A music-loving nation, South Africa has taken the leap of technological faith and followed the trends of most countries by providing music fans a platform to buy “digital downloads” from and formed the basis of SA music online. Tech giant Apple has supported iStore in South Africa for years now, and as such given South Africans more of a broadened reach into them legally obtaining their favourite songs, albums and more. There’s an impending doom on the horizon, however, and it lies in the same demise that the international music industry has been battling to overcome – websites which enable the downloading of music for free. If we analyse how South African markets and engages with music in the digital landscape, a great deal of people use Mxit to stay in touch with the latest tunes. Websites such as Spotify and Pandora which are free streaming services would make more of an impact to the online listening. Unfortunately, these sites are not yet available in the country – but with a spike in overall connectivity, the gap could be filled. Many local radio stations, such as 5fm, have expanded to an online platform and now it is possible to stream their radio shows and music on demand. The ease of access into these sites have rendered the future of physical sales in terms of CD’s and DVD’s to be questioned. Many music retailers have already felt the sting of the free music movement and closed up shop for good. The lessening amount of customers willing to pay for music has created a major financial haemorrhage for traditional sales – which isn’t the best of news for the hard working artists of the South African music scene. Over the last couple of years the local creative landscape has exploded with a cacophony of talented musicians, many of them gaining international presence and global notoriety. These artists and records have a responsibility to position themselves online, in the digital platforms of music exposure to ensure that the full of extent of their market is being reached. True to this, many have allowed the internet to help promote their music to their fans who engage with social media platforms such as Soundcloud. Soundcloud, which showcases the latest tracks of any registered artist via streaming and limited downloads, could be used as a tool to help stop the epidemic of corporately and privately owned music being obtained freely and illegally sourced from unaccredited – yet extremely hard to shut down – websites which use “torrents” (a file extension for a specific programme). Jeremy loops, Reburn, Freshly Ground, Aking, Shortstraw, Prime Circle, Beatenberg, Haezer, Das Kapital, Die Antwoord, Jack Parow….these are a few local ‘n lekker examples of artists, bands and DJ’s who have signed up on Soundcloud and are promoting themselves in a secure online environment. Streaming gives anyone connected to the internet a platform to listen – but not permanently acquire – any form of computer-based media for free. So instead of fishing around in dodgy and virus-ridden domains, music fans can immerse themselves in hours of playlists, albums and tracks. By “giving” their fans a couple of tracks, EP’s, teasers and chart topping hits in the form of free and legal downloads, there is a larger chance that these accounts will be revisited, shared, tweeted and so forth. In some cases, bands connect to Facebook and request people to “like” their page to gain access to a couple of free tracks. This is a dual success, as more people will be willing to engage and listen and the awareness, popularity, reach is positively reinforced and uplifted. This is often practised as a form of promotion when artists use this technique to freely offer a track or two from an upcoming album. In the long-run, downloading free music for a pro-bono Facebook page “like” or a visit to Soundcloud should seem a little less complicated than installing torrent based clients and software, finding the right avenues to avoid penalties and download music for free, under the line of lawful sight and jurisdiction.However, as South Africa is becoming more tech savvy and open to sharing the knowledge of this systematic approach to the freebie lifestyle, the risk is not going away anytime soon. Perhaps the only solution is to offer internet at cheaper rates like the American and European industries have done – this may give streaming the edge over illegal downloads As a nation so proud and lucky to have a basin of musicians positioning themselves on the local and international charts, we should all do our best to ensure that they are being financially recognised for their talents.