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Preparations for Jamaica music conference move into high gear

Published:Friday | October 21, 2016 | 12:00 AMDave Rodney
Kwasi Bonsu


"It is no secret anymore. Reggae has finally begun to permeate the United States mainstream market in a big way. The focus of Snow's publicity campaign will be to establish Snow solely on the basis of his music, with as little knowledge of his race as possible. Therefore, the advance music mailing will not go out with a photo. It is apparent that we would not be able to send the bio either, since it mentions the fact that he is white."

The foregoing is an insightful quote from a hugely successful marketing plan for Canadian chart topper Snow from East West Records/Atlantic over two decades ago at a critical point for the music, when reggae marketing was experimental, and when Jamaica's trademark brand was going gold and platinum and topping charts all over the world. Over 20 years later, in a ramped-up digital age, many of the marketing tools and promotional platforms have changed, but the age-old cunning, smarts, and strategic manoeuvres are still as critically important now as they were back then for success in the reggae music industry. And many of reggae's ghosts from the past still linger and continue to present formidable challenges for seasoned veterans as well as for a new generation of industry players.

Payola, effective artist management, the difficulties of turning a profit from touring, securing airplay, monetising reggae, understanding copyright, licensing and publishing, entertainment for export, and confronting rapacious pirates in the industry are among the issues that will be discussed at the fourth annual Jamaica Music Conference scheduled for Kingston from November 10 to 13 this year.

The objective of the Jamaica Music Conference, is to create a platform for music business education, for networking, and to create a pipeline for the stars of tomorrow. The four-day parley will bring together professionals from various areas of entertainment who will share their expertise with hundreds of local and visiting attendees. This year's conference theme is 'Word, Sound and Power: Contracts, Sound Systems and the Potential of Jamaica's Music Industry'. Parts of the conference will take place at various locations around Kingston, including the Alpha School for Boys, Jamaica College, JAMPRO Headquarters, Nanook, and the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.




BESS-FM will host the welcome reception at Nanook on November 10. Among the conference highlights are Friday's panel discussion on Global Soul, the Irish and Chin Sound System Summit, and a sound system and dub plate appreciation dance. Saturday is a full day of panels led by NBC's The Voice winner Tessanne Chin; entertainment attorney Lloyd Stanbury; recording artiste Busy Signal; and Dr Sonjah Niaah, with the Institute of Caribbean Studies. Other participants include promotions guru Karen Mason (who was part of the team that broke reggae rapper Snow in the US market) and prominent industry luminaries Mikey Bennett, Damion Crawford, Joan Webley, and Allen Johnston. An artiste showcase will follow on Saturday night.

"It is our hope that the 2016 Jamaica Music Conference will be that space where people from around the globe who wish to do business with Jamaica's music professionals can attend and have their needs met," Kwasi Bonsu, CEO and founder of the Jamaica Music Conference, said.

The conference closes on Sunday, November 13, at Fort Clarence Beach with an all-day celebration party and artiste open mic, where artistes will have the opportunity to showcase their talent for international booking agents and digital distribution platforms.

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