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Reggae On The Road 2012 (Tours and Festivals In Jeopardy ?)
by Russell Gerlach
With the holiday season over and the new year upon us is time for our favorite Reggae artists to get back to work on the road again.  Live concert tours and festivals had a mixed rate of success in 2011 and should we be optimistic about things improving in 2012 ?  Let’s take a look.
The global economy has continued its tough times and artists are making little money on their recordings (downloads are still slowly catching on in Reggae), artists have to rely on their live performances to have a chance at making any money. 
2011 saw mostly successful US and European tours by Stephen Marley, Damian Marley with NAS, Beres Hammond with Wayne Wonder, Mavado (finally after getting his visa situation straightened out) and California based bands Slightly Stoopid (with special guests Rebelution, Don Carlos and Collie Buddz / New Kingston Band).  Overall the tours were not as big (less number of cities performed in / attendance levels in some secondary markets) as they have been in past years.  Unfortunately, the Beres Hammond/Wayne Wonder tour did not make it to the western US this time, as Beres had the previous two years. 
Most of the annual festivals around went off without too much of a hitch (Reggae Sumfest in JA, Reggae Summerjam and Rotodom in Europe, Best of the Best in Miami, UCLA Reggae Jazz/Fest (20,000 attendees each day), Sierra Nevada World Music Fest, etc).  A few did have to take the year off due to the economy like the annual Seabreeze Fest in Los Angeles and now in 2012 the annual RaggaMuffins Festival (formerly the Bob Marley Day Fest) in Long Beach, California (after 30 years of consecutive shows each February !).
Like Reggae Sumfest in Jamaica, festival producers have had to go beyond just booking Reggae artists for their festival by including R&B, Hip-Hop, Rock and Jam Band acts to bring a wider audience to their festivals.
While the Seabreeze Fest will stage its return this year, might other festivals fall prey to the economy this year ?   It it that the popularity of Reggae overall does not seem as strong an in past years or is it an aging fan base that does not go out to shows like they used to also ?
Other questions that can be asked is the quality of Reggae and Dancehall music lacking ?  Has Hip-Hop infiltrated the latest sounds coming out and being played in the stage show and dances ?  There are few stalwarts of weekly Reggae clubs like the Deadly Dragon party in NYC and Dub Club in Los Angeles that carry the banner of roots Reggae music high, but what about outside these big cities ?  Can the veteran artists tour extensively each year and continue to expose music fans to the music that is the legacy and export of Jamaica around the world ?  What will be the role of JAMPRO and the Jamaican Tourist Board be in this in the future without politics getting involved ?  The annual Rebel Salute in Jamaica is a continued success but is not promoted outside the island like Sunsplash used to be and Sumfest should be.
Another of the factors is that artists are asking too much for their talent fees, trying to make money in the short-term and not going out and building a solid fan base that will establish them for a long-term career.  They need the promoters as much as the promoters need them.  A spirit of cooperation seems to be lacking between the two.
The upcoming artists’ mentality of “I want to be star now” and not wanting to put in the hard work and pay their dues also affects the economics of the live performance market for these artists.  Reggae has suffered from a lack of organization and small-mindedness that will not see it progress anytime soon unless that pattern is broken.
People have so many entertainment options these days and the experience of seeing an artist live in concert could never be duplicated by YouTube or a HD LCD big screen TV.  Reggae music has a vibration like no other music and we as fans need to continue to support it as much as possible.  Otherwise we are in jeopardy of losing something we love so dearly.
Let me know what you think.  Email me at

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