Tue | Jan 22, 2019

Jamaica urged to capitalise more on local reggae festivals

Published:Sunday | July 10, 2016 | 12:00 AMShereita Grizzle
Doctors Paula Daley-Morris (left) and Sonjah Stanley-Niaah at Rebel Salute 2015
Fans enjoying Popcaan's performance at Rototom Sunsplash Festival in Spain.
Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia 'Babsy' Grange addresses last Thursday's media launch of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission's (JCDC) plans for early August, when Jamaica celebrates Emancipation and Independence.

There were many issues discussed at this year's International Reggae Day (IRD) Conference, recently held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel, but chief among them was the fact that Jamaica needed to maximise the earnings from reggae music.

It is no secret that in recent years, foreign reggae acts have been outselling local entertainers, and so, some key industry insiders have pointed to the staging of local reggae festivals as a way to remedy the problem and help Jamaica reclaim its place at the top of the music industry.

In her address to the audience at the conference, Minister of Culture Olivia 'Babsy' Grange said Jamaica should take a closer look at the economic benefits of hosting massive events such as reggae festivals.

"I have consistently reiterated that we have not taken advantage of the possibilities that exist for our music and our culture. Of great significance to the growth and expansion of our creative economy is the emphasis that needs to be placed on festivals," she said.

Grange added, "Festivals and major events are the tenets on which much of the creative sector is anchored. Culture and creative works are big businesses with vastly untapped potential that we in Jamaica need to study and understand in order to reap economic benefits."




She then went on to say that the country needed to change its approach towards entertainment events. Instead of seeing these events as recreational activities, the minister said that the country should look at them as entrepreneurial activities.

"The festival economy is one of the most vibrant of the creative economy," she said. "In 2014, Jamaica was host to 23 events, yet the Planning Institute continues to classify these activities as recreational rather than entrepreneurial activities. Insufficient evaluation and the 'informal' nature of the creative economy, has led to underinvestment and undercapitalisation."

The minister believes that as the home of reggae, Jamaica has all the necessary components to stage some of the biggest reggae festivals in the world.

"This is the yard, the home of reggae. We can have the biggest reggae festival in the world."

Ashleigh Randolph, who also made a presentation at the IRD conference, agreed with Grange. In her address, Randolph compared Jamaica to Las Vegas in the United States, she said both cities have a similar story and that if Jamaica could manage to get its act together regarding reggae music, the city could attract as many visitors to the island as the 'Sin City' does.

"We have to learn how to polish the diamond in the rough," she said. "We need to learn how to re-brand because people come to Jamaica to have that unique island experience and they are not afraid to spend money to obtain it."

Grange agreed. "It's going to be a pilgrimage. People will want to come to Jamaica for the greatest reggae festivals on Earth. All we need to do is believe in ourselves. We have to believe in what we're doing. We're going to have to be professional about it, market it right, partner with others, and make Jamaica the home where everybody is going to come."

As minister of culture, Grange pledged to give her support to unearthing the monetary benefits of the festival economy in Jamaica.

"The biggest reggae festivals in the world are overseas. I'm determined to change that paradigm," she vowed. "We are committed to the establishment of a national festival calendar with a support plan for the staging of each event. The intention is to further deepen the engagement of statistical agencies as well as the Bank of Jamaica in a process of compilation and evaluation of data on each festival in an effort to measure their contribution to the national economy."




Back in February, Dr Sonjah Stanley-Niaah used statistics gathered from recent research to show just how much other countries were earning from reggae music. She was speaking at a conference held at the Bob Marley Museum, celebrating the birthday of the iconic reggae singer.

Stanley-Niaah's study of reggae festivals across the globe revealed that Jamaica reaps very few financial benefits from the music when compared to other countries. According to her statistics, there are more than 400 reggae festivals across the globe and only a small number of those are held in Jamaica. And when compared to other festivals across the globe (like the Rototom Sunsplash held in Spain), the ones held in Jamaica are small-scale festivals, and the earnings from the festivals held in Jamaica pale in comparison to the earnings from festivals in other countries.