Discussions at the Reggae Open University on Thursday night reached intense levels as tempers flared in a debate about radio and its viability in today’s music industry.
As panellists discussed the issue of gatekeepers and the role they play in establishing the careers of entertainers, one of the panellists, promoter Paul ‘DJ Stamma’ Watson, said there was no need for radio in today’s musical landscape as many entertainers are finding new, more innovative ways to establish themselves in the industry.
Watson explained that because of the issue of ‘payola’, radio has become unreliable and somewhat redundant as it helps to close the doors on many talented artistes if they do not have the power of the dollar behind them. He was challenged by his fellow panelists.
Dr Dennis Howard of the RJR GLEANER Communications Group, Clyde McKenzie of Shocking Vibes Limited, and Fame 95’s Collin Hines all agreed that Watson’s statements regarding radio were erroneous. While the veteran industry professionals did not question the use of non-traditional media, particularly the Internet and the role it has played in establishing the careers of many artistes, they do not believe that radio has been made redundant by the Internet.
In refuting Watson’s claims, Howard pleaded for people to use facts in presenting ideas instead of speaking passionately and incorrectly about certain issues.
“We need to stop these emotional outbursts and talk facts,” he said. “You (Watson) made some assertions and we agreed with some of them. The Internet is very important … Yes, the Internet is cool, but traditional radio is still strong everywhere in the world, and if you don’t understand that, you are going nowhere. Some of this (what was presented by the other panelists) wasn’t to attack the youngster, but we have to correct him so that going forward, you have the right information. You cannot say that the Internet is the way forward and the radio is dead, because that is not true.”
He then went on to highlight the pushing power of the radio, using Chronixx as an example.
“Chronixx and some of these other guys, they never went anywhere until radio picked them up,” he said, pointing out that the payola issue, though important, is not to be used as a beating stick for the radio.
The discussions then developed into a full-on ‘radio versus Internet’ war, as Collin Hines pointed out a few contradictions in Watson’s argument concerning radio’s viability. Agreeing with Howard, Hines expressed that had the radio been as unnecessary a tool as Watson purported, payola wouldn’t be as big an issue as it is.
“If there was no need for radio, payola wouldn’t even be this big of an issue,” he said, explaining that it was unfair for persons to use payola to flog the radio, as the medium is still one of the most useful tools in helping to establish the careers of music professionals.
Clyde McKenzie agreed.
“We were not speaking about the superiority of traditional media vis-a-vis social media,” he expressed.
“What we are talking about, is that for effective marketing and promotion, the appropriate interplay of these different media is what is going to help you optimise your outcomes. The online thing widens the audience.
We must remember that what people consume on their online platforms are things that they would normally consume traditionally and that’s something we need to keep in mind.”
McKenzie also went on to explain that in an era of uncertainty when people are unsure of what the standards in the industry should be, one needs arbiters something that only the traditional media can provide.
Reggae Open University continues on Tuesday at the University of Technology, through the FIWI Music Project, with a discussion on branding and monetisation. Other Reggae Month activities include a final Reggae Wednesday on February 22 and the signature Jamaica Reggae Industry Association Honor Awards on Sunday, February 26, at the Courtleigh Auditorium.