Bayanda Khwela has balanced careers in music production and digital marketing since graduating in project management from the Durban University of Technology. Bayanda describes the processes of founding both Headliners Media Group and Heavy W8 Records as “opening your own lane.” His client list includes some brands that have become household names, such as Universal Music and Hard Rock Cafe.
What music did you listen to during childhood?
I grew up in South Africa, so I basically listened to a lot of South African jazz – my father used to listen to a lot of that. Growing up, it was Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba. I also listened to a genre of music called kwaito, which is our music; it’s very authentic. It became the voice of black South African youth during my childhood.
Back then, music was seen as a revolutionary voice and it was stopped by the government. Music wasn’t accessible and it was considered a mobilizing form of protest, so that’s why it was banned, and a lot of our jazz musicians went into exile and made music with artists living in the U.S. and the rest of the world.
What drove you to pursue a career in music production?
Music, for me, is a very expressive form of art. I mean, without music I don’t know where the world would be. It has a huge connection with the culture of a people, and it becomes part of their identity of where they come from. Music is joyous, it’s sad, it takes you through emotions – it’s motivating. I love those elements because I’ve always found a song for every situation I’ve encountered.
Growing up, I performed in lots of talent shows. I’ve always been around music – always been around people that produce music. Whenever I listen to a song, I love to think about how it was made.
Which producers inspired you to go in this direction?
Locally, it was Black Coffee. I met him in 2002. He was still [in] his second year at college – I was in high school. We were looking for places where we could go to record our demos, and he was one of the people who actually gave us time. He was doing his practicals [assessments] and he always had studio access.
I saw guys like him making music and building a profession around it, and that made me want to know more about music. It’s guys like that, and it’s also other bands, and Brenda Fassie. People like that who had a huge following and everyone would just be singing their songs, and they had such a message and power around them.
Do you have any big music projects coming up?
Heavy W8 Records is the audio side of Headliners Media Group. Heavy W8 produces jingles, and lots of artists work under it. If we require music for Headliners then we’ll use the record label [and] take some composers from there. We also have strategic partnerships with production companies, such as Parental Advisory Productions, which does a lot of commissioned content for DStv and other TV stations in South Africa.
We’ve got exciting things [coming] up soon. We’ve just signed an events management contract with Hard Rock Cafe. So, what we’re doing is reviving South African jazz, but also the life scene in the country. We’re launching the Hard Rock Cafe in Pretoria, and we’re doing the stage management, the finding of the artists, the curation of the musical program.
What inspired you to found a media and marketing company?
Headliners was a brain child of mine when I moved to Johannesburg, which is the hub of South Africa’s entertainment industry. The more I got to see how music is used with visuals, it gave me an idea of where I could create a niche. There were a lot of very good TV shows that needed specific music, but I would also come across brands like Coca-Cola who wanted music. So, I wanted to marry all of that, and it’s what Headliners became.
Who helped you build Headliners?
Luyanda Nene. He’s my partner and has a lot of experience in media sales. He used to work with me at DStv. As we started working together, I roped him in by saying we could really extend out experiences and our contacts. We collaborate and provide something really unique in marketing.
What makes Headliners different from other agencies?
Our selling point is that we understand both worlds in South Africa. We grew up in townships and later spent time in white schools at points in our lives, which gave us both elements of the culture, but we still had the heritage and understanding from the townships. Once you marry the two, it gives you an understanding. Where other agencies cannot go, we find a fresh perspective for creating unique campaigns.
How have your office requirements changed since launching Headliners?
Obviously, you have to start small in the early years. You’re trying to keep your overheads low and [you’re] living from invoice to invoice. We’ve gone from working at home to being in an office. As you’re growing, you require dedicated communication lines, a fully serviced reception, meeting rooms for your company’s reputation and a facility for video conferencing. We’ve looked at a number of places for the company, but Regus made sense for us.
There is also the potential to grow your business because of the companies you find yourself around. With Regus, you’re able to be anywhere, as there are offices throughout Johannesburg and Cape Town, and across the world.
Top tips from Bayanda
1. Bring your interests together: by understanding the business elements of your passion, you have the potential to turn it into a career.
2. Combine resources: partnering with other people will let you share contacts to create an even larger network. This can open up fresh career opportunities.
3. Use your surroundings: being near other companies and entrepreneurs can help you find new business that you might not have expected.
Bayanda works in a Regus office based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Visit Headliners.co.za to find out more about Bayanda’s digital agency.