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OUTRAGE! - Local fans upset, industry insiders agree with Billboard Reggae Artiste of the Year

Published:Sunday | December 27, 2015 | 12:00 AMShereita Grizzle
Joss Stone
Bob Marley
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Billboard Magazine's announcement that British singer Joss Stone is their Reggae Artiste of the Year has stunned the social media world and has left many fans and supporters of the genre very upset.

Since the announcement just days ago, social media has been flooded with comments from people voicing their anger at the decision, many dubbing it an insult to veteran reggae artistes.

Although Billboard sought to justify their decision by stating that the title was given to Stone based on record sales, social media users, especially those on Twitter, were not amused and left no 'stones' (no pun intended) unturned in voicing their disgust at the decision.

"As a reggae connoisseur, this Joss Stone thing is an insult to reggae artistes who have been making music for decades and still get no props," said one user.

"Joss Stone won Billboard's reggae artiste of the year?? ..... Wait ... Did Steve Harvey announce this," said another.

"Joss Stone being Billboard's Reggae Artiste of the Year is like John Cena being voted Rap Artiste of the Year #Joke," another person wrote.

According to the Billboard announcement, Stone not only beat out Bob Marley and The Wailers (who had to settle for second place) on the publication's annual list, but she also outshone 2015 Grammy-nominated artistes Jah Cure and Morgan Heritage.

 

MISUNDERSTANDING

 

Giving his two cents on the issue, music industry veteran Neil Robertson says people have misunderstood the purpose behind the Billboard revelation.

"Billboard is reporting sales in USA for 2015," he said. "Joss Stone sold over 28,000 albums in the USA in 2015. Billboard is strictly reporting USA sales. The label of 'Reggae Album of the Year' isn't what Billboard is reporting."

Maxine Stowe, music industry insider who has managed numerous artistes over the years, including Bunny Wailer agreed with Robertson, however. "I am not in agreement with Billboard's decision because, culturally, it's inaccurate; but I cannot bash it because I understand. Billboard is all about sales and how albums and artistes chart. People are upset because they do not understand this; they do not see that with Billboard, it's all about the numbers."

Stowe also said that Billboard's decision has brought many issues to light, but people are focusing on the wrong thing.

"This revelation has put the spotlight on many problems facing the industry, but taking up the issue with Billboard is not the way to go," she said. "Billboard's findings were accurate because Stone's album sold the most copies in 2015; but the real issue we (Jamaicans) should be focusing on is why our artistes cannot achieve the same sales figures as these international acts."

Stowe went on to say that Jamaica's problems in the industry stem from the lack of proper marketing for local acts.

"Our Government needs to do more to support our artistes. It's not that the music they're making cannot compete with these international acts, it's just that they are not promoted the way they should. We are not marketing them in a way that allows them to compete at the highest level," she said, before going on to explain that prejudices within the industry hinder the music. "The system of prejudice against Jamaican artistes creates situations for persons like Joss Stone to rise to the top. If the presence of our artistes is not making an impact, it leaves a void; a void that will be filled by someone else. As a nation, we are still too prejudiced against reggae music. If this were not so, we would be getting the help we need to push the music forward."

 

Learning experience

 

Agreeing with Stowe, Robertson said that Jamaican reggae artistes should not view Billboard's announcement as an insult but as a learning experience.

"The Billboard announcement is just stating facts on what albums sold in 2015," he explained. "I would not take this as an insult to Jamaican reggae."

He went on to say that the reggae sound is working globally and artistes should capitalise on this by experimenting with the sound.

"The sound is working globally in pop music," he said. "Look at the success in 2015 of OMI and Justin Bieber with Sorry. The focus should be on getting innovative with the songs. As artistes and producers, we have to look within ourselves for what works best. Great songs and original talent will always prevail."

In addition to getting creative with songs and help from the Government, Robertson said that touring will also play a huge role in establishing local acts on the international scene.

"The young artistes out of Jamaica are making an impact in the touring market in Europe. In the USA, it will take more time. It's a combination of finding the right songs and touring that will propel the movement forward," he explained.

shereita.grizzle@gleanerjm.com