Last month, I went to the media launch of Old Mutual’s AMPD Studios. I arrived to Thandiswa Mazwai on the couch with Mam’ Letta Mbulu. In front of the audience that included the likes of Bab’ Sipho Hotstix Mabuse (who performed that evening), Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Bonj, they chatted about the highs, and financial lows, of their careers.

The Studios, which will be ready for use on 25 June, are meant to be a co-working space for emerging musicians. There is a stage, a boardroom and wifi. Then upstairs, there are studios that the musicians can use and they will reportedly have access to Khuli Chana as a mentor, in addition to everything downstairs – if they sign up for an Old Mutual account.  

At that opening last month, I was wondering how the Studios would ensure that the industry becomes progressive by giving these emerging musos all this free stuff. I think the answer will reveal itself. But I attended the first AMPD Masterclass, which showed me that the Studio has plans to not just give space but to school people too.

Slikour gave the masterclass. I expected it to be lessons from his incredible career. He touched on his career, gave a few illustrations from other people’s successes but mostly explained the evolution of commercialisation in music. He spent a lot of time on publishing and giving advice to young people in the audience.

His talk was titled The Consistency of the Underdog and he had some super insightful sparks. He spoke about innate potential (watch the brief video below) and had a great analogy about planting tomatoes. Summarised: your grind and subsequent success comes from you deciding if you’re planting tomatoes for your own enjoyment or to sell to others. Your talent or potential is the tomato. How he kept coming back to that, and the fact that each person must make the decision for themselves, was powerful.

Now the meh part. With all the conferences, talks and whatnot I’ve been to in the last decade, I am convinced that emerging artists don’t listen to advice they can google. They don’t even google the basics. Whether it’s SAMRO or a superstar telling them to thoroughly read contracts, they don’t heed that advice. But organisations keep telling them about the same things. What it seems like they want is: advice on their own, specific journeys because they believe they are so special they are the exception to all the rules everyone – especially the successful – have followed.

And that’s not shade. It’s just an observation. That’s why the same kids are at conference after conference. They don’t listen to what’s being said because they’re thinking about themselves only so they don’t actually go and apply any of the knowledge being shared.

The almost three-hour masterclass experience will no doubt enrich someone’s life. But here’s some feedback for future masterclasses. It might be helpful to get potential attendees to submit their questions beforehand so the speaker can tailor-make their masterclass to address those common concerns or questions.