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March 25, 2008

buju.gifIs reggae music the only genre that releases hundreds of singles on a daily basis? I honestly do not know. But what I do know is that the way we handle our business in the reggae industry is affecting its monetary value.

Jamaica releases approximately 600 new songs daily. There are literally hundreds of producers spread out across the island. Some are your well established heavy weights while others are simply working with a drum machine at home. Whatever their situation these producers drum up music by the minute. And in an effort to be the next big thing or to maintain the current momentum, they basically give away their music all in the name of promotion.

In the normal scheme of things a track that has been mixed and mastered is given away (hundreds sometime thousands at a time) to the media for promotional purposes. The problem with reggae however, is that you have a lot of people who are not authentic media reps getting music and simply giving it away or in some cases selling it for their personal gain.

The question I am asking myself is; why are we mass producing our music? Won’t anything that is easily accessible eventually lose its value? I am so baffled as to why people in the reggae industry run it the way they do. To answer these questions one has to spend only a few days on the island of Jamaica to understand the mindset of the people.

Reggae, despite whatever else you hear is the number one export from Jamaica. Yes I said it! And I will continue to say it until the government wake up and admits what we in the industry already know to be fact.

The island is divided in three classes, the very wealthy, the very poor and the middle class. Last time I checked the minimum wage was $15,000 a month which is equivalent to $195 Canadian dollars. The average rent in a half decent neighborhood is at least $18,000 a month. What this all means is that poverty is at an all time high in Jamaica. But that is on one hand, on the other hand wealth and good living is also at an all time high. So if you are an artistic Jamaican who falls under the poverty umbrella and you are seeing an artist like Shaggy drive around with literally millions of dollars around his neck or, Buju’s mansion and exquisite studio it is understandable that you will automatically aspire to attain that or similar fortune.

Here is where there is a huge problem; making music is one thing, making music business is something else all together. I have personally met and hung out with some of the top producers in reggae and believe me when I say that they are broke! Their music can be heard five to ten times a day on the radio in some cities in North America, Europe or some Asian countries but because of their lack of knowledge they are money-less.

How can you succeed at something that you know nothing about? I think the answer to this question is trial and error. My concern is that all these trial and errors are costing the reggae industry its total value. Here is what I mean. Right now I can get almost any reggae (and this includes dancehall) music I want without spending a dime. Don’t think that this is so because I am in the industry, me being able to get free music was possible even before I got deeply involved the entertainment business. Producers and artists from Jamaica are very quick to email their music out to you no questions asked. But why is that? Could it be that we are releasing so much new music every day that it has become one of, if not the most competitive industry on the island. With no hard set rules in place the name of the game is “get a hit and get rich”.

The flip side to this coin is that there are producers/artists/promoters that are doing very well financially in this game. But these people are usually reluctant to teach the upcoming producers/artists/promoters what they need to know in order to make it. Again, I think this is because the whole thing has become so competitive that everyone is looking out for number one.

I can obviously go on and on with this article. There are so many areas to cover and things to look at. I contacted a few known producers from Jamaica for their input but they refused to comment. Not sure why but I think that this topic needs to be discussed and so I went ahead with it. I do encourage and welcome your feedback.

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