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By: Carlyle McKetty

By: Carlyle McKetty

Overwhelmingly, the word from the panelists and the audience at the recent forum, Where’s The Beef: Who’’s Making Money in Reggae, put on by the Coalition to Preserve Reggae Music was that artists should look to live performances and related activities as their primary soure of income. Panelists Randall Grass of Shanachie Records and Don Harper of Jamstar Productions shared invaluable historical information as well as sobering insights into the state of the industry today and judging from the questions and comments, the audience was also well-informed and quite sophisticated.  The consensus was that while recordings remain an important part of the music industry, record sales have been falling precipitously in recent years and can be expected to continue trending downwards, given the ease of access to free recordings via the internet and other means of file sharing.

This easy access to free music presents a challenge not only to the artist but also to the record companies which are now encroaching on the non-record-sales streams of income available to the artist through the 360 contract model. This model, explained at the forum by commentator Kufunya Ife, entitles record companies to a share in all of the artist’s streams of income, and was seen by some as an opportunity for artists, particularly emerging artist and fitting for the record companies, given their huge investments in artist careers, but viewed by others as an unjustified encroachment, given that the companies were providing no new services to the artist in exchange for this encroachment.

Dollar Bills

Zeroing in on Jamaica, the participants seemed to agree that insufficient knowledge of the music business on the part of artists and their teams, and continuing challenges with discipline placed artists out of Jamaica at a disadvantage in the global marketplace. With the reconfiguration taking place in the music industry, it seems that the artist is increasingly becoming a brand, with the significance of effective brand management constantly expanding. The narrow purview of much of the lyrics coming out of Jamaican, coupled with the limited understanding of the music business place Jamaican reggae artists at a distinct disadvantage. The stakes in the business continues to be high and so too are the possibilities for great rewards. It is therefore incumbent on artists and other practitioners to keep abreast of developments and take the steps necessary to ensure that they receive their fair share of the music industry pie.

So who’s making money in reggae? It continues to be the case that opportunities abound for those who are well prepared and are enterprising, and we can only hope that artists from the land that gave birth to the genre will remain vigilant and do the things that are required to develop and maintain a competitive edge. Judging from some of the better emerging acts, the music is in good hands with great potential to be in the money, but we will have to wait to see just how these hands are played.
Carlyle McKetty is co-founder and president of the Coalition to Preserve Reggae Music (CPR) and host of the popular talk program Real Talk on CPRLive.

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