In the recent past we have seen more news locally and internationally about the alleged criminal activities of Jamaican artistes than we have had news of their international chart-topping or concert tour successes. The list of Jamaican artistes, who have been accused, arrested or convicted of crimes over the past five years is frightening, and should be cause for concern from supporters of Jamaican music as well as anyone seeking to pursue a career in the Jamaican entertainment industry.
It is a sad reality that in Jamaica today there appears to be no distinction between criminality on the one hand, and the pursuit of genuine professional activities within the Jamaican music industry. The line between criminality and entertainment in Jamaica is so blurred that many media practitioners and “so called” entertainment industry experts even assume that the role of an entertainment lawyer is to defend entertainers who get involved in criminal activities. I have been practising entertainment law for over 25 years, which means I specialise in providing legal advice and guidance on contracts and intellectual property law issues to artistes, producers, managers, promoters and others involved in music, film and media. In the recent past, however, I have been bombarded with more inquiries and comments in relation to my opinion on criminal matters concerning Jamaican entertainers than I have been asked to provide services for entertainment contracts or copyright issues.
There will be many explanations offered as reasons for the upsurge in reports on the alleged criminal activities of Jamaican artistes. I would, however, like to take the position of offering some solutions. I think we, (government, private sector investors, and industry practitioners) need to focus more of our attention on the following:
(1) The decriminalisation of marijuana in Jamaica.
(2) The provision of development capital/funding for music industry projects in an effort to reduce the dependence of local music industry practitioners on funding from drug traffickers and gunrunners.
(3) The recognition of the need for training in entertainment management, and the provision of adequate facilities for such training.
(4) The development of and support for relevant music industry organisations to facilitate more order and the establishment of standards for the local music industry.
There needs to be a concerted effort to separate criminality from the business of music in Jamaica. We cannot afford to continue paying lip service to the development of our creative industries and the preservation of our cultural assets. As the majority of well-thinking Jamaicans and friends of Jamaica now call for an end to government corruption and garrison politics, so too should we insist on measures to protect one of our most valuable assets, our music.
Entertainment attorney and music business consultant
18 Summit Drive, PO Box 2955, Kingston 8