Jamaican Music

Reggae: The bastard child of the music industry

Marley dominates the Billboard reggae chart” was the jubilant Jamaican Gleaner headline being shared with the Facebook JA diaspora.  An article lauding the talent of the Marley family with congratulatory glee as they continue to ride on the top of the reggae charts.  

Take a look at the Billboard Reggae charts; you will find them shoved at the bottom of the page under the ‘additional Charts/Genres’ stuck between “New Age” and “Soundtracks”. Sure enough, Damian/NAS are number one, Stephen at number three and Ziggy at number four.

Heavy metal group, Metallica sold 15,620,000 and country artist, Shania Twain sold 15,499,000. However, Stephen Marley sold 20,539; Bob’s other off-spring Ziggy sold 13,191 and Damian a healthier 255,786 sales but that was probably since it was a co-brand with US rapper NAS.  Millions of hits on Youtube and their fathers image a multi billion dollar industry but where is are the record sales?  Where are the sales in general of reggae music and why is it so extremely low?  Where are the corporate endorsement that back reggae as a bankable brand.

What are the issues? Is it’s Jamaica-the-brand? While the culture of the country is raped and pillaged by major companies internationally it’s become more the hyper realistic version of it that’s more appealing than buying into the real deal. There is an intrinsic lack of trust in the people and the countries image. The first global reach most experience of Jamaica is via the Tourist Board marketing. And, the JTB don’t do the nation any favours. A continued push of the high walled, huge gated All inclusive market and the bolstering of just images of beaches, clearly promotes the subtext that it’s not safe to be off the beaten track coupled with the foreign press printing highly exaggerated tales of civil unrest does from a marketing point of view have a direct effect of ALL export sales and this includes music.

Then there’s the artists themselves. Do reggae artists target themselves for US/UKchart success since most focus their dollars shelling out for reggae playlist payola and glossy videos or local tv hype that only support Caricom floss with no real global fiscal benefits? Are there just not the mangers to guide them or not the mindset that forward plans and can live frugal with a longer term strategy. Yet so many foreign mainstream artists put out reggae derived music to much success. Why wasn’t Gyptian seen as such a cross over artist. Why isn’t he getting American or British sponsorship deals and more an more cross promotional work with other artists for example. And others who could have easily crossed into the chart market like Tanya Stephens just fell through the cracks with handfuls of sales. Is the continued low sales due to the fact that they just don’t have the continued stand up material or a fierce marketing plans?  Is latino rapper Pitbulls high record sales because his music is better, because his fans buy his songs or because he’s marketed better?

In the corporate world (inc. music business) Jamaican artists are seen as unruly and not bankable. The fan’s might forgive and offer the typical “Let God be the judge not I” when they talk about Buju/Vybz/JahCure/Bounty/etc but business sponsors never forgive nor forget. Do Jamaican artists see themselves as non-accountable to their actions and why do so many of them get caught up in business that is not within the law when they have the foundations of a potentially wider international revenue in music if they keep their noses clean.

We need to call to question how a genre of music steeped in a legendary rich culture has been tossed to the bottom of the heap in both revenue and respect. It’s time to get real and for the artists to be accountable and responsible and the audience to realize that flash floss rarely equates revenue. The business end need to figure out marketing and positioning these artists out of the polarized genre but to field them into mainstream .And all of the flossers should remember that all these famous flashy rappers in the States all died penniless!

Jane Nina Buchanan, Owner stooshpr.com. Originally from Liverpool, England she started her career as producer and presenter of the SONY award winning show “Streetlife” on the BBC. From radio she moved on to television with seasons as Entertainment Producer for the network Granada TV show,”This Morning” and later “Jameson Tonight” on Sky TV. Headhunted from Sky TV by Sir Bob Geldof and Lord Waheed Alli company at 25yrs old, she was appointed the position of US Producer for Planet 24 Productions. Based out of NYC she coordinated and produced all US strands for the controversial show “The Word” and later, Channel 4’s “The Big Breakfast”. When Planet 24 relocated to LA to produce the successful “Survivor” reality show, Jane decided to make NYC her home and continues to live and work in the media. She has held staff positions at New Video Group/Docurama (Home Video arm of A&E/The History Channel), Disney Theatrical (Lion King,, Mary Poppins and Phil Collins’ Tarzan) Maxim Magazine/Dennis Publishing, and Bad Boy Entertainment with Sean P.Diddy Combs.

About the author

JaneNina Buchanan