Covid-19 stopped the music industry in its tracks. Those who relied on live gigs had to come up with new ways to create and share their music and for internationally acclaimed DJ and producer, Mark Stent, this was not necessarily a bad thing. It even spurred him on to shine a spotlight on up-and-coming South African artists.
Stent, who has just launched his fourth solo album called Sugar, says that during lockdown, musicians were forced to explore new ways to create and share their music.
“We had to figure out how to get closer to fans, from a distance. It was actually a great opportunity to move away from what was becoming formulaic and monotonous and reboot – free from the physical exhaustion that goes hand in hand with constant gigging.
Now the work is in the content creation and engagement,” says Stent.
When lockdown hit, Stent, who has a BSC degree in mathematics and statistics, relied on big data to tap into the psyche of social media users, by launching Mark Stent Fitness and JustMe Meditations.
“Fitness and health are at the core of my being and who I am. Mark Stent Fitness is a personal project to help others feel great and learn to love their bodies and its capabilities. JustMe Meditations helps find those small moments of ‘me-time and learn how to live more in the present, slow down and find ways to relax,” says Stent.
On the music front, Stent also started doing sets via livestream every Sunday. “It was more of an experiment and a way to keep myself busy, but they really took off.
I think it came at the right time as people were bored and were needing some interaction with the outside world. My streams at the peak of lockdown in April had thousands of people logging in and engaging.”
“That’s when I realised that the audience is there, it’s just about adapting my approach. I can honestly say I have never been busier, or more creative. I am learning every day, and that’s been one of the gifts of the pandemic.
I realise now that in order to stay ahead, you need to keep up with the changing digital landscape, dream and create for a new normal, use music to bring positive beats to difficult times, and, above all, to be true to yourself. It was a good kick in the right direction.”
This ‘kick’ also ‘birthed’ Sugar, a sweet nod to Stent’s evolution as an artist and to how he views life at the moment. “This album is a lot more musical and house music orientated. It has a nice mix of dance-ability, feeling, energy and emotion.
In the past I have spent so much time trying to please everyone else and respond to the current trends. I feel like in this album I have done more of what I personally want to do. It was created over lockdown and I had a lot of time to think about what I truly enjoy doing. I love pianos and organs and this album is full of them. I feel like this album reflects who I am as an artist.”
The album also features up-and-coming local artists who reached out to Stent on social media. “The best way to create a legacy is to encourage and help other artists grow. This is a hard industry to crack and I believe that if you have a platform with any kind of influence, then you should be helping those that will come after you. There is space for everyone in this game and the greatest gift you can give someone is your time and knowledge,” says Stent.
Sugar is available on all streaming and download platforms: