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Ky-Mani Marley
Ky-Mani Marley—-

By Davina Henry—-

A prominent European promoter has challenged the viewpoint that the continent is reggae music’s largest market.

“Europe is no longer the biggest market for reggae anymore, even though many tend to believe it still is. An artist that is on small, dodgy venues in Europe, could be doing medium-sized arenas in Africa and Latin America. Asia and Oceania are catching up fast as well for that matter,” Yared Tekeste told The Sunday Gleaner.

Tekeste, organiser of the Furuvik Reggae Festival and who has worked with the Uppsala Reggae Festival in Sweden, confirmed to The Sunday Gleaner that the European market has become over-saturated, because artists are finding it easier to travel to Europe than America.


Artists such as Ky-Mani Marley have already broken through in the at least some of the markets Tekeste talks about, as his 2012 tour took him to several Latin America countries, including Brazil, Colombia and Chile.

And with the European market inundated with the influx of artists travelling to that part of the world to perform, promoters on the continent often opt to book their home-grown artists as it is more viable to do so. Economics apart, there is scamming from fake managers, the large entourages which some Jamaican artists travel with and overpricing, factors which have forced European promoters to book more artists from their region.

Yared Tekeste

Yared Tekeste

Added to that, Tekeste noted that very few artists have managers that have the know-how to properly market them. “A lot of European promoters are getting discouraged because some managers really don’t know what to do. Also, the European musicians are becoming better and better at their craft,” he said.

Tekeste emphasised that he is not in support of the trend of hiring only European artists for reggae shows and has done his utmost to maintain the balance of Jamaican and European performers for his shows.

“There are many reasons for this trend. Firstly, to get work permits for these artists is like climbing Mount Everest. Overpricing has also been a major problem for some artists,” Tekeste said.

Benoit Collin, one of the organisers of the Garance Reggae Festival in France, confirmed to The Sunday Gleaner that although there are several European promoters who only work with Jamaican artists, it is at times economically easier to do a show with a French reggae band.


“There are no flight costs, no hotel bookings and so on, so it is sometimes easier to use our own artistes than to use Jamaicans. It’s not always easy to work with Jamaican artistes, because a lot of promoters have been robbed by scam managers and booking agents. You have a lot of persons posing as booking agents and they take money on behalf of the artists and then you later find out that they have no affiliation with these artists,” Collin said.

Coupled with that, the size of an artist’s entourage and the misconception that there is ‘whole heap a money’ in Europe often prompts promoters to use their own European artistes.

Collin emphasised that regardless of the economics, he has always invested in Jamaican music. So the 2013 Garance Reggae Festival, which takes place from July 24-27, already has Sizzla, Ky-Mani Marley, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, John Holt and Anthony B confirmed on the line-up.

While European promoters complain about being ripped off by fake booking agents, Abishai Hoilett, manager of Kabaka Pyramid and Jamaica Reggae Industry Association member, spoke to the internationalisation of reggae.

“Reggae music is a global force. Yes, we brought it to the world, but there are now reggae practitioners all over he world. Several reggae charts are often dominated by foreign acts. Reggae is no longer solely Jamaican,” Hoilett said.

He noted that entrepreneurs in Jamaica should also analyse the business from an international standpoint and be more mindful of the ever evolving international nature of music. “Promoters have to balance cost versus revenue, so if the European acts can draw a crowd then they will book them,” he stated.

Kabaka Pyramid

Kabaka Pyramid

But while some reggae acts complain about being left off festivals, Hoilett stated that artists will only struggle to get bookings if their material is not geared towards the international landscape.

“Promoters have to balance their business model. Quality music is quality music. I honestly can’t say that they have left us out, because several of our acts are booked all over the world. They always authenticate their festivals by having Jamaicans acts on the show.”

The artist he manages, Kabaka Pyramid, has been confirmed for upcoming shows on the US West Coast and in Europe this summer.

Hoilett also said some promoters should absorb part of the blame for using fake booking agents.

“There are times when they can be more thorough in their research to find the accurate persons who do bookings for the artists. They should be more careful who they enter negotiations with and check the verification of these persons to see what business they do on behalf of the artiste,” Hoilett said.


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