Is the business of compiling a body of work still viable?
Sadeke Brooks, Staff Reporter
Amid low album sales and illegal downloads worldwide, Jamaican artistes continue to release numerous albums and are convinced these projects are worthwhile ventures.
Throughout 2012, a number of albums were released, with some doing better than others. The list includes Mr Vegas' Sweet Jamaica, Romain Virgo's The System, Sean Paul's Tomahawk Technique, Busy Signal's Reggae Music Again, Konshens' Mental Maintenance, Beres Hammond's One Love One Life, I-Octane's Crying To The Nation and Jimmy Cliff's Rebirth that also won the Grammy award for Best Reggae Album this year.
Since the start of the year, albums like Etana's Better Tomorrow, Jah 9's New Name and Protoje's The 8 Year Affair have been released.
But even Sean Paul, who sold millions of copies of The Trinity (2005) and Dutty Rock (2002), has struggled with sales for his latest effort, Tomahawk Technique.
According to sales-tracking system, the Nielsen Soundscan, the album only managed to sell over 1,200 in its opening week last year.
Yet, the argument among artistes and managers is that albums are not pointless.
According to KipRich, who will be releasing an album this summer, there is still a need to produce albums.
"It does make sense 'cause remember that you tour off albums. The next thing is that people are still buying albums out there, maybe not the regular American market, but Japanese and Europeans still buy real authentic reggae music," he told The Sunday Gleaner.
"Somebody told me that they download dancehall music and burn copies, but when a man have a reggae album weh dem buy, dem cherish that."
KipRich explained that not all albums have the potential to sell very well.
"A just the right set of music haffi deh pon it fi people gravitate to it and buy it. With the right promotion and the right music, people will buy it," he said.
Shane Brown, the main producer for Etana's Better Tomorrow and Busy Signal's Reggae Music Again, released in 2013 and 2012, respectively, says albums are still worthwhile ventures despite poor album sales worldwide.
"It is still worthwhile. You can even use the artiste's album like a business card. It is the single item that gives somebody a synopsis of what the artiste has to offer musically," he told The Sunday Gleaner.
"Even though sales have gotten much less, there are still ways to sell records. You need to be innovative and take your product to the buyers."
Sadly, however, Brown says the mistake many persons in the industry make is that they release albums which are simply a compilations of previously released tracks.
"You have an album with 15 tracks and eight of them are released already. That is not how you make an album," he said.
In the case of Busy Signal, who is a dancehall artiste, he said they took a risk by doing a reggae album and it paid off.
"It is his most successful album to date. Reggae music sells much more than dancehall," Brown said, noting that they used 100 per cent acoustic instruments on the album.
Headline Entertainment's Jerome Hamilton also believes album are still being bought.
"A lot of people are still buying albums ... outside of Jamaica, you are judged on your body of work," he said.
"I don't think it makes sense to do an album if there is no concept and idea behind it. If you don't have a marketing plan and distribution mechanism, it is more or less impractical to do so. It doesn't make sense to make an album for making an album's sake."
And with changes in the industry, he said, persons now have the option of buying a song or two off a particular album, instead of purchasing the entire album for US$10.
Reggae singer Protoje recently released his album, The 8 Year Affair. He says the album sometimes gives listeners an insight into the artiste.
"From my perspective, it's like a time capsule that I leave for future generations to identify my body of work. It gives my listeners the opportunity to listen to my body of work. Those who listen to the music beyond a hit song can get a window into who I am as an artiste," said Protoje.
With an independently released album that made its way on to the Billboard Reggae Albums Chart, Protoje says, "If promoted and has the right energy, it (albums) can still have an impact globally."