Sound advice for reggae musicians - Be professional, know your ‘copy rights’, protect yourself
In the quiet caused by COVID-19, where the entertainment industry lodges itself temporarily on social media, there is much to ponder about what happens when everything does get back up and running. Unfortunately, for the reggae music industry, as globally influential and popular as it may be, it is still fledgling. So, before the world’s comeback from the COVID-19 crisis, here are some pertinent issues that reggae and dancehall professionals must ‘entertain’, as discussed during the Business of Entertainment Symposium last month.
The symposium featured a panel, which included veteran producer Gussie Clarke, booking agent Carlette Deleon, International Reggae Day founder Andrea Davis, senior director in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Gillian Wilkinson-McDaniel, dancer Orville Hall, and singer Lila Ike.
From a discussion moderated by Dr Sonjah Stanley Niaah, the panel asserted to assure reggae music’s global relevance, as it remains in the hands of its innovators, there are a few crucial elements to be addressed. And the first of those is professionalism.
Be a pro
According to entertainment professional Carlette DeLeon, on a trip to the WoMex conference about a decade ago, she filmed a documentary called The Rise and Fall of Reggae. “Over and over again, promoters lamented the fact that they weren’t sure about Jamaicans. That when they call to book an artiste, and ‘John’ answered the phone, they weren’t sure if John really represented the artiste in question,” she said.
She continued, “Part of what we need to do is be professional as artistes. We need to be very careful about how we do our business, and we do it professionally.”
“Mine is pretty simple,” Clarke began. “Music begins with the creators who need to be recognised as primary beneficiaries within the law. The Jamaican Copyright Act currently has deficiencies that can be, and should be, addressed as a matter of urgency.” If Vision 2030 is still on track, Clarke would like another goal added to the banner, that Jamaica becomes the most copyright-compliant country in the Caribbean.
From Andrea Davis, another way to steer reggae into recognisably Jamaican global relevance condenses like a tag line, “access, protect and enable”.
She asserted that local musicians need more access to technology, investment and capital. “If we’re gonna develop an industry and a business, it takes investment. This is a venture capital-intensive industry, in a country with very little venture capital,” she said. Davis finds the challenge in figuring out how to create new pools of opportunity for investors.
“Protect it, in terms of the legislation. We’ve gone so far as to extend the copyright law, but as Clarke said, there’s a lot more to be done, with that law, as well as with trademarks.”
On her final potent point, Davis spoke on enabling youths to learn from their ‘old people’. “A number of times we’ve talked about how to reach the millennial. Go into the studio spaces and schools, go into the streets. Use the media. That includes social media.”