Fri | Jul 20, 2018

Playing smarter in the craft - Fewer chances of overseas labels taking advantage

Published:Thursday | April 27, 2017 | 12:00 AMCurtis Cambell
Bob Marley
Chaka Demus

The glory days of reggae music saw labels from the United States and England making their way to Jamaica to sign developing acts. Such was the case of veteran reggae/dancehall duo Chaka Demus and Pliers, who received a record deal from Island Records, and later, Universal Music Group (UMG). However, fast-forward to 2017, and overseas record deals are scarce commodities in the world of Jamaican music.

Chaka Demus and Pliers, who filed a lawsuit against UMG for unpaid royalties in 2010, believe labels are no longer targeting Jamaica since the new crop of artistes are too smart to sign bad record deals.

Chaka Demus told The Gleaner,that several recording acts from the '80s and '90s era were given poor record deals, in many cases selling rights to their work for measly dollars.

He noted that he and Pliers were also victims of this exploitation, which now sees them fighting to get royalties from their triple platinum-selling album Murder She Wrote.

"When we a come as a youth my mother have nine pickney, They couldn't'afford to give us the proper education. Dem ya youth nowadays have more access than we did and they know a lot and are wiser. I have a 14-year-old son who can teach me things. So these labels know that the youth are smarter, so dem don't want to come to Jamaica come sign dem because dem can't rob dem youth yah," he said.

However, for Half Pint, he saw things slightly differently.

"I guess dem (overseas labels) nah work with the younger youths here because dem harder to control, dem nah tek no talk, and if you tell dem run, dem rather walk ... they are controlling their own destiny," he said.

Ironically, Chaka Demus and Pliers filed their lawsuit in 2010, the same year that Bob Marley's family lost a long-standing lawsuit seeking copyrights to several of the late Jamaican reggae singer's best-known recordings.

According to, "US, District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan said the UMG Recordings unit of Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group is the rightful owner of copyrights to five albums that Marley had recorded between 1973 and 1977 for Island Records."

The albums, Catch A Fire, Burnin', Natty Dread, Rastaman Vibrations and Exodus, were recorded with Marley's band the Wailers. They include some of Marley's best-known songs, including Get Up Stand Up, I Shot The Sheriff, No Woman No Cry, and One Love.