Mon | Jul 13, 2020

Latin America a route into US market

Published:Friday | August 17, 2018 | 12:00 AMShereita Grizzle/Gleaner Writer
Ibo Cooper
Charly Black
Julian Jones-Griffiths

While it is one of the most lucrative music markets, Jamaican entertainers are being encouraged to focus on markets outside of the US for their international break. Julian Jones-Griffiths, manager of deejay Charly Black, said, "If entertainers want to break into the US market, they should start thinking about the market in other territories. As an industry, we have to think about those markets where dancehall music has the selling power, like in the Latin market. The US will follow suit if the content of your music is strong enough to go the distance."

He pointed to the success of Charly Black's Party Animal, saying, "That song didn't break in the US market first. It broke in places like Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica. The Latin market has always been there for dancehall artistes, but we've never really considered those areas as major markets for us, and that's definitely something that Party Animal has proven. It's not all about the US. Charly Black went diamond, and that achievement was because of how huge the music is in Latin America."

This isn't the first time that Jamaican acts have been urged to seek out other markets for their music. In 2016, chairman of the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) Ibo Cooper encouraged local acts to focus on transforming the Caribbean and Africa into lucrative markets for their music. In an interview with The Sunday Gleaner, Cooper highlighted that as one of the wealthiest continents in the world, Africa had the potential to be a huge market for local acts, but it remained untapped because entertainers were too keen on making it big in the US.

"The Americans are in Africa, and Europeans are there selling music and other products. However, Jamaicans treat Africa like it's a little island or it's a distant place. But that is part of the way we are cultured, because they don't want us to realise what we have," he said. "I have been in many discussions about the marketing of our music, and Africa - an entire continent - was never even on the list as an option. The average Jamaican, if he is a refugee, wants to run to the US, where he does not even look like the people."

Jones-Griffiths pointed out that there are several factors at play in the US market that work against dancehall artistes. One of the biggest is that the playing field isn't level. "Artistes like Rihanna, Drake, [and] Justin Beiber have done dancehall music and have had major success, but they have the resources and a much larger following than any of our local artistes, and so, anything they touch will sell. Even if you do have the right content, the right image as a local artiste, it is still very difficult to break in the US. Not everybody is going to be able to come up with the right songs to get people all over the world to pay attention to them. Not everyone will have the team in place [or] will have their marketing strategies down pat."

"But even when they do have everything sorted out, it's still hard for us, and it has always been that way," Jones-Griffiths said.