Lloyd Stanbury  

Arts & Entertainment Consultant

 Providing legal, entertainment management consultancy, and training services for artists, arts and entertainment managers, audio-visual producers, performers, rights management and trade associations, government and private cultural development agencies.

Welcome to the source for professional advice, expert management guidance, and information for your developmental needs in the arts, and entertainment industries.

This website provides your best connection to representation and support for developmental activities within the arts, entertainment and cultural industries.

The services section outlines a range of legal and other consulting services available to you. You may also check with the "News and Events" section for information and updates on projects and clients. 

Please view the video links on this website to some of the projects of my clients.

 

Check my weekly blog articles below and leave your comments.   

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ARTIST MANAGEMENT AND SELF MANAGEMENT

The business of Reggae, and in particular Reggae music from Jamaica, has been criticized for its lack of professionalism. Some also argue that enough Jamaicans are not taking advantage of the global business opportunities created by the wide scale acceptance and popularity of this music that is born out of the struggles and life experiences of the people of a small developing island nation in the Caribbean.


In my view the issues of artist management and self management by artists go to the very heart of the problem. To start a small local business as an artist in the music industry is one thing. To build a successful career and business in the music industry is another. A successful music business operation cannot exist without a clear understanding and application of music business management principles and procedures. Many artist managers and self managed artists in Reggae however operate without an understanding of some of the very basic principles and terminologies. Including the various roles and responsibilities of the necessary team players, such as tour manager versus booking agent, and what is the difference between a publishing company and a music copyright collective management organization. EMI is not BMI.


In Jamaica today many very talented artists are now apparently taking the route of self management. This may be as a result of the fact that there is an inadequate number of available, qualified and competent artist managers involved in the business of Reggae. It may also be as a result of the erroneous perception that as a self managed artist you are likely to make more money from your business. Last time I checked 80% of 5,000 was still greater than 100% of 1,000.


Whether you are artist manager or self managed artist, the fact still remains that you must equip yourself with the necessary knowledge in order to succeed. To quote from the website of The Artist Management Resource: "With the unpredictability of current music business models, along with the staggering array of music-related opportunities available to those "in the know", the success edge will go to the most knowledgeable individuals operating with the right mixture of financing, talent, foresight, planning, timing, and game plan execution". http://www.artistmanagementresource.com/


In today’s music world you also stand very little, if any, chance of making it as an artist or artist manager without use of the Internet. So my advice is, take some time to do research, study and get information via the Internet. Start by checking the link above.


One Love

Reggae's Biggest Market - Another Perspective

"Where is Reggae's Biggest Market"? This question was asked in an article published in the Jamaica Observer daily newspaper on July 1, as we celebrate International Reggae Day.

To answer the question we need to first identify what methods of measurement we are using to determine market size. Are we speaking of volume of sales of recorded music? Are we speaking of audience size for live Reggae performance events? Are we measuring market size in terms of public performance exposure and income generated to songwriters, music publishers, performers and music producers through broadcasts and play by radio, TV, clubs, hotels, restaurants and concerts? All three above mentioned areas of music use are revenue generating, and if market size is being measured in terms of economic returns, then these are all issues to be looked at.

 

One may however also measure market size in terms of the potential volume and value of recorded music sales, potential live music audience size, and potential radio, TV, club and other public performance audience size and copyright and related rights revenues. I mention this "potential market size" approach because of the peculiarities of the situation on the African continent, where due to low purchasing power and inadequate copyright administration the economic returns to Reggae are far below the actual popularity of the genre.

 

Many contend that Africa as a region is the largest market for Reggae, and justifiably so. Africans have embraced Reggae with passion for decades, and have identified with it as the soundtrack for liberation struggles and struggles against corruption and injustice. Crowd sizes at Reggae concerts in African countries are by far the largest anywhere in the world. While on the subject of Africa and Reggae, I must also put in context my mention of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire and its claim to be one of the capitals of Reggae in the world. This is a claim being made by Ivorians based on the international success of their Reggae artists Alpha Blondy and Tiken Jah Fakoly, as well as the strong public acceptance of the music form, as shown in the size of audiences at live shows.

 

Of course there are arguments to support the claim that France is the biggest market because it provides a significant number of opportunities for live Reggae music performances around the country, and hosts on a regular basis Jamaican and Francophone African Reggae performers. Likewise, some in the German Reggae community will contend that with the largest and longest running Reggae festival in the world "Summerjam", one of the biggest acts in Reggae today in Gentleman, and many live performance opportunities around the country, they are the biggest market for Reggae. Where is the USA and England in all of this?

 

One thing is however clear, Jamaica as a market does not really figure in the scheme of things globally.


A NEW DAWNING FOR JAMAICAN MUSIC

Reggae Month 2011 has come and gone, but it has left a very positive impression with me. I spent two weeks during Reggae Month in Kingston playing host to a group of West African music business incubator managers on a study tour that included meetings with several music industry associations as well as relevant government agencies. The tremendous success of the study tour served to reinforce the view that there are many opportunities for business and creative collaborations between Jamaican and African music business operators.

 

Jamaican Minister of Culture Olivia "Babsy" Grange with Baptiste Fuchs of Culture et Developpement, France (left) and Lloyd Stanbury (right) along with West Africans on music business study tour

 

As a part of the study tour I was also able to witness several live music presentations, including the weekly Reggae Nights event on Wednesdays at the Edna Manley College which was presented by the JaRIA group, as well as events at Christophers, and Morgan's Harbour. These live events showcased a number of upcoming recording artistes such as Protoje who is currently riding high with his hit single "Rasta Love" featuring Ky-Mani Marley, Raging Fyah, Blu Grass In The Sky, Dubtonic - winners of the Global Battle of the Bands for best new band in the world, the Uprising Roots band, and Jah-9.

 Having witnessed the above artistes live in concert I now feel refreshed and confident in the future of Jamaican music.The impact of the work being done by the music department of the Edna Manley  College is very evident, as most if not all the acts above mentioned benefit from the talent of students and graduates of the school. To many of you who are music fans, the names I mentioned may be unfamiliar, but in my view that wont be for very long. Great songs, good musicianship and professional music production will always rise to the top. All the artistes are also present here on Facebook, so check them out and support the movement.

One Love  

http://www.dubtonickru.com/fr_dubmusic.cfm

 

DUBTONIC KRU

Bob Marley - International Hero

 Six years ago (February 18, 2005) I wrote the following article for my Musically Speaking column in the Jamaica Xnews. Recent debates have caused me to post it now on Facebook. 

 

The debate as to whether or not the Honorable Robert Nesta Marley should be accorded the status of National Hero continues, and unfortunately many of us Jamaicans continue to display our propensity to devalue our own.

A hero may be defined as a person distinguished for courage, personal bravery, bold enterprise, or strength of mind to meet or endure adversity. 

While we talk and express our opinions as we are known to do, and in fact should be encouraged to do, we should also take time to study the life and work of Bob Marley both locally and internationally. We should also ask ourselves a couple of questions as well. For example, how much has the work and life of Bob Marley contributed to the success of Jamaica’s number one export industry, Tourism? How much has his musical works contributed to the liberation of the people of Southern Africa and the abolition of apartheid? How much strength of mind and endurance does it take for an almost “fatherless” child from a poor Jamaican community to rise to becoming one of the wealthiest individuals in the country, and without doubt the most popular Jamaican worldwide, after spending only 36 years with us in the flesh? 

Bob Marley’s lyrics certainly demonstrate tremendous courage and personal bravery as he sought to represent and champion the cause of disadvantaged peoples worldwide. His life is also characterized by courage and bravery as exemplified in his efforts at bringing unity between Michael Manley and Edward Seaga and an end to tribal political warfare in Jamaica through the internationally publicized “Peace Concert” at the National Stadium. His live concert performance in Kingston bandaged from gunshot wounds after an attempt on his life certainly ranks as a demonstration of personal bravery and courage. 

Bob Marley’s life and music must be examined in the context of whom and what he represented. His music represented the voice of a disadvantaged majority in Jamaica, Africa and many other places around the world. As a result of the very positive influences and impressions created through his music, I for one am absolutely proud to be identified as a Jamaican wherever I go in the world. Millions of people around the world regard the Honourable Robert Nesta Marley as their hero. 

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds”.

PAYOLA IN THE JAMAICAN MUSIC INDUSTRY

 

 

Payola, in the American music industry, is the illegal practice of payment or other inducement by record companies for the broadcast of recordings on music radio, in which the song is presented as being part of the normal day's broadcast. Under US law, 47 U.S.C. § 317, a radio station can play a specific song in exchange for money, but this must be disclosed on the air as being sponsored airtime, and that play of the song should not be counted as a "regular airplay". 

 

 

Unfortunately within the Jamaican laws there are no similar provisions. The incidence of payola therefore continue unchecked as far as Jamaican media operations are concerned, and have in fact been extended to include pay for video play, as well as pay for newspaper articles. This practice of paying to create a distorted perception of the popularity of a song or artist has no doubt contributed to the very lucrative business of hype, which apparently now takes precedence over the business of music in Jamaica. 

So entrenched is this business of pay for play, and pay for exposure inside Jamaica, that several thriving music consultancies and entertainment publicity operations have been established based on the ability of the operators to skillfully navigate their way through the very well established payola network. 

 

The media is unquestionably a very significant aspect of the music marketing exercise, and professional publicists and entertainment marketing consultants are an absolute necessity. It is now however full time for appropriate regulations to be crafted and implemented to help in bringing some semblance of structure to the Jamaican music industry. In my opinion the criminalization of payola should be very high on the agenda of our legislators.   

 

 

IF I WERE THE JAMAICAN MINISTER OF CULTURE

The role of government in cultural industries development has been a topic of much debate when it comes to Jamaica. One view that is constantly put forward by some is that government should have nothing to do with music industry development. With all due respect to those who continue to hold that view, it is my opinion that your position is one based on ignorance. Sorry to be so harsh, but the facts speak for themself, if we take the time to examine what has worked for cultural industries that thrive in other countries around the globe.

I am not by any means considering a position in government in Jamaica, as indeed I think I would be a lonely soldier among a group self-serving politicians who lack vision and creativity. If however I were to dream of being the Minister of Culture in Jamaica, this is what I would wish to see: 

1. The Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts be adequately funded and supported in order to expand its curriculum offerings and physical facilities to include more emphasis on courses focused on arts and entertainment management and entrepreneurship. 

2. The Broadcasting Commission get some teeth, and come up with appropriate recommendations and measures to contain the scourge of Payola. 

3. The Jamaica Tourist Board include the development of indigenous local culture as an essential and priority aspect of its programme for the enhancement of the local tourism product. We are more than sand and sea and lovely hotel buildings. Our music is also not Jamaica Jazz and Blues. 

4. The inclusion of music education and appreciation courses as part of the curriculum in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, with appropriate support facilities such as musical instruments and tutors who recognize and appreciate the value of local music. 

5. The provision of tax incentives to encourage local and international entrepreneurs to invest in production, training and presentation of local music on the Island. 

Some of us may ask why it has not been possible to implement the above suggestions, when the fact is they are not by any means new ones. These and similar ideas have been presented to government in Jamaica time and time again over the past two decades. In my view one reason these measures have not been implemented has to do with the fact that the Ministry of Culture does not seem to have a say in, or any significant influence over, what is done by the Ministry of Information as regards the Broadcasting Commission, or the Minstry of Tourism with regard to how tourism promotion dollars are spent. The Jamaican Ministry of Culture has also apparently not been able to affect decision making within the Ministries of Industry and Commerce and Education respectively, when it comes to tax incentive regulations or the developments within our formal educational system. 

 

My dream as Minister of Culture would therefore have to include the establishment of a joint Ministerial body headed by the Culture Minister to oversee the policy making activities and budgetary allocations in the abovementioned Ministries in so far as they relate to and/or impact the development of cultural industries.  

 

 I guess this will all remain a dream.

 

Remember Reggae's African Connections

I have had the privilege of making three visits this year to West African countries Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Burkina Faso to participate in a series of training workshops for individuals and companies involved in the business of music. My interaction with the performers, music producers, entertainment media personnel and general music loving public in West Africa has allowed me to put into proper perspective the circumstances that have contributed to the growth and popularity of Reggae music around the world.

Africans, more than the inhabitants of any other part of the world, have for decades now embraced Reggae music with great passion. The musical works and messages of early Reggae pioneers such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Steel Pulse, IJahman Levi, Third World, Jimmy Cliff, and Burning Spear are regarded by Africans as the fuel that carried the flames to burn down apartheid and other injustices faced by the poor black people on the wealthiest continent on earth. Many years of support from sympathizers around the world enabled and boosted Reggae music’s popularity globally. But where are we today – “under gal frock and bling”?

Despite the dismantling of apartheid, most Africans remain poor, and continue to live in sub-standard conditions, lacking things we take for granted such as clean drinking water and Internet access. The love and respect for Reggae music and Jamaica remain strong however, and was clearly evident from my experiences in the many days I spent this year in Ouagadougou, Dakar and Abidjan. Abidjan is actually considered to be one of the Reggae capitals of the world, and while there I was able to witness the stirring live presentations of homegrown Reggae band The Wisemen who perform regularly at the Parker Place Reggae Club. Reggae music is played and enjoyed everywhere and by everyone in West Africa, and the few Jamaican artists who travel to Africa for live performances usually experience playing before crowds larger than anywhere else in the world. It is not uncommon for a Reggae concert to attract 100,000 patrons in Africa.

The bond between Jamaica, Reggae and Africa is not only a very strong one, but I submit that this bond also provides the basis for Reggae’s continued global viability. I find the emotions and sentiments expressed by Jamaican Reggae artists and their African counterparts towards each other to be an interesting paradox, as Jamaican Reggae artists yearn to go to Africa while the Africans yearn to visit Jamaica. We have however failed to build that bridge to bring us all together. In February 2011 a group of West African music promoters, music producers and industry managers will make a study tour to Jamaica as a follow up to the training workshops I participated in earlier this year. Hopefully this will provide the opportunity for Jamaican Reggae industry members to make some meaningful connections with a view to creating this bridge.

As we look towards celebrating Reggae Month 2011 next February, let us make a special effort to re-focus on Reggae’s African roots and the significance of our connection with the motherland. Reggae needs Africa and Africa needs Reggae. Apartheid may be gone, but the suffering and exploitation of our brothers and sisters continue.

 

Music Business and Social Networking Websites

Over the past five years the use of online social networks has become a way of life for hundreds of millions of people around the world, and continues to grow at an alarming rate. Among the top social networking websites are Facebook with 500,000,000 registered users, Habbo with 162,000,000, Myspace with 130,000,000 users, Bebo with 117,000,000 users, LinkedIn with 75,000,000, and Twitter with 75,000,000 users. Social network websites with over 100 million users also exist in China, India and Brazil.   

Common features of social networking sites include the capability for users to create personal profiles, and the possibility to promote and share common interests with other users. The sites provide access to registered users free of charge, and enable them to easily communicate and distribute text, audio and video content to other users. These features have made social networking websites particularly attractive to individuals and companies involved in the music industry. In fact many industry experts are optimistic that social networking websites and giveaways will help to regain some of the ground lost to illegal online music operators.

Social networking is now being used by artists, labels, promoters and managers of music enterprises for music marketing and distribution within the major sites such as Facebook and MySpace. In addition several successful music specific social networking websites now exist. The most popular and successful music specific social networking website is MySpace Music http://www.myspace.com/music . This site now operates as a subsidiary of News Corporation, and recently started testing audio advertisements. It possesses some of the strongest marketing powers out of all the music social networks. Its features include My Music, Charts, Featured Playlists, Music Videos, News Releases, Karaoke, Shows and Forums.

 

Other very successful music social networks include Last.fm http://www.last.fm founded in 2002 and acquired by CBS for $280 million in May 2007. Registered users of this site can create custom radio stations and playlists and build user profiles based on their music tastes. Users are also able to write public and private messages to the Last.fm community. ReverbNation.com http://www.reverbnation.com is the leading online music marketing platform used by over 500,000 artists, managers, record labels, and venues to grow their reach, influence, and business across the internet. ReverbNation.com provides free and affordable solutions to individual artists and music industry professionals that support them in the areas of web promotion, fan-relationship management, digital distribution, social-media marketing, direct-to-fan e-commerce, fan-behavior measurement, sentiment tracking, web-site hosting, and concert booking and promotion. Music social networks such as Buzznet http://www.buzznet.com , iLike.com http://www.ilike.com , and MOG.com http://mog.com are also making inroads into the music marketing and distribution business and should definitely be explored.

 

Effective use of social networks for business development requires time and dedicated effort. In order to remain competitive artists, labels, managers, venues and promoters will have no choice but to either develop the necessary skills, or  align themselves with persons who possess the skills to make the various free online networking facilities work for the growth of their business.

 

Can We Save the Jamaican Music Industry?

The international recording industry has in recent years been subject to tremendous pressure brought on by rapid technological changes that have greatly influenced consumption patterns. The global economic recession has also had severe negative impact on music sales. As a significant music producing country Jamaica has without question felt the effects of these changes. 

Despite the challenges being faced globally, there is still however some evidence of growth in some major markets, as well as increased opportunities, as new revenue streams are created for music and entertainment products. As far as the Jamaican music industry is concerned however, one would get the impression that business has reached the lowest point ever, and prospects for the future seem very dim. There seems to be a stark difference between what is taking place for music in general on the international music scene and what we are experiencing in the local and international markets for music produced and coming from Jamaica.

It is my view that this difference can be attributed to the failure of locally based industry stakeholders to seriously treat Jamaican music and entertainment business development with the level of respect and professionalism required. The anything goes “let the sufferer eat a food” approach has not worked to the benefit of either the sufferer or the wider society. Many of the misguided sufferers have used the opportunity given to them to poison our youngsters with their lyrics in their quest to “eat a food”.

There are however some encouraging signs that all is not lost. The recent outpouring of disgust from the majority of Reggae music lovers serves as an indication and admission that we have finally accepted that there is indeed a problem. We however now need to work towards some solutions to save the local music industry. These solutions should include strategies to address some of the obvious deficiencies in how we have operated in the past. We must for example start with the revamping of our approach to formal education and training with a view to totally eradicating the description “extra-curricular “ as used to define school activities in the area of the Arts. Music, drama, poetry and other Arts courses must now be given equal weight and prominence as is English, Mathematics and the Natural Sciences. Arts related courses must now be treated as a part of the regular school curriculum.

We must also place greater emphasis on the support for specialized training in the technical and administrative aspects of the Arts, both within the formal school system as well as through appropriate vocational training and short term skills upgrading programmes. Industry practitioners, private investors and government must also make it a priority to put in place and support physical facilities that will enable artists to exhibit and perform for the benefit of the public at costs that are not prohibitive.

Our media practitioners must recognize their role as more than that of a conduit of content, and start acting as a product development contributor. Local media needs to be more creative and collaborate with industry players to develop and market Jamaican entertainment content globally, rather than focus on domestic sensationalism. If we commit to doing these things there is a chance we can save the music.

 

What Is Dancehall

In recent weeks I have been exposed to a number of Internet and newspaper articles and discussions that include so many different descriptions and definitions of Dancehall they would make anyone’s head spin. The definitions vary depending on whether you are a young newly exposed Jamaican music enthusiast or a foreigner in some far away country. Our inability to accurately define this very vibrant and valuable aspect of Jamaican culture, is another example of what happens when we fail to treat local music and entertainment as a structured business. Unfortunately, we may very well have to contend with this dilemma of informality for quite some time, as it appears that some of the biggest promoters of Dancehall are of the view that Dancehall by nature can only thrive in an unstructured environment. I however beg to differ on that point.

As far as I am aware, the term Dancehall was first used to describe the venue where dances were kept in Jamaica several decades ago. It is also my understanding that over time this definition has evolved to become the description of a new music genre derived from Reggae around the mid 1980s. I spent 12 years of my music business career managing and working very closely with producers Steely and Clevie who are recognized as the pioneers in the production of the rhythms that characterized Dancehall as a music genre. I therefore subscribe to the definition of Dancehall as a new genre derived from Reggae. There is ongoing debate however between many of our established musicians as to whether there is in fact a difference between Reggae and Dancehall as music genres. Some say Reggae and Dancehall are one and the same, while others argue that they are different music genres, in very much the same way that Ska is different from Mento. Today Dancehall has also been used as a term to describe the lifestyle that is identified with this new “branch” of Reggae, hence we have Dancehall culture.

Jamaica has had a very rich tradition in popular music that has gained the attention of persons all over the world. Over the past 60 years our music has evolved, primarily through African, Rastafarian and North American influences, to create recognizable genres such as Mento, Ska, Rock Steady, Reggae and arguably now Dancehall. Despite this, we have failed to take the lead in clearly defining our music forms, resulting in today’s confusion about what is Dancehall. I even read where someone described all Jamaican music created over the past 60 years as Dancehall music.

Our failure to clearly and consistently define and present to the wider global audience what we have created musically, has allowed others to categorize us as they see fit. I have very vivid memories of an attempt a few years ago by the Grammy committee to remove Sean Paul from the Reggae Grammy category and place him in the Rap category. This move was however stopped through a petition signed by several persons actively involved in the Reggae music business. Our failure to define what we have created in Dancehall has also allowed other top international artists such as R Kelly, Rihanna, Beyonce and others to perform our musical genre and call it pop and/or R&B. As someone said in one of those articles I mentioned earlier, Jamaicans need to wake up and smell the Blue Mountain Coffee.

 

Artist Development and Artist Loyalty

It is often said in entertainment circles that the business of music is 90% business and 10% music. There are however arguments for and against this proposition. What is not debatable however is the fact that it takes a whole lot of dedicated time and financial investment to create a successful recording artist.

Artist development is a process that requires very significant investment in image building, inclusive of the production of appropriate promotional music videos and other publicity materials such as biographies, press releases and promo photographs for media circulation. In the music business the process of recording and music distribution is also very time consuming and expensive, and as we all know, no artist can make it without releasing recordings that are well promoted and that grab the attention of the public. In order to enable an artist to be creative and productive it is also sometimes necessary to provide support for the artist’s welfare. This often includes transportation, clothing, a place to live, and the coverage of other personal day to day expenses.

The time and money required for artist development is often provided by the manager and/or music producer or persons who function as both artist manager and music producer. I have had my own personal experience operating in both capacities as manager and producer of artists in a development relationship. I have also represented several individuals and companies that do the same. From my point of view the Jamaican experience has been very discouraging. So much so that my initial reaction to clients these days is to invest their time and money elsewhere, and stay away from artist development.

Some people may ask, why I would suggest that to my clients. The easy answer would be to show them a long list of artist/manager/producer relationships in Jamaica that have gone sour after the investment of millions of dollars and years of dedicated effort by managers and producers without recovering their investment. In most cases there have been reports of artists running off as soon as they sight success, or turning against the person who has worked hard to bring about their success. This seems to be the norm in Jamaica rather than the exception. The cases of successful long term artist development relationships are few and far between.

Regardless of your opinion on the relative importance of the music versus business inputs to the development equation, one thing is certain; there is need for a partnership between talent and business. Many of the development relationships that have gone bad were destined to end in dispute as a consequence of the failure to put in place appropriate agreements at the outset. On the other hand, there have been relationships that were supported by proper agreements between the parties, and that started out very well, but ended in disaster once the artist started to see success.

While there will be some artists who are able to provide for themselves the necessary business expertise and support, I think the vast majority do need a partner. The artist/manager/producer development partnership is however under threat of becoming extinct in Jamaica if we do not seriously examine the conditions under which we operate and come up with solutions quickly. We must eliminate the ignorance that prevails on both sides.

 

From One Love to Hate Music?

In recent weeks I have noticed a significant increase in commentaries and discussions on the Internet and in the local media which raise concern for the growing negative global image of Reggae, Dancehall and the Jamaican brand. One friend and associate of mine who is very well connected in international music business circles has suggested that it is time for a major international Reggae and Dancehall summit to explore possible solutions to save the image of our music and our nation from further decline.

Jamaica has been blessed with many very talented and creative recording artists, songwriters and music producers. The list is too long to mention them all, and includes many who have worked tirelessly for decades to present to the world a music form that unites people of all races, colours, religions, and sexual persuasions, through a message of love and peace, while at the same time bringing focus to the social and political injustices faced by many, including our brothers and sisters in Africa. Thanks to the efforts of these “Reggae Ambassadors”, Jamaica and Jamaican lifestyle and culture have been embraced by many non-Jamaicans around the world.

Despite these accomplishments, and the obvious importance of local music to national development, many argue that not enough has been done to nurture and guide new talent, or to provide appropriate infrastructure for sustained and structured development of Jamaica’s music industry. In my view we have allowed the business of music in Jamaica to continue for too long as a “anything goes” and “dog eat dog” hustle of un-professionals trying to “eat a food” as they say. In this scenario almost everyone and anyone is encouraged and/or allowed to become an artist, promoter or producer of music whether or not they are qualified to do so.

The neglect and disrespect for the career development needs of Jamaican music business practitioners have led to a very strong resentment of the “powers that be” by most local music industry participants. This resentment and the “anything goes” approach have contributed to the production and promotion of music with very negative and anti-social lyrical content. Many mis-guided youths have also entered the industry as they view it as an avenue to get rich quick, by any means necessary, including selling messages that promote violence and crime and the degrading of our women.   

The recent attempts at labeling Reggae and Dancehall as “Hate Music” and to stereotype all Jamaican recording artists as promoters of hate, is however, not only unwarranted, but should be rebutted. Those of us who know better and are in a position to make a difference now have a responsibility to bring more focus and attention to those artists who dedicate themselves to producing and performing the type of music that has allowed Reggae and Jamaica to enjoy the love, respect, and admiration of music lovers the world over. In this regard I would like to publicly once again commend Ibo Cooper for the sterling job he is doing with young musicians at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. His training initiatives and those of the entire staff and administration of the school deserve much more support if we want to reverse the negative trends in our music and society.

 

Creativity Before Commercialization

In recent years many in the music industry have been scrambling to find ways to survive as legitimate sales of CDs fall at an alarming rate. The extent of the fall-out is greater than most would care to admit. Several music distributors I know in Jamaica and elsewhere have taken the decision to close their doors and venture into other aspects of the business such as management, music publishing and training.

While the international music market continues to experience a significant reduction in recorded music sales, the recent accomplishments of recording artists such as Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, Michael Jackson, Taylor Swift and Beyonce are very instructive. These artists represent the top five selling recorded music performers for the year 2009 in the USA (the world’s largest music market), according to Nielson SoundScan. The sales figures for their records indicate that in the midst of the general recorded music sales decline, these artists continue to sell millions of units.  Lady Gaga – 15,297,000 units sold, Black Eyed Peas – 12,988,000 units sold, Michael Jackson – 12,355,000 units sold, Taylor Swift – 12,302,000 units sold, and Beyonce 9,261,000 units sold

So, what is it that is common among these top selling artists? They all place creativity and their art at the forefront of their efforts. They all perform and record songs that are very well written, and their stage presentations are creative and exemplify true artistry.  They are not motivated by hype and the pursuit of false and contrived popularity. The lyrical content of their music has universal appeal and is not offensive to anyone or any group of persons. In addition to the emphasis placed by these artists on creativity, it is also significant to note that they also operate in an environment that provides support mechanisms for the development and nurturing of creativity. Contrast this with the case in Jamaica where everything in the music business is based on hype and the pursuit of commercial gain, both by some so-called artists, and the media and corporate brands that support local music activities.

As we seek to pursue a path for the development of Jamaican and Caribbean cultural industries there continues to be a debate with regard to the emphasis or lack of emphasis placed on creativity and innovation. As far as the further development of the Jamaican music industry is concerned, we should ask ourselves the following questions:-

Do we give adequate recognition to the artistic and creative efforts of our artists, past and present?

Do we provide adequate support mechanisms such as training facilities and opportunities for presentation of the arts?

Do we encourage the maintenance of artistic standards and recognize and award creative excellence?

Are our songwriters and musicians (i.e. people who play musical instruments) provided with support to encourage them? 

Are we just in it for the bling and the hype, and to sell more beverage and mobile phones?

The Entertainment Attorney - Some strange misconceptions

The business of entertainment is easily one of the most complex businesses one will encounter. This is due primarily to the fact that it is a business that involves the production and commercial distribution of various types of media content (sound recordings, films, games etc) as well as the rendering of performance services. These activities are typically executed through relationships between a number of persons with rights and an interest in the proceeds of the eventual outcome. The rights involved are generally governed by a mixture of contractual agreements and statutory provisions such as those covered by Copyright Law and the Law of Trademarks.

It is the role of an entertainment lawyer to provide guidance and advice with regard to the rights, obligations and entitlements of the various rights holders. To a seasoned music and entertainment professional the role of the entertainment lawyer is not only clear and obvious, it is also regarded as crucial.

One would think that by now most persons involved in the businesses of media, music and entertainment in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean would appreciate and understand the entertainment lawyer’s role. I am however prompted to write this article because of recent experiences related to the very high profile Buju Banton criminal case now before the courts in Florida. Immediately following the first media reports on this case I was exposed to a combination of ridiculous posts on sites such as Facebook, and requests from media practitioners for me to make comments about the case. One such comment came quite surprisingly from a prominent Trinidadian advocate for cultural industries development. It would appear from these incidents that some persons are of the mistaken belief that an entertainment lawyer is a lawyer who represents entertainers who are charged with criminal offences. Not so. Entertainment lawyers deal with legal matters that are directly related to the business of entertainment.

In very much the same way that you do not consult a dentist when your eyes need fixing, you don’t go to an entertainment attorney when an entertainer needs criminal representation. The practice of entertainment law is a specialized area of the law. Not every lawyer is qualified to properly represent someone with issues related to entertainment contracts or Intellectual Property Rights. Not every medical practitioner is qualified to treat you for an eye problem or toothache.

Don’t laugh on this one, but another misconception about the entertainment lawyer is that he or she is a lawyer that entertains. I cannot count the number of times that I have been asked “do you sing”, or “what instrument do you play”, after introducing myself as an entertainment attorney. On a serious note however, I do think we are in trouble if in 2010 we still have industry practitioners who are mistaken as to the role of the entertainment lawyer. Think on these things.

 

 

Is Jamaican music losing its international market appeal?

The recently published newspaper articles that disclosed the dramatic decline in sales of Reggae and Dancehall music CDs in North America have sent some shock waves through the Jamaican music fraternity. Comments and responses following these publications have reflected a range of emotions - from serious cause for concern, to no surprise. I do think there is definitely need for deeper and more critical analysis of the situation.

I think the articles failed to point out that all music genres suffered from dramatic reductions in CD sales in 2009, which is a mere reflection of the trend in recent years, as the music industry transforms itself from one based on the sale of physical products to one based on digital delivery of music via downloads, ringtones and online streaming. One of the questions we should ask is whether the local and international Reggae music communities are doing enough to make the necessary adjustment to the new delivery mechanisms to offset the inevitable demise of the CD format.

The second issue we should confront is whether or not the Reggae and Dancehall music genres are losing their global market appeal. Reggae music has built a massive level of global respect over many decades due primarily to the work of artists who project images and messages of unity, peace, justice and “ONE LOVE”. While Bob Marley spoke about “Bombing a Church” and Peter Tosh said “I am coming in hot firing shot shot shot” there is no doubt with regard to the intent and purpose of their messages advocating love and unity, and their stance against injustice and discrimination.

In recent years the Jamaican media and many younger Reggae and Dancehall fans have propelled a slew of artists and recordings into so called “star” status, with musical works based on lyrics advocating violence, murder, tribalism and the pursuit of material gain by any means necessary. In a world where the majority of people still wants peace and unity, and reject violence and murder, where gays now advocate for rights, and where urban gangs and black-on-black crime has grown to epidemic proportions, is there the possibility that there is a rejection of the current perception of Jamaica and Jamaican music?

I think a serious study needs to be done sooner than later to ascertain the views of global music fans regarding the quality of Reggae and Dancehall music today. My own personal experience from conversations with persons in many countries around the world is that a lot of Reggae and Dancehall fans are disappointed and turned off.  We can’t afford to continue to listen only to the self-serving views of the artists and media persons who benefit financially from the promotion of war, tribalism, murder, violence and the pursuit of material gain through music.

 

One love

 

KEEPING JAMAICAN ENTERTAINERS IN IGNORANCE

Despite being blessed with an abundance of natural and human resources, it boggles the mind to think that the majority of Jamaicans continue to suffer from the ill effects of a weak economy and poverty. I am now convinced that there is a deliberate effort to keep Jamaicans in a state of ignorance in order to allow for continued corruption and misappropriation of resources by some in government and private sector leadership. This is clearly a strategy that is working, and unfortunately, many unsuspecting innocent by-standers have been tricked into adding to this divisive and destructive cycle. The most painful part of this all is that a great deal of the ignorance and mis-information that is spread among us has been fueled by non Jamaicans who attach themselves to things Jamaican for personal gain and a false perception of credibility.

I can speak with accuracy and authority on this subject as it relates to our entertainment sector, where I have spent over 25 years working on various private and state initiatives designed to educate, empower and equip talented individuals to compete more effectively in the global market. I do not need to list the various projects and initiatives I have either started or tried to help get properly structured. I think my efforts have been adequately documented and publicized over the years, locally and internationally.

What has not been widely publicized however is the fact that, despite the existence of all the necessary empirical evidence to the contrary, there are persons in the Jamaican music industry who have been lead to believe that the initiatives I participated in were designed solely to create personal enrichment and provide benefits for me at the expense of the nation’s tax-payers. The reality is; nothing could be further from the truth. The industry developmental initiatives I have participated in have for the most part been executed with tremendous personal financial sacrifice.     

I think we all agree that our music is one of the most valuable resources we possess. My experience however shows that the majority of individuals operating in the Jamaican music industry operate from a position of ignorance. They are ignorant with regard to their rights and who is best equipped to represent them. Most are also ignorant with regard to what is required to properly structure their businesses and the industry, as well as about the real costs to provide necessary support services. While we have done very well on the international stage, the number of Jamaican participants in the music industry who really have a successful business is way too small, and the benefits to the overall economy much less than it should be.

My advice is. Don’t believe the hype, and don’t judge the book by the cover. We need to read more carefully, think outside the box, talk less and do more. Most of all; we must be very careful of those who profess to be experts but cannot provide evidence of either qualifications or a track record of accomplishments.