Die Antwoord's newfound Internet fame: your love don't pay my server bills


[Photo: Andy Davis for Mahala.]

If you missed this week's nuclear memesplosion of white trash Afrikaans zef-rap Next Level Shit with petite jailbait, Haring-esque wall art, and a Progeria survivor spiritual genius, here is the first BB post, and here is the second. Die Antwoord is the latest of many projects founded by Watkin Tudor Jones (aka "Waddy," aka "Ninja") and his classically-trained partner Yolandi Visser (aka "Yo-landi Vi$$er"). Today, Phillip de Wet of the South African newspaper The Daily Maverick emailed me,

Embarrassingly enough, you turned me onto these guys. As you did with plenty of other people. Does that make their next phase partially your creation? Anyway, that's why I thought I should point you to this piece we published a couple of minutes ago. It's partially a report on Die Antwoord's gig last night, and partially an examination on how their online fame doesn't mean much in the real world. Not yet, anyway. On behalf of many new fans, thanks for plucking them out of obscurity.
Here's a snip from Phillip's article, which is an awesome read—as is their previous coverage of Die Antwoord and related projects, published long before any Boing Boing mentions.
antwoordbth.jpg"Something fucking strange has fucking happened," Jones tells the crowd in Durbanville, explaining that the group's server (which hosts its entire upcoming album free for the listening) had served more than a terabyte of data in the previous two days. "If it was a Souf Efrican server I'd have to sell my father, sell my mother's house," he says, in reference to the high price of bandwidth in South Africa.

The group won't be bearing the cost of its sudden popularity; that is being taken care of by companies like Google. Its music videos are streamed by Google-owned YouTube, and most of the discussion about it happens on Facebook and Twitter or third-party blogs and news websites. Its own server is hosted in the USA, the land of milk and honey and bandwidth so cheap it's nearly free. Its demo CDs are created on a home computer at a price that can be measured in cents per unit, and even its very slick and highly stylised videos were made for next to nothing.

But neither is the group making any money out of the phenomenon. All its music is free for the taking and it has no merchandise to sell. It runs no advertising on its website, and doesn't get a cut of whatever revenues Facebook or Google generate. While millions of people were enjoying their music, they were splitting the door take at the house. At a couple of thousand rands a piece for a couple of hours work that is money many starving artists wouldn't sneer at, but it's hardly the big time.

Die Antwoord pays its dues for the last time, but Internet fame isn't cold, hard cash (The Daily Maverick, and thanks again for turning BB on to the whole thing, Clayton)

Related: more coverage at Mahala. "Die fokken Antwoord is," and earlier, "15 Minutes with a NINJA" and "Max Doesn't Live Here Anymore." Images in this post courtesy of Mahala.


  1. Awesome in the manner that it’s everything that was wrong with the 80s. Think Vanilla Ice with a 5 year old fascination of ninjas… bad beats, disturbing female backup… so wrong and yet I can’t stop eating these potato chips.

    I’d send them a dollar and am sure there are others who enjoyed their videos enough to do so as well. Tell them to set up a paypal or offer their music for cheap download (it says it’s available but not obvious to find). They would makes some $$. They also look like they’ve got some sponsors on their website like Puma.

    1. Keep in mind that – until BB struck earlier this week – there was nothing to monetise. It would have cost them a fortune to create a line of merchandise, without an audience big enough to ensure break-even, never mind a profit. Now that the audience has materialised out of thin air they have to scramble to keep up.

  2. Oh thank odins bushy beard.

    at first glance i thought the picture was for an article about an avatar themed rapper.

    it’ll happen, we dont want it, but it will, mark me on it.

  3. bb should set up a fundraiser donation site for die antwoord. i’d donate a few bucks for an album or something.

    1. It’s interesting, isn’t it? I agree.

      The question of why they don’t or won’t monetize their popularity more effectively is an intriguing one, but Boing Boing is not in a position to organize fundraisers for talented but disorganized artists.

      If we’re going to build a money-barn, it’ll be for someone who needs it.

      Like, say, half a million displaced and injured disaster survivors in Haiti.

      1. I agree that it isn’t BB’s job to set up a payment system, but I don’t agree with the sentiment coming across in some of the posts here that this would be some sort of charity. Payment would merely be giving back to the artists for entertainment delivered.
        I for one have been very much entertained over the past few days after discovering them through Boingboing.

        1. I agree that it would be neat if someone organized this!

          The measure of an artist’s talent is not always commensurate with their skill/motivation/abilities to run a profitable business.

          They’re amazing, and they truly deserve to profit from their work.

      2. Xeni, they are probably not selling anything because the South African Reserve Bank does not allow citizens to receive money through Paypal in South Africa. http://www.moneyweb.co.za/mw/view/mw/en/page38?oid=299705&sn=Detail

        The only way you can sell items and receive money into a South African bank account is to have a merchant account with credit card facilities. There are some other options with services that you can implement where the money will be transfered into you account from an overseas provider.

        Some discussions http://groups.drupal.org/node/13319

        The long and short is that selling things online from South Africa is a pain in the butt. We have a little company doing Drupal development and have been meaning to write a drupal payment gateway using https://www.alertpay.com/ Will do it just as soon as we have some resources :)

    2. while you are setting up a donation site for DA, you should set one up for Kool Keith. because, that is pretty much what you are seeing here. another character from an unique and talented set of artists. kool keith – black elvis – doctor octagon : max normal – die antwoord.

  4. Look on the bright side. If they were signed to a major label, the record company would be making lotsa money and they would still be starving musicians.

    Is is imperative to make money with your self-expression?

  5. Ohnonicole, your potato chips comment is funny, however I think you have it wrong.

    1) Bad Beats? Are you kidding? This is the freshest thing to come along in a while. They are a complete enigma who have created their own musical universe. Think MIA, Buraka Som Sistema, Atari Teenage Riot, Major Lazer, Aphex Twin, etc. I’m curious to hear what you consider good beats.

    2) They are talented lyricists and completely on point with their rhymes. His flow is undeniable, and her hooks are as catchy as they come. Its not just 5 yr olds playing video games these days.

    3) They’ve done exactly what you need to do to achieve success in today’s changed music industry landscape: create a phenomenon and get noticed, rise about the sea of noise. Everyone is talking about them and the timing is perfect as their album drops this month. The music sounds dope, their photos are excellent, their website is super professional, and all of their videos look incredible even though they could be made on pretty much no budget. Everything about them is compelling. They will hit the road soon as a global phenomenon and cash in.

    Am I about to get an Evil Boy tattoo on my arm like that? No. Is their music is raw and nasty? Definitely. Is this for everybody? No. However, you can’t deny they are doing some things very right.

  6. Sorry, Nalepa you’ve got issues if you dig Diplo endorsed stuff that much.

    He takes the worst “world”(/non-anglo shantytown party music and sells it to the NPR/KCRW crowd. White hipster obsession with brown people = $$$

    Most of that stuff, in its local context, is the worst stuff around. Lazy, to boot – be it Angolan/Portuguese, Brazilian or Sri Lankan. People talking over some crappy casiotone beat does not NWA make.


  7. Wish they had all this attention back in day as Max Normal / Constructus.

    I don’t dig their new music style, but it’s still a treat to watch. Thanks BB for covering this!

    captcha: “to hades”

    1. Jager sponsorship rarely provides money but rather gives the artist promotional items to give out that are co-branded and will sometimes pay for advertising for shows but direct money very rare. They will also help with bookings on Jager sponsored tours and events. I used to work on Jager tours in the US & Canada

    1. Well yeah, it is fake in the sense that Waddy Jones is not an Afrikaaner.

      But what I am curious about is how Die Antwoord is percieved by actual South Africans. Are actual zefs enjoying them non-ironically? Or maybe it’s like the first time somebody made an Anvil or Spinal Tap about their particular culture and it’s just simple pride and patriotism for that reason.

      I’m still holding out for Xhosian death metal.

      1. While I’m not in South Africa any more, I communicate with a bunch of friends back there, many of whom could be (self-)described as ‘zef’. Word is, people are loving them both unironically and in a kind of masochistic/defiant ‘we refuse to be defined forever as Lethal Weapon II’ kind of way.

        It’s kicking off down there too…

    2. Interesting, but I think ‘what fake’ is probably the most important line there.

      Being smart doesn’t exclude one from being ‘zaf’ or whatever, and vice versa.
      My parents are recovering white trash, the only person in my family without PTSD from something is my middle sister, but that doesn’t stop me from breezing through classes in college.
      I’m in a noise band with intentionally offensive lyrics/sonics, but I’m writing for a Prog Rock album, as well.
      Real/fake isn’t a binary.
      If those turn out to not be tatoos, so what? It’s still pretty awesome to draw all over yourself for a video.

  8. It was crazy to see how quickly they exploded, and how quickly a backlash happened, followed by a backlash to the backlash. That would catch any band off guard. In due time, they’ll manage to monetize the phenomenon.

    I also don’t understand where the backlash came from. As though they were interesting when people thought they were poor Afrikaner white trash co-opting poor coloured cape flats gangster culture, but when people found out they were art-school-educated performers (probably still poor because, hey, art school) co-opting poor Afrikaner white trash co-opting poor coloured cape flats gangsters that suddenly made them fake? They’re representing a culture more genuinely than most music artists these days, and they’re obviously pretty committed (to the point of getting prison tattoos).

    This whole thing has made me explore other African hip hop too, some of which is just as interesting. For example, check out this incredible Congolese music video by Baloji featuring electric thumb piano beats by Konono no1: http://www

  9. Nothing fake about introducing me to an area I know very little about and to amazing people like Leon Botha, for which I will be forever grateful. They are a group of artists in South Africa not unlike the Velvet Underground and Talking Heads were artists in New York. They didn’t represent all of New Yorkers but they sure did create some amazing music and changed the culture with their art.

    “The answer to what?”
    “whatevah man, fuck.”

  10. This band and the phenomenon that is struggling through their wake to keep up with them is fascinating. Unfortunately, there are too many conundrums to count.

    The first conundrum is created by the big music biz, the major labels. The major label business model has been dead for years now. But vultures are still picking at the corpse, and the pickings are getting slimmer. Big music execs aren’t interested in the art a band like DA make, only in how to monetize it. Which, in turn, kills the art.

    The next series of conundrums is the totally new effect of instantaneous fame the likes of which is new to the Internets age. Whereas a decade ago, overnight success meant a band like Pearl Jam touring and plugging away forever before the record takes off (and getting ruined in the aftermath,) nowadays, a band like this can post something on youtube, achieve near-instant worldwide fame, and by the time the machinery is in place to monetize on it, the fickle masses have moved on to the Next Big Thing, leaving DA with tons of CDs and merch they can’t give away.

    This was something the major labels used to excel at– managing a band’s career and keeping them successful long enough to build a catalogue and loyal audience.

    Artists are fragile people, even as tough as these guys in DA would have you think are, behind every creative mind is a bedeviling insecurity. It’s asking a lot for them to handle the instantaneous success and all it entails. It puts unrealistic expectations on them to deliver in the future. Look at what has happened to bands that are a lot more mainstream-ready than these guys, like Arcade Fire. They were all the buzz 5 years ago. And the only thing they’ve done lately is re-record a song from that first album for a movie trailer. I think they’re fantastically talented, but I can’t help but wonder how much better off their art would be if they hadn’t experienced near-instant success.

    As a small label owner, I’m fascinated by the paradigm shift happening with music online. Luckily, I do jazz, which tends to have a less fickle audience. But we have yet to break even on a single release and there is absolutely zero chance of our artists going nuclear on the Internets. Despite the fact we have seriously talented artists, despite the fact we have the last recording of a legendary drummer, despite the fact that we get decent airplay, we’ll be lucky to sell a thousand physical copies and maybe a hundred digital copies (jazz cats tend to want the physical object.)

    The last thing I want to address is the hyperbole. As is the case with the post about Jon Stewart making fun of the over-the-top blogospheric headlines, I think the same could be said with posts like this. The hyperbolic meta-reaction tends to blunt the individual reaction a bit. Too many “OMG this is the DOPEST SHIT EVAR!!!” posts I think serve to get the backlash machine going before anyone even hears the music. And honestly, calling Leon Botha a “spiritual genius” is way, way over the top. Unique and inspirational, yes. But “spiritual genius?” Come on. That kind of hyperbolic statement is a disservice to the artist.

    1. Loved your comment, but feel the need to add that one reason your jazz cats probably prefer analog over digital music is that when they go to your website you require them to install Microsoft Silverlight. I’m a jazz cat myself who was intrigued and curious, and as much as I’m highly digital and all I’m also on Linux, I can’t access your site. Thought about making a website that all can access?

  11. I expected the Die Antwoord whirlwind to evolve differently. I thought that they would take their home grown image, music and fokol attitude and try to capitalize on it without succumbing to signing up with a label. They would put their music up on iTunes ASAP for a quick win and then start developing their other marketing channels on their own terms.

    I was hoping that this would be a grand moment in the history of music. Sort of a metaphorical coup de grace to the traditional music industry.

  12. South Africa, for all its efforts, is still considered a backwater place when it comes to media matters. It’s only in recent years that a few movies hit the international market. If you’re asking why Die Antwoord has not monetised this or that, I’m guessing it’s not because of lack of trying, just lack of experience and political prowess of the sorts that Virgin or Sony have.

    Whatever, I’ll buy their album when it comes out, the least I can do in exchange for spending the last three days at work dreaming about jailbait.

    1. Deals vary and don’t usually mean an artist isn’t struggling – I have had deals with Peavey & Dickies that both provided only gear in return for appearances. That is two sponsorships deals that while nice for a alittle publicity and some free clothing / equipment didn’t make the slightest dent in my rent or student loans.

      It is possible to have a number of deals and still be starving and paying dues

    2. Don’t think for a second that a semi-parody band from South Africa are going to be on the sort of deal that a U.S. based professional athlete.

      In the Rest of The Worldâ„¢ brands rarely have to do more than promise merchandise. “An hour long instore for shoes and a t-shirt? – Sign me up”. Any endorsement by advertisement is usually for the ‘exposure’. I am from New Zealand, and in one particular case, a young hip hop band starred in and wrote a song for a Coke commercial for a very low 5 figure amount.

  13. If they truly are “indie” as is being claimed, more power to them. But too many high visibility promotional elements are “all-of-a-sudden” falling into place for credibility. I strongly suspect RIAA affiliation/enslavement.

    1. The “more news articles” results are meaningless. “antwoord” is a very common word in Dutch (it means “answer” just like it does in Afrikaans) so it will be part of 99% of Dutch or Flemish news articles.

  14. Despite the truly amazing physical resemblance, that guy in the Obelix pants is not me. Although I do have pants like that, and that is my summer hairstyle.

    Freaky. They say everybody’s got a double somewhere.


  15. There’s a bit of an upsurge of this sort of stuff at the moment in SA. Anyone who likes Die Antwoord should check out their previous incarnation Max Normal

    or Jack Parow

    Amazing beats and lyrics, with a huge heap of irony, just like Die Antwoord.

  16. 1) How do I buy there album?
    2) How do I get them to make moar?
    3) How do I send them money?

    These guys are awesome.

  17. thank you boing-boing, blogs, youtube, internet and crazy people all over the world for all the fucking beautiful noise you’ve been making!!! check out the site player and chommies sections at http://www.dieantwoord.com for a clue of what has happened as a result of all this organised madness ;) taking over the interwebs!

  18. My unsolicited $0.02 on corporate sponsorship:

    My [Thai] brother-in-law was a marathon runner and he won the “original” Phuket Marathon 20+ years ago. Adidas snatched him up to sponsor him. His reward? A couple of pairs of sneakers and a half-dozen Adidas t-shirts.

  19. Die Antwoord’s “next-level interwebsite” has published “20 Fun Facts About Die Antwoord” which may or may not be true but definitely seem to be a response to criticism of their project.

    1-NINJA, YO-LANDI and DJ HI-TEK made all their music, music videos, video stings, photos, and this next-level interwebsite all on their own with the help of some good friends.
    2-NINJA was in many weird rap groups before DIE ANTWOORD: The Orginal Evergreens, Max Normal, Fantastic Kill, and Total Confusion on Planet Phunk to name a few. Then one day NINJA tapped into his inner zef and discovered DIE ANTWOORD.
    3-NINJA has a secret fairy forest tattoo on left arm that he covers with bass.
    4-Just to clear up the rumors: NINJA and YO-LANDI are not in a relationship. They are just good friends. NINJA says: Relationships are fickle, like the relationship you are having with your body.
    5-Yo-landi’s mom cuts her hair, but she gets her hair dyed at SCAR HAIR. Yo-landi says: It’s always important to remember your roots.
    6-This next fun fact is dedicated to all the confused retard people out there who hate DIE ANTWOORD but can’t stop watching their interweb videos every single fokkin day of their boring lives. DIE ANTWOORD put Puma & Jagermeister logos onto this next-level interwebsite because Puma gives DIE ANTWOORD free clothes and free shoes and Jagermeister gives DIE ANTWOORD free dop. Puma and Jagermeister did not give us money to make DIE ANTWOORD. DIE ANTWOORD was created from nothing using alot of blood, sweat and tears.
    7-NINJA likes Dolfins.
    8-YO-LANDI likes sexy boys with no front teeth.
    9-DJ HI-TEK likes his PC Computer.
    10-ZEF is a unique South African term that has been around for fuck knows how long. This term was made famous 10 years ago by a next-level interwebsite called WatKykJy.com.
    11-NINJA, YO-LANDI and DJ HI-TEK started DIE ANTWOORD because of WAT KYK JY?
    12-JACK PAROW is DIE ANTWOORD’S duk gang$ta kung-fu panda chommie.
    13-The 1st time NINJA saw JACK PAROW’S fat rap cap he got goose bumps.
    14-YO-LANDI rocks more bling than C3PO.
    15-YO-LANDI’s best friend is KIMPOSSIBLE who lives in Mitchell’s Plain.
    16-DJ HI-TEK is a shape-shifting alien from another dimension.
    17-NINJA does not sit like a doos with a koki pen and draw every single one of his tattoos on in the exact same identical place every time he has to be in a photo or a music video or a rap show you fuckin idiot, or wait…maybe he does. Jissis!
    18-DIE ANTWOORD are busy blowing up faster than the speed of light because they are the freshest, most futuristik rap-rave crew in the world.
    19-DIE ANTWOORD raps for the Chosen Ones.
    20-Anyone who doesn’t like DIE ANTWOORD is a poes.

  20. I am thrilled that these guys did all this without commercial incentive or support, I sincerely hope that their originality won’t suffer as the money rolls in

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