Thu | Dec 8, 2016

The way forward for reggae

Published:Sunday | February 8, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Cecelia Campbell-Livingston, Sunday Gleaner Writer

Last year it was disappointing news for Jamaica's reggae/dancehall music industry as the billboard reported weak sales for the local artistes. That was not always the case, music coming out of the island was once vibrant, coveted and enjoyed good performance on the market. In this the final of a three-part series, The Sunday Gleaner explores the way forward.

Jamaica Jazz and Blues has come and gone, but two non-traditional reggae acts enjoyed rave reviews on their performances - Canadian reggae group Magic! and SOJA from out of the United States.

Although their genesis is not from the land that coined the word 'reggae', they have been putting up more impressive showing on both the Billboard and iTunes Reggae chart.

Moving away from all the gloom and doom surrounding the downward spiral of the music, entertainment lawyer and music aficionado, Lloyd Stanbury, believes with proper implementation and greater emphasis placed on the music, it can be a dominant force once again.

"Jamaican reggae will be revived when the government and local private sector place culture at the forefront of their agenda for economic development," he told The Sunday Gleaner.

Stanbury has been pushing the business of reggae music for years through initiatives such as the now defunct Caribbean Music Expo. His first book, Reggae Roadblocks: A Music Business Development Perspective, which offers some great insights in the business, will be published later this year. From his standpoint, Stanbury says for the music to achieve real dominance once again, there needs to be a structured development plan for the creative and cultural industries.

"That includes upgrading of music business management skills, enterprise development support, and marketing support for artistes to tour and be able to compete with the foreign-based reggae counterparts," he said.

Shift in Revenue stream

According to Stanbury, the business of music has changed dramatically in the past 10 years, resulting in a shift in emphasis on possible revenue streams.

"The physical sales of music (CDs in particular) have declined dramatically. There has been an upsurge in vinyl sales in recent years. When we discuss music sales and revenues today, it is, therefore, necessary for us to take into consideration the areas of greatest potential earnings, live performances, digital streaming, downloads, advertising, motion pictures and games," he pointed out.

Comparing the sales of yesteryear and the poor sales being experienced by artistes today, as far as Stanbury is concerned, those kinds of sales will never be repeated anytime in the foreseeable future.

The current crop of artistes can enjoy success from the business, "but the level of professionalism in management and marketing support must be improved to accomplish growth", he stressed.

From a creative standpoint, Stanbury thinks the artistes are doing okay, but believes adequate management and marketing support is seriously lacking.

"Music education and music business management training must be made a major priority in our formal and informal educational system in order for us to move forward. Our government leaders and their technical advisers are also lost, and have very little understanding of the potential economic value of reggae music on a global scale," he said.

The way forward, according to the entertainment lawyer, is for local music associations to engage with the professional local and international industry, so as to upgrade their internal management and governance capacity.

"Our industry organisations are trying, but could do a lot better with stronger membership support. Reggae Month continues to provide an excellent vehicle for driving industry development and growth. This was the main reason for its establishment in the first place. It is my view, however, that the current leadership of JaRIA should place less emphasis on celebrating and more on professional development," he concluded.