Sadeke Brooks, Gleaner Writer
Bootleg CDs like those above, which were among pirated material seized during a sting operation by the Flying Squad in May 2007, have been blamed for some of the downturn in sales. - Norman Grindley/Deputy Chief Photographer
The sales of Jamaican music CDs worldwide are declining, with Internet access and piracy major contributing factors.
With the great increase in Internet access, the sale of actual CDs has been declining significantly. In addition, with the easy access to pirated music (bootlegs), fewer people are buying CDs and vinyl.
Bobby Clarke, CEO of Irie Jam Media, said "I am very sure the music sales are going down. Record stores in New York are closing down, CD sales are ridiculously low and reggae as a genre is down 50 per cent. With the advent of Itunes and bootleg, it is hard for someone to go into a store and buy a CD."
Bobby Clarke of Irie Jam Media points out that Super Power Records in New York has closed down. - Contributed
Clarke also noted that Super Power Records in New York, a supplier of Caribbean music, closed as a result of the economic downturn in the United States and the decline in CD sales.
Yolan Zanders, marketing manager for VP Records Jamaica, said several factors contribute to the decline in Jamaican music CD sales, such as the recession in the United States and easy access to downloaded music.
However, she does not believe Jamaica is the only country feeling this musical pinch.
"It (music sales) has been decreasing. It's not just reggae music alone," she told The Sunday Gleaner.
Sales declining globally
Globally, CD sales do seem to be declining. In the recnt article 'CD sales falling faster than digital music sales rise' in the International Herald Tribune, it was reported that CD sales have fallen to their lowest level in 10 years, while digital distribution and piracy were increasing.
It read: "Global music sales dropped 8 per cent to US$19.4 billion in 2007, according to a report from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. Revenue came in at its slowest pace since at least 1997, the first year for which the body issued figures. Physical sales of CDs and DVDs fell 13 per cent to US$15.9 billion. Sales of downloaded songs and mobile-phone ringtones rose 34 per cent to US$2.9 billion."
Zanders said she has spoken to persons in Europe who believe that dancehall music is fading there and this might account for the decrease in sales. However, she believes dancehall has the ability to bounce back from its current downturn.
"Sometimes dancehall dies and then it gets back. That's the trend that I've seen in our music. I don't think it's something that is dead or will ever be dead," said Zanders.
Reggae artiste Da'Ville said his music is doing well around the world, especially in Japan, where he will release his album called ItchibanHowever, he believes piracy is the major cause for the decrease in the sale of Jamaican music.
"The bootleg a di number one thing weh a mash up the music. When you do an album you invest a lot," he told The Sunday Gleaner. "So when people bootleg is like dem a tek a thing out of yuh pocket. Sales are decreasing significantly and everytime a man bootleg, is one less record sold."
Internet and piracy
Copeland Forbes says that much of the Jamaican music being produced now is not geared towards the international market. - Contributed
Copeland Forbes, tour organiser, promoter, consultant and artiste manager, acknowledged that the Internet and piracy are causing a decline in the sale of Jamaican music CDs. However, he said there are other causes, such as the lack of a worldwide record distributor and insufficient marketing for Jamaican music.
He said there is a craving for Jamaican music in the Southern Hemisphere (including Australia and New Zealand) and some Middle Eastern and Asian countries. However, he said, there are few distributors in these areas. In some of these countries, Forbes said, the people only have access to music from Bob Marley, Lee 'Scratch' Perry and Lucky Dube, coming directly from Europe.
'Not making money'
"Artistes are not making money from record sales. They are making money from live performances," said Forbes, who has been in the music industry for 47 years. "Music is not selling in America. Europe is a more vibrant market for our music."
But Forbes has another problem.
"The material that we are putting out is that which suits us and not the international market. The lyrics are too colloquial," he told The Sunday Gleaner. "Our artistes need to make the music more understandable, so that the international market can relate to it. If they can't relate to it they are not going to buy it."
Nonetheless, Forbes believes Jamaican music is vibrant and has the potential to grow. However, he said more managers, producers and writers are needed in the business. And there is a very important, intangible factor.
"We don't feel the love in the music. It is just hostile. Most of the music is disposable. We need to put out better music, so we can stand side-to-side with the rest of the world," Forbes said.