Tue | Dec 18, 2018

For the Reckord | Big plans, prize money for Festival Song 2018

Published:Friday | February 2, 2018 | 12:00 AMMichael Reckord/Gleaner Writer
Festival Song Committee Chairman Vernon Derby and singer Alaine Laughton share a light moment at the recent launch.
Chairman of the JCDC Festival Song Committee Vernon Derby speaking at the 2018 Festival song competition seminar, recently.
General manager of JAMMS, Evon Mullings, speaking at the launch of the 2018 JCDC Festival Song competition.
Elizabeth Smith, acting director, JCDC, speaking at the launch of the 2018 Festival Song competition seminar, recently.
Robin Levy, keynote speaker at the launch of the JCDC Festival song 2018 competition seminar at JAMPRO.

After the 52-year-old Jamaica Festival Song competition failed to get off the ground last year, the organisers at the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) are determined to have it soar higher than ever in 2018.

An impressive $10-million budget has been earmarked, and though the exact prize money for the winner has not yet been worked out, JCDC acting director Elizabeth Smith told me, it would be substantial.

Song competition chairman, Vernon Derby, confirmed that there will be a competition this year, even if, initially, the songs are weak - the cause of last year's suspension. Song producers will work on submissions to improve their quality, he said.

This was revealed at the up-beat launch last week Tuesday of a series of four seminars for the 2018 song competition. The day-long function at JAMPRO comprised both speeches and workshop sessions and was scheduled to be repeated the following day (January 24) at the St Mary Anglican Church Hall, Port Maria; on Tuesday, January 30 at Hollis Peter Lynch Hall in Westgate, Montego Bay; and on Wednesday at the Mandeville Hotel, 4 Hotel Street, Mandeville.

Designed to revitalise and improve the standard of the competition, the seminars were free and open to the public and address the following areas: Writing Skills, Performance Skills, Intellectual Property Rights & Publishing, Image & Branding and The Business of Music. Among the presenters were well-known musicians like Alaine Laughton, Karen Smith, Djenne Greaves, and Freddie McGregor.

The JCDC's acting director set the function's affirmative tone with her opening remarks at the JAMPRO launch which I attended, appealing for "songs that will rock the nation... (encouraging) people to celebrate what is right about this great nation and promulgate positive values and attitudes". She was issuing, she said, "a revolutionary call for transformation" of the "social deficit that is crippling our nation".

Speaking along similar lines, Derby said that the 2018 festival song "has got to be bigger and better" and with that objective in mind, the commission started working with "top-class producers" from last year. Derby said that the $10-million package was not necessarily all cash, and he urged the private sector to assist financially to promote the songs entered, on television and elsewhere.




He added that he hoped that along with islandwide tours, the JCDC could help with getting overseas tours for song winners.

The general manager of the Jamaica Music Society (JAMMS), Evon Mullings, was a wealth of information. Calling JAMMS a collecting society, a performance rights organisation and a licensing body, he explained, "We're a bridge between the owners of the rights to the music and those who use the music."

JAMMS currently represents record producers and as soon as amendments to the Copyright Act are made, will also represent performers (singers and musicians), he said. The society is complemented in Jamaica by the Jamaica Association of Composers, Authors and Publishers (JACAP), another licensing body, he added.

Mullings also told his audience that currently, JAMMS represents more than 1000 record producers in Jamaica and is responsible for the rights of producers locally and internationally. There is no fee to join JAMMS, he said; an applicant just needs to meet the criteria of being a professional producer. In 2015, the society got the Government to grant producers and artistes 95 years of protection for their works, up from the previous 50 years; and JAMMS is now licensing thousands of events a year more than when it began in 2007.

Attendees of the seminars received certificates of participation. On Monday, the JCDC dispensed some additional information. The closing date for the competition is February 28, and you can enter more than one song, but for each entry - on a separate CD and with a separate entry form - you have to pay a $1000 fee.