Music Industry faced with Management crisis?
On the heels of OMI's success on the US, Hot 100 chart, some industry players have credited the artiste's achievements to the professional management skills of iconic artiste manager Clifton 'Specialist' Dillon.
The industry players argue that despite Jamaica still being able to produce some of the best talents globally as well as quality music, the music industry is experiencing a grave management crisis.
Veteran record producer Winston 'Niney' Holness, has worked as manager and producer for several acts during his more than 30 years in music. He told The Sunday Gleaner, that based on his experiences with local managers, he is certainly not confident that the future of some of the most promising Jamaican talents are in good hands. According to the self proclaimed 'Musical Observer', some persons who classify themselves as artiste managers, are really second hand booking agents, since all they do for their respective artistes is update their booking itinerary.
"We don't have no management, only few yu have ... guys like Specialist and Copeland, but they are from a different era. A manager must be able to direct his artiste and give his artiste jobs. These people we have in charge of our artistes are hustlers. They book something with a next man, take a percentage, call the artiste and then the artiste decide if they can make it ... that's all they do. Managers must go out into the world and search for new opportunities. They should find out the capacity for shows, do their own security research, be on the lookout for conflicts, seek effective avenues to promote the artiste and build a brand. But, these young ones they are about friends. They don't know nothing about management," he said.
According to Holness, even promising reggae acts like Chronixx could have been better secured on the international platform with a better management team.
The fact that OMI's Cheerleader single is four year's old, was also brought into perspective, as the producer says managers should quit the practice of over-saturating the market with music and focus on selling numbers.
He says Specialist made a great management decision by pushing one good song into the international market, since only a few Jamaican radio stations are paying royalties via registered playlists.
"When good song make, you have to promote it extensively in order for it to work. These guys are hustling with radio guys and paying money for play. These radio guys are not using the radio library. They take thousands of dollars to play your song a few times and that is it. As a manager, your money is burning up, because once they are not picking from the library you won't get any royalty. Yuh just pay for your play and that is it," he said.
Holness, who has worked with Dennis Brown, also conceded that some managers have become lazy due to bad experiences with recording artistes and sour business deals. He advised managers to be professional and get their contracts in order, instead of only developing a 'mi and yu a fren' attitude.
"You (managers) and the artistes have to come to an agreement. If you sign an artiste, everything he or she makes you have to benefit from it until he or she dies. So, set your paperwork right and stop talk bout mi and you a friend, because some of them, when dem career tek off, dem push yuh aside because they don't want to pay up. Get a lawyer and go through it. We don't have to live like puss and dog, but it's a business. When you take up a youth, the first thing you do is get that contract signed. Nuh badda wait until him buss, because at that point, him not going to need you again," he warned.
Artiste manager Heavy D, says he is already directing his focus on international markets. The manager who has spent the last two years building a fan base for recording artiste Tommy Lee Sparta in Europe, says some managers don't see the need to promote artistes, because some artistes are not fair.
He also says the unprofessional ways of some Jamaican artistes have also set the precedence for managers to become complacent.
"Most of the elder artistes had set a pace where the management system never right. As far as I am concerned, some of these artistes only want somebody to book show for them and take down dem dates. They don't want anybody to tell them to wake up out of bed, run dem business, and yu can't late. So if a manager a guh tell him to do otherwise, the artiste rather hire him brother, friend or cousin as manager," he continued.
"I see Specialist and OMI promoting everywhere. These other managers and artistes' nah do that. Dem want money. It's not that the music don't good mek wi nah chart regular ... inna Jamaica wi watch 'first money' too much. OMI and Specialist dem understand that 'first money' is not what counts. Some of dem artiste yah don't want to pay manager in the first place, so that cause a breakdown too. OMI dem have to pay them percentage because Specialist dem nah tek nuh talking. So I think we really having a crisis," Heavy D said.
The University of the West Indies offers a management degree called Entertainment and Cultural Enterprise Management (ECEM). However, some students claim that even after they have studied for three years, recording artistes are still reluctant to employ their services.
Former ECEM student Sheldon 'Gucci' McIntosh, says he was forced to get another job outside of his field after several failed attempts at getting a foot into the music industry. He blames the unprofessional 'who you know' system practised by the music industry.
"It's like the opportunity doesn't exist for people who graduated from UWI with an entertainment management degree. Most of the people I know that graduated, have settled for jobs outside of the entertainment industry. Most of these established artistes use their friends or people within their circle to manage their careers. This leaves people like myself out of a job or career," he told The Sunday Gleaner.
He says recording artistes will greatly benefit from the services of professional managers, but they must first be prepared to approach music like a business.
The Entertainment and Cultural Enterprise Management course of study also carries an internship programme, which exposes students to the music industry via temporary jobs at record labels among other places concerned with entertainment. Persons like Sheldon 'Gucci' McIntosh and Debby Bissoon, current brand manager at the Bob Marley Group of Companies, were able to gain first-hand experiences, working in the music industry through the program.
However, even with such training, managers with degrees are still faced with an uphill task to tap into, adjust and perhaps change the sometimes dysfunctional structure of the local entertainment industry.
Debby Bissoon who also studied ECEM, did her internship at Big Yard under the wings of Shaggy and Robert Livingston. She says the internship paved the way for her relative successes in the entertainment field. She advises students studying management at the university level to not only rely on the institution's internship programme, but to also volunteer their services to the entertainment industry, so as to create their own network.
Among some of the artistes who have switched their management teams, opting to employ friends and family members, include Busy Signal who axed Shane Brown in favour of his brother, Alkaline who axed Dwayne Morrison for his sister, Aidonia who fired Skatta Burrell and later employed his brother, and Beenie Man who parted company with Shocking Vibes and now has his brother to run the affairs.
United States-based Best of The Best festival promoter Jabba, also commented on local managers, he, too, hinting at the tendency of managers to predominantly focus on booking their artistes for shows, while ignoring other important elements in brand building. He told The Sunday Gleaner that the managers are to be blamed for the large amount of Jamaican artistes without US visas. Pointing out that other international acts are able to travel even with past issues with the law.
"At the end of the day, if you have a proper manager, you will not have inconvenience with visas. You have all these American rappers who have been in jail and get locked up for this and that, but their managers reach out and get proper lawyers and do business. The problem with Caribbean artistes is that they get too caught up in doing shows and going around the world and are not taking care of the right business," he said.