Local artists are being urged to put more thought into the music they produce if they want to establish themselves on the international scene.
Industry insiders with whom The Gleaner spoke, said while Jamaica possesses a plethora of talented entertainers, too many of them are focused on making music for the local market while neglecting their potential overseas pull.
Julian Jones Griffith, manager for Diamond-selling artist, Charly Black, says that while there isn’t one singular thing that limits an artist’s potential to break on the international scene, he believes a song that is too localized will automatically work against that artist.
“You have to have the right songs, they have to be structured properly and the beat has to be right, too. If the content of your song is too localized, then the artist is automatically limiting the song’s potential reach,” he said. “Keep true to the culture, but something about the song has to be translatable. Songwriting is an art and making hit records is a formula and maybe we need to study it a bit more.”
With that said, Griffith pointed out that local artists do not have a level playing field in the world of music. He explained that despite the progress that dancehall music has made, it is still placed in a box.
“It’s always been hard to get our music on commercial radio, and we are facing the same battle with streaming in terms of getting records on playlists that introduce your song to a wider audience,” he said. “It rough out deh, but at least give yourself a fighting chance by making the right songs.”
Shelly-Ann Curran, manager for Grammy-nominated dancehall/reggae artist Devin Di Dakta, agrees. She believes the main reason behind local artists being unable to tap into the international market is their inability to see the music as a business.
“I definitely think some artists lack vision, but mostly they lack guidance. They don’t look at the music market as a world market, they are busy making songs for Jamaica, speaking on issues only relatable to Jamaica and Jamaicans,” she said.
Curran says she had to adjust her client’s image and sound to fit the international market and believes those adjustments were what landed him a Grammy nomination.
“The first six months (as Devin’s manager) I entered without a strategy, just to learn the business. I quickly understood that most of his music was really being made for the Jamaican audience, so we decided to go for an international appeal. We slowed down his style so he could be more audible; we used better lyrical content and made songs with a world appeal. Now, apart from the Grammy nomination, Devin has had three international collaborations, and we are definitely seeing progress.”
Curran also believes that there are too many artists who have the wrong team around them, pointing out that having people around you who know the best moves to make regarding one’s career is what determines success or failure.
“Once an artist sets a goal, he or she should pick a team that will help them meet that goal. Having a good management team is important because they can make the necessary moves to get you where you want to go.”
– Shereita Grizzle