Entertainment

BANKRUPT! - Major French reggae record label closes its doors

Illegal downloads blamed for Makasound's bankruptcy

Sunday, March 06, 2011    

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FRENCH reggae label Makasound filed for bankruptcy this year amidst mounting debt and online piracy which will sever an important link between both nations.

This is the latest reggae label to fold following the decline in music and the global economy. A liquidator was appointed to sell the company.

"We (became) bankrupt a few weeks ago, everything will stop in the weeks to come, (for) both physical and online music," stated Nicolas Maslowski co-founder of Makasound, in an interview with the Sunday Observer.

The accumulated debt is in the millions of Jamaican dollars equivalent to "the price of two or three new humble cars".

The label distributed albums for Alton Ellis, Winston Mc Anuff, Black Roots, Leroy Smart, The Rastafarians, Mikey Ras Starr, Black Roots 2, The Slickers, Rub A Dub Soldiers, Carl Harvy, Delroy Williams and many others.

Makasound, founded in 2002 by Maslowski and Romain Germa, started small but grew to become a respected reggae brand within France. The executives noted that the music business had become a pizza shop in which quick consumption of CDs and digital music was required to avoid the stale of piracy.

"Of course illegal downloading is one of the major problems if not the major. French people are the biggest illegal downloaders in the world. Also, of course the quality of reggae music is declining, sometimes to a level of shame," Maslowski told the Sunday Observer from his office in France.

Makasound's folding is symbolic of the 31 per cent decline in the value of the global recorded music industry between 2004 to 2010 according to the 2011 Digital Music report from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

"We have failed to pass the winter, choked by debt and by a scheme of musical production which deteriorates each year," according to a translated statement jointly written by Germa and Maslowski posted on the Makasound website. "Thus the activity of the label stops by legal obligation. A judicial liquidator has been appointed to resolve accounting and legal obligations," both continued.

The executives thanked the public "who often supported" the company throughout its nine years. The executives also honoured the artistes, producers and staff with whom they worked.

Sunday Observer (SO): Jamaica no longer makes the best roots reggae?

Nicolas Maslowski (NM): Reggae is a style that cannot die, if the artistes, musicians and producers take care of it, but it can leave Jamaica too! Be careful! Right now most of the best roots reggae is not made in Jamaica but elsewhere.

SO: Why?

NM: For me the best Jamaican music, has been made from mid late '60's to '79....but that doesn't stop certain Jamaican musicians (from) doing some good reggae music nowadays, including some young ones-and-ones. The major problem to me — and for foreign ears and tastes — is the sound, more than creativity. But many things are not going right in Jamaica regarding the music industry, and I really want to talk and ask some questions about it because it's very sad and maybe it's not totally to late to catch up.

How comes all the records archives (probably thousands and thousands of records) from the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) have disappeared in a few years without anybody — especially from the government — worrying about it?

How comes all pressing plants stopped working since a few years without anybody worrying about it?

How comes there ain't no proper reggae museum in Kingston or in the country?

I know it's difficult for a government to push reggae because if you take the most creative and interesting reggae, which is rasta music, it is in opposition with the government...The best reggae is really the reality one, the reggae that has something to say. And from what I heard and saw in Jamaica for years is that the reggae that can be represented in official events as a kind of elevator music; that's a big problem too. But, really, some things have to be done to save this treasure that is the most valuable cultural thing for Jamaica. Since many years, I'm dreaming of such things to happen for Jamaica.

SO: Is the market for reggae music is dwindling?

NM: Reggae is a niche market that is getting smaller and since 2006. It's mostly non-reggae projects that kept us alive, projects like Paris Rocking (McAnuff & Java), Victor Démé (blues singer from Burkina Faso), or Java (French rock band). And also one major point in this falling down is that we never changed our politic to release non-commercial music, music that we loved. (It) was maybe a suicidal idea...but that also made our strong image.

SO: Who currently owns Makasound?

NM: My partner and I owned Makasound. Right now nobody owns it, it is for sale by the liquidator. So either we'll get it back or it'll go with the wind.

SO: What is Makasound's legacy?

NM: Makasound started very small and 100 per cent independent in 2002, when the music industry was starting to fall down. Makasound established itself in a few years as a quality label digging some underground roots reggae music, because Makasound really started as a reissue label. It all started with Winston McAnuff's album "Diary of the silent years". Then from late 2004/5 we realised that this couldn't be a hobby anymore and had to become professional. Some new music was included with the label Black Eye first for crossover music (Winston McAnuff & The Bazbaz Orchestra, Steven Newland's first EP, Rwan with "Radio Cortex, etc) and also the Inna de Yard collection the same year through a strong creative partnership with Earl 'Chinna' Smith and the Inna de Yard crew. So far about 10 Inna de Yard albums have released in France -- Kiddus I, Earl Flute & Idrens Vol. 1 & 2, Junior Murvin, Linval Thompson, The Congos, The Mighty Diamonds, Ras Michael Junior. Then we last created Makafresh for new reggae albums. But reissues were still going on -- 28 have been released in eight years. From 2005/2006 we can say that Makasound had become a significant actor for reggae music in France and abroad, defending some strong-quality music with non- commercial releases.

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