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No pay, no game - Unprofessional behaviour of artistes chases away major record labels

Published:Monday | February 23, 2015 | 12:00 AMCurtis Campbell
Copeland Forbes

The '70s,'80s and early '90s were the glory days of Jamaican music, with several of the island's artistes inking record deals with esteemed and internationally acclaimed recording labels, including Island Records, CBS Records, Colombia Records, EMI, Rolling Stones Records, among others. Fast-forward to 2015, one can't help but wonder, where have all the major labels gone?

Veteran entertainment manager Copeland Forbes believes major labels severed ties with Jamaican artistes because of unprofessionalism and a lack of vision. The effect of the anti-Jamaican music campaign led by the homosexual community was also brought under the microscope.

According to the man who has represented icons like Beres Hammond, Gregory Isaacs, The Wailers, Peter Tosh, Ziggy Marley, Sugar Minott, among others, during his career, Jamaican artistes need to be taught proper business ethics and attitude. He also credited Shaggy's success to his ability to make good business decisions.

"Some of these artistes, if you tell them to go overseas to do some promotions, if dem nah get paid, dem nah guh. Mi see me and Shaggy just reach New York from Japan on a 15-hour flight and he received a call saying his song just took off in England and they needed him to make an appearance. The same night, Shaggy took a flight to England and it was free because it's promotion. But some of these artistes won't do that. Dem a guh tell yu sey dem have to go home to eat, and do this and that. So the major labels are there to help us, but we must pull our weight too," he said.


advance money


Forbes also revealed that artistes have used the advance money given to them by record labels to finance their expensive lifestyle, instead of using it to produce quality records and videos in support of their careers.

"They get an advance so that they can make a proper album. But what our artistes do is buy a big car and a big house out of the money and take what's left to produce a mediocre album and give to the record label. The labels see right through it and they regard that behaviour as 'bull'... , they also don't go and promote the album. So we lost the big labels as a result of that. Back in the day when Virgin Records came here, people joined lines at the Hilton and Richard Branson (founder of Virgin Group) signed artistes like crazy. But if you are going to say you want money for everything, the record labels will go," Forbes noted.

According to Forbes, many Jamaican youth are misguided to think that Jamaican music is just breaking out and is seeking the attention of major labels. However, that belief is the total opposite, as the labels were fully focused on Jamaican music before unprofessionalism chased them away.

"Is we create the problem, because we are undisciplined, and we don't have that professional approach. I have never heard any of these artistes admit that they were wrong when they get dropped by the record labels. They all put the blame on the label, saying they don't know how to promote them," Forbes told The Gleaner.

As for the war against the homosexual community, Forbes believes Jamaican music lost. He singled out artistes like Beenie Man and Shabba Ranks, who were seriously affected by the gay backlash. The branding of Jamaican music as 'hate music' did not do much to repair relationships with major labels either, Forbes explained.

"Look pan Beenie Man, he did a duet with Janet Jackson and that went nowhere, because the homosexual community was going hard against him at the time and the record label pulled away. They lost, because over a million dollars was pumped into the production of that song. I would tell my artistes, you don't need to go down that road, leave that alone. You don't need to go on stage and address homosexuality, because it existed before you, and it will exist after you are gone. The sad thing is that our entire music industry was affected," he said.


errors of the past


Forbes believes Jamaican music will still outsell other international genres if given the chance to do so. However, the errors of the past must be corrected by the new crop of recording artistes. This, he believes, can be accomplished with a positive attitude and the right work ethics.

Forbes was speaking to The Gleaner at the recently concluded International Reggae Conference hosted at the University of the West Indies, Mona, as part of February's planned Reggae Month activities.