Lecture panel discusses music training, income
After guest speakers Lloyd Stanbury, attorney at law, and Downsound Records' CEO Josef Bogdanovich had spoken at last Wednesday's third annual Joan Duncan Memorial Lecture, Dr Dennis Howard moderated a four-man panel.
Each examined an aspect of the lecture's theme, Mining Gold! How Do We Monetise Jamaica's Music Success? from the perspective of their area of expertise. The lecture took place in the courtyard of the Technology Innovation Centre, at the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech), Papine Campus.
Michael 'Ibo' Cooper, musician and senior lecturer, Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, spoke about the process of taking talent to a professional level.
"The Jamaican music industry has high-quality raw material, but we are trying to convert it to finished product without adequate processing," Cooper said.
He gave examples of training, including the Alpha Boys' School (which counts members of the Skatalites among its alumni) and Bob Marley taking guitar lessons at the then Cultural Training Centre (forerunner of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts).
Cooper spoke extensively about the interplay between training and inspiration. In a context where many people see music as an easy way to get rich, Cooper said many youth can programme two bars and they get 12 people to voice on it.
"The two bar might be nice, but it can't be your scope," Cooper said. And considering the training levels of Jamaican popular music, Cooper borrowed terminology from track and field to say "the worst thing in a relay is not to drop the baton, but take the baton and run backway". He gave the example of his earning significantly one night because he was called in to read music when some Japanese came to do production.
There was applause when Cooper said that under Roger Williams' leadership at Edna Manley, it is now possible to earn a degree in reggae. "Education will process our high-quality raw material," Cooper said.
Producer and director of the FiWi Jamaica Project at UTech, Mikey Bennett, previewed a pairing of talent with training.
"I represent the music industry," Bennett prefaced his introduction of the project. "The level of talent is unbelievable in Jamaica, but what happen?" he asked.
He also borrowed from Jamaica's track and field programme, saying it is a success which leaves clues. Top athletes always credit their coaches and with Jamaica having the most sub-10 100-metre runners in the world, that success is achieved through training and development which is what Jamaican popular music needs.
Bennett broke down Jamaican artistes' earnings into bands, the top tier at US$50,000 and over, those next at US$25,000 to US$50,000 and at the lowest US$3,000 to US$7,000. This is where most are, and there is not much movement through the income levels.
So, Bennett said, "Over the next three years, we propose to train over 100 people." This will include sound engineers. The estimate is that with even a 10 per cent success rate, resulting in a movement to the top tier of the earning scale, it will earn millions of dollars for the music industry.
Key to the training process is trust, Bennett saying that people like Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Usain Bolt trust their coaches.
"Our young musicians need people to trust," Bennett said. June is recruitment month for the programme
Robert Scott, JAMPRO's vice-president, export and marketing, and Paul Barclay, who chairs the Jamaica Association of Authors, Composers and Publishers, both spoke about revenue streams. Scott showed sales of physical formats have been declining, while digital sales are steadily climbing.
After giving the example of Omi's gaining traction in Sweden with Cheerleader leading to worldwide success, Scott spoke about the importance of copyright and having "good expert advice".
After a quick overview of the state of Jamaica's music business, Barclay honed in on income generation, Even three or four million YouTube views do not guarantee US$4,000. However, globally, royalties are in the region of US$5 billion, with the USA accounting for about half of that.
Barclay asked for more compliance in Jamaica in order to generate income for the music creators.
As for the lecture itself, Barclay said, "Culture needs to become a priority. If it had been for the last 20 years, we would not be here."