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'Export more local talent' - Veterans claim music biz in Ja no longer profitable

Published:Sunday | May 17, 2015 | 12:00 AMCurtis Campbell
Veteran producer, Clifton 'Specialist' Dillon
Paul Elliott

Following the recent success of Omi's Cheerleader single in international markets, veteran reggae artiste Paul Elliott is encouraging other Jamaican acts to export more of their music. Elliott, who is now promoting an album titled Reggae Music Tun Up, says Omi was forced to take his talent overseas since the local music industry is not prepared to promote or purchase quality music.

Elliott says, like Omi, he has found favour with charts in the international market. However, he is yet to get his due respect in Jamaica, despite dedicating more than 34 years to reggae music.

"Currently, I am on the New York top 30 chart, I am on the charts in South Florida, and several others. I have new songs like Bun Wid Di Music and Meaning of Life, yet I still don't get any justice in Jamaica, it has always been a struggle here ... it's like, if you are not part of a certain clan, you are pushed out," he said.


Mass produced music


He also highlighted that the switch away from vinyl as well as the mass production of digital music has further destroyed Jamaica's ability to be a suitable market for music, pointing to the decline in record stores as an indication that music is not being sold in Jamaica.

The veteran also warned up-and-coming talents that fighting for the spotlight in Jamaica may not guarantee them a lasting career in the music industry, especially on the global stage.

"How the music industry in Jamaica set up, it's like a false hype. It's filled with people who create a base to make artistes feel like they are the big men. It's not based on sales or the quality of production. It's no longer like the glory days of Sly and Robbie and those people. Some of these artistes who are saying they run Jamaican music are giving the people an illusion. Anybody who has the connections can become the man of the moment, because it's all about who you know and not how good you are," Elliott said.

Another issue raised by Elliott is the practice of artistes and labels saturating the airwaves with new releases. The veteran says Omi and Specialist should be used as an example that music should be given time to marinate with the fans since Cheerleader was released in 2012.

Iconic reggae artiste Tappa Zukie also supported Elliott's comments. When contacted by The Sunday Gleaner, he said the business of music in Jamaica is no longer profitable, highlighting that he sold more than 80,000 records with his hit single Oh Lord during better days of Jamaican music.

"Can you believe in this same Jamaica I sold thousands of records? In about 1975, I sold more than 80,000 copies of Oh Lord, and that was only in my first statement and people like Toots Hibbert sold even more than that. But now, not even the hits we know are real, because these guys are buying hits, that is why their music not lasting. It's better to take your music overseas, because Jamaica is just about the spotlight and you have to pay for that too ... plus the audience is bigger overseas and has more appreciation for real content," he said.

Tappa Zukie was signed to international record label Virgin Records in 1976 and promoted much of his work in the UK market, a market in which Omi himself was recently certified platinum with the remix version of Cheerleader, featuring Felix Jaehn.

Omi's Cheerleader now sits at number 47 on the US Billboard Hot 100 single chart while Shaggy, who has always directed much of his focus to the overseas market, is the only other Jamaican artiste on the US Billboard Chart. He currently sits at the 87th spot with his single I Need Your Love, which features Mohombi, Faydee and Costi.

In the meantime, Omi's manager Clifton 'Specialist' Dillon says his strategy for achieving international success is a lesson that other persons in the Jamaican music industry should strive to emulate.

"It's a couple years I have been studying the international market and I saw that I needed to put one of us on that side, just like I did many times before. I did it with Shabba Ranks, Patra, Mad Cobra, Alborosie, Kymani Marley and Richie Stephens. But, so far, this is worldwide. Lesson to be learned, my book comes out 2017," he told The Sunday Gleaner.