Thu | Nov 15, 2018

Any royalties from politics?

Published:Thursday | February 25, 2016 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Sugar Minott
Portia Simpson Miller.
Andrew Holness

Once again, a Jamaican general election campaign has been played out in the streets, the airwaves and on the screens. Accompanying it all has been the beat of Jamaican popular music, with mass rally speeches a display in the synchronisation of text and tune as there is a delightful combination of speaker's point and a quick draw from the turntables.

The meetings are really dancehall gatherings, with the political message superimposed upon an established format of entertainment and communication invented, honed and replicated mainly by the lower socioeconomic class of Jamaicans. And it is they who are transported in droves to the mass rallies and provide not only the swathes of colour which are so important to display party unity and power, but also have the cultural knowledge and inherent propensity to appreciate and react with wild abandon to the music.

Save for the extended speeches, these political meetings are not very different from the marketing campaigns which various companies, prominent among them Red Stripe, FLOW and Digicel, use for their marketing campaigns. Added to the meetings are the motor vehicles equipped with PA systems, emblazoned with party colours, candidate names and faces.

However, while those on the political platform use older songs and hot new tunes to connect with their audiences and get their messages across, I wonder how this benefits the performers, whose music is being used. When Sugar Minott's Mr DC roused the audience during the People's National Party meeting in Half-Way Tree where the election date was announced, were any payments generated for his estate? As Nesbeth's My Dream, is played to support the story at a Jamaica Labour Party rally, does he see any monetary inflow?

Sharply falling to non-existent music sales is a recurring complaint in the business of music worldwide. With this income stream for performers virtually dry, live performance and the income from performance of their recorded music has become more important than ever. The sizes of the gatherings at political rallies in the just concluded active campaign season, the frequency of those meetings, and the inevitable victory celebrations tonight and over the upcoming weekend should add up to a lot financially for the performers whose recorded music is being used there.

But is it?

It should. Strip the colour of whatever stripe from the political rallies and see them for what they are. See them as dancehall events where the music is the means by which the audience is entertained, kept engaged and attentive and receptive to whatever message is being brought across. Just as a club should have a licence or an individual event get the required permit and pay over performance rights, the political parties should be required to do the same.