Sun | Jan 20, 2019

Tough year for local reggae

Published:Sunday | January 4, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Sean Paul
Ziggy Marley

Billboard findings show Jamaica losing grip on genre to overseas markets

Shereita Grizzle, Sunday Gleaner Writer

LAST year was a tough one for local reggae at least, according to Billboard magazine findings.

In June, the internationally acclaimed chart revealed that United States (US) reggae acts were outselling their Jamaican counterparts. By September, more Billboard research found similar results, and in a year-end issue when the magazine announced its list bearing the top 15 best-selling reggae albums of 2014, once again, non-Jamaican acts dominated.

Of the top 15, only four Jamaicans made the cut: Ziggy Marley, with his Grammy-nominated compilation, Fly Rasta; Chronixx, with Dread and Terrible; Sean Pauls Full Frequency (also nominated for a Grammy); and Maxi Priests Easy To Love.

The other albums making the top-15 list include Count Me In by California-based band Rebelution, Amid the Noise and Haste by SOJA, Reincarnated by Snoop Lion, Summertime Reggae (Various Artistes), Representing by Tribal Seeds, Automatic by Iration, and The Greens Hawaii 13.

Rounding out the Billboards top-15 reggae albums list for 2014 were 5 Classic Albums by Bob Marley & the Wailers, which features works from the studio albums Rastaman Vibration (1976), Exodus (1977), Kaya (1978), Survival (1979), Uprising (1980); Legend Remixed by Bob Marley & the Wailers; and Reggae Gold 2014.

For the third year in a row, the magazine has produced a list of reggae albums which sees the work of Jamaican artistes being in the minority. Each week, Billboard ranks the top-50 reggae albums based on sales from Nielsen Soundscan. The figures are from compact discs and digital downloads. These findings will no doubt rehash several arguments surrounding the genre, like whether reggae is dying a slow death in its native land and if Jamaica can still claim reggae as its own.


According to figures gathered from the Billboards year-end issue, most of the albums from non-Jamaican acts have sold over 30,000 copies to date, while the albums from the Jamaican acts barely manage to pass the 15,000 mark. The best-selling compilation from a Jamaican, according to the Billboard findings, is Ziggy Marleys Fly Rasta, which has sold more than 16,000 copies to date.

When compared to the next best-selling album by a Jamaican, Chronixxs Dread and Terrible with 7,000 copies sold, that figure seems great, but if one were to compare it with the best-selling album on the list Snoop Lions Reincarnated, then that figure would be appalling. With sales of more than 100,000 copies, according to the Billboards statistics, Snoop Lions album far outsold the Jamaican artistes.

As the gap in sale figures are examined more closely, questions surrounding why foreign reggae acts continue to outsell Jamaicans will also resurface.

While the Billboards findings may cast a negative shadow on the islands music industry, key players in the business can take solace in the fact that Jamaican acts continue to dominate the Grammy nominations in the Best Reggae Album category at least for now.

This year, of the six nominees, only one non-Jamaican (SOJA with Amid the Noise) made the cut, which leaves a glimpse of hope that all is not lost to foreign reggae acts.

Dont miss next weeks follow-up as industry insiders weigh in and reveal 2015 plans and strategies to counter the shortcoming of local reggae acts where international sales are concerned.