learned that the myths of music actively prevent talented people from getting ahead because they believe ridiculous stuff which is very hard to get out their heads. There are without doubt kids in South Africa who are no longer in music because of one of my workshops. These are the ones who leave a workshop looking like I kicked their |Christmas puppy to death in front of them. I explode a lot of myths in the workshops. Some people prefer the myths.

Improve Thyself
I learned that I had never been a very good band manager. My focus was on the obvious, day-to-day stuff too much and in fact I had no clue about the longer range potentials of artist management. Was I ever to re-enter this arena, I would do things very differently.

Be In It For The Right Reasons
I learned that, just because you have written a book, spent 4 years giving workshops, writing articles, 1-on-1 consultations and seminars, it doesn’t mean that necessarily, things will changeover night. If you are focussed solely on the making of a difference, you are in it for the long reasons. I had to learn to just love doing it for what it was: meeting people, exchanging ideas. Not because I felt good about it afterwards. Luckily, that was mostly quite easy to do.

Thou Can Teach!
I learned that I am a pretty damn good training facilitator who can come at things from many, many levels, despite language and culture barriers. I was pretty chuffed about that one. As I said, I was wary of teaching… I was suspicious of the power positioning of it I guess. Maybe I was just scared I would be crap. Well, I learned I am not. That was cool.

The sum of all this stuff I learned was this: Middle class white South Africans know a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff. We know so much that we take it for granted and often fail to see or understand why we are seen as privileged. Most of the value I gave in those workshops was not my music business knowledge. I t was the other stuff about how to navigate a system, the language to use, how to strategise. Stuff you don’t know or learn easily in a township when you are poor. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could find a way to share more of that?

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