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"Don't be afraid to fail, failure is just a stepping stone."
Q&A with Jody Abel and Callen Petersen, Acoustic Element
We know that you were initially hesitant to take on music as a full-time career, but eventually you decided to follow your passion and it is paying off. Why the hesitation initially?
Acoustic Element was something we started to make some extra cash whilst studying. Our focus was always on our studies. The initial hesitation stemmed from the fact that we both had obtained two degrees each and were settled in good jobs with promising futures. We knew that leaving our jobs would mean that we would risk putting ourselves behind our colleagues and any promotion opportunities that were coming our way at our current jobs. Another factor is that it's taboo as instrumentalists, especially as a violin and guitar duo, to try become something in an industry driven by singers and DJs. We were aware of the risk and many of our friends thought we were mad.
Both of you have academic backgrounds – how important do you think it is to have the academic backing behind your real passion in music.
Well, it is definitely advantageous. Personally, we think that in the South African context there's not many music management infrastructures in place to uplift upcoming talent and to manage them the way a label or management company would in the USA or Europe. Thus, you have to be the whole package. We have various disciplines in our stable, namely Accounting, Fashion, Media and Marketing. This gives us a huge advantage as we view Acoustic Element as a business and apply our studies to our daily lives as musicians!
Tell me about some of the standout lessons you learned along the way?
How hard is it to break into the industry and carve out a niche and name for yourself?
It's very hard. People aren't very accepting and supportive of local talent in South Africa. Actually, we really like the support that is being seen in the Hip Hop scene in Johannesburg at the moment. In general, though, it's very difficult to get radio play, it's expensive to shoot music videos, gigs are scarce and this is all due to the fact that we're an emerging market and quite a small place in the greater spectrum. Also, everyone wants to become a singer, rapper or a DJ, but what makes you great is really pushing your brand and doing whatever it takes to get your name out there. Exposure is a word we hate as musicians because it usually means a free gig, but it's very important in the beginning! It's also very important that once you establish a name for yourself to stay relevant, keep reinventing yourself and stay fresh!
What are your thoughts on managing finances, wealth and retirement, given the challenges that come with show business?
It is imperative! We both have different ways of saving but we have been saving since the beginning! We have recently obtained property and continue to invest into RA's, TFSA, making up our diversified portfolios. The only obvious issue with being a musician is the volatility of your salary, but with experience, you learn to put away money when it's season and store it for a rainy day - literally. The goal for us right now is to start earning some passive income from royalties, as well as from an interesting business concept we've recently come up with which is an entertainment platform connecting musicians to bookers.