Sat | Jun 6, 2020

Wyclef Jean launches publishing company for Caribbean, Africa - Submissions to Carnival World Music Group open to Jamaican songwriters and producers

Published:Wednesday | March 11, 2020 | 12:00 AMKimberley Small/Staff Reporter

In a bid to democratise the global music marketplace, international music star Wyclef Jean is putting his money where his mouth is. With US$25 million to start, Jean’s new music publishing company, Carnival World Music Group, is currently seeking submissions from the best new songwriters and producers in the Caribbean and Africa. That means Jamaica, too.

Following the example of major label founders and executives like Clive Davis, L.A. Reid and Russell Simmonds, Jean is taking his seat at the controls as a music executive. His focus will be to excavate regional talent for the originators’ benefit.

“The seat I’m choosing to sit in is next level. Now we’re entering an era where we are the new leaders. It’s important that all the young artistes understand, as we move forward, we all have to start thinking not about how we sing songs, but how do we contain the power in our hands,” Jean told The Gleaner.

Jean is a native of Haiti who immigrated to the United States when he was nine. He rose to stardom as a founding member of The Fugees. The group’s 1996 album, The Score, topped the Billboard charts and won two Grammy Awards. Jean’s first solo album, The Carnival, earned three Grammy nominations, and his work as producer on the Carlos Santana album, Supernatural, earned him a third Grammy.

Like many other critics, Jean is concerned that popular music songwriters and producers who borrow or sample sounds, or take inspiration from regions like the Caribbean and Africa, do not offer credit or even payment to their sources.

“What I don’t like – and I have to say it because I’m a Caribbean man – I feel a lot of the music is being pillaged and raped from the entire Caribbean. And the Caribbean artistes keep going more and more broke, and somebody else keeps getting richer. They’re not even saying ‘This rhythm is calypso’, or ‘here is a playlist on Spotify of all of the things that have inspired us’. We watch people get awards, and they don’t say where the music is coming from,” he said.

Importance of economic power

He continued: “In order to be louder than them, we have to have economic power to be able to compete. My thing is, we’re economic power, and we’re able to compete.”

Jean raised funding for his new venture following Carnival World Music Group’s partnership with Sound Royalties, an entertainment industry finance firm headed by Alex Heiche. And he plans to push a lot more over the next few years.

“We’re planning in three years that we’ll go from [US$]25 million to [US$]50 million. The idea of raising funds is not difficult. The evaluation would be based on what my past catalogue has done. If you take a song like Maria, Maria that I wrote for Carlos Santana, DJ Khaled sampled it and they did it again. I own the copyright. That’s like over one billion streams.

If you take that and Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie or 911, based on the statistics of the historical value in my catalogue, I could have literally taken [US]$100 million to start the company,” the new label executive shared.

For those interested in the new-era Carnival World Music Group, submissions are wide open.

“It’s not a competition at all. From the email submissions, there will be more information. It will turn into a landing page. From there, artistes and producers will be able to upload their music through communities like they already do on platforms like SoundCloud,” Jean said.

“What I want the Caribbean and Africa to understand is, we’re moving towards a new era. This might not have been the passion of different executives, because they didn’t come from the Caribbean.”

Songwriters and producers are invited to submit their work for consideration of a music publishing opportunity to: submissions@carnivalworldmusicgroup.com.

kimberley.small@gleanerjm.com