Stanbury's hits and misses

By Richard Johnson
Observer senior reporter

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

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For entertainment lawyer and reggae insider Lloyd Stanbury, 2018 had a number of hits and misses for the music industry.

The emergence of female artistes was a hit. Another was the inscription by UNESCO, the United Nations' cultural and scientific agency, to reggae as an intangible cultural heritage.

On the flip side, Stanbury said the industry remains dogged by the narrow band it laces itself in, not recognising the enormity of the global music market. This leads to unnecessary in-fighting and competition among artistes.

“I'm just hoping that we all do our best to capitalise on this UNESCO recognition. Yes, reggae as a cultural treasure is something that we knew all along, but to see it acknowledged at that level is impressive and speaks volumes about how much it needs to be protected, guarded and promoted,” Stanbury told the Jamaica Observer during a telephone interview.

He noted that there is a level of misunderstanding about what the designation means.

“There has been a lot of talk since this was announced and a number of people feel that this has come to right those pioneers who have been cheated. This has nothing to do with what went wrong for those who built the industry; that responsibility lies with us the creators of the music. The onus is on us to get our house in order. There is no money going directly into a man's pocket from this, but we must see the bigger picture that a UN organisation has chosen to recognise this Jamaican thing,” said Stanbury.

Stanbury is also impressed by the influx of new female artistes.

“Look at artistes such as Koffee, Naomi Cowan, Lila Ike and Sevana. They are really making strides for themselves. Etana has to be added to that list. She is the first woman in 21 years who has been nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album. We have to celebrate and encourage this, as there has been a major deficiency in the number of women making it in reggae, and the females have generally been under-represented. This is the complete opposite compared to the US and pop music market, where most of the major acts are female... Beyonce, Rihanna, Ariana Grande, (Lady) Gaga, etc. This step forward by our women really struck a chord with me in 2018,” he said.

Stanbury remains critical of the Jamaican industry for its failure to recognise the potency and international reach of the Jamaican music product.

“Our music is as diverse as the global market. Therefore, there is a space for everyone. It is not necessary to pit one Jamaican genre against the next... reggae versus dancehall. We are competing rather than cooperating. We have focus on collective efforts — more collaboration and less competition.”

One reason for the internal squabbles is the limited prism through which artistes often see themselves. He encouraged creatives to understand that Jamaica has given the world several genres of music and there is space for everyone once they understand the market.

“A lot of persons have not transitioned to the new music space. The way the business functions today is very different from the way it did five or 10 years ago. What an artiste says at a dance in Papine can be heard in New Zealand in real time. Not grasping digitisation is holding us back. The impact of the music is now much larger that in the days of our pioneers who had to jump on a plane and take the music to the market. We are still operating on a parochial level, not understanding that the cake is large and always expanding. While we compete and squabble and fight each other, others are eating away at the cake,” Stanbury reasoned.

In 2019, Stanbury envisions further growth for female artistes. Protoje, he predicted, will not only grow as an artiste and producer, but a major influence in the business.

“Protoje is really just scratching the surface. He had a major role in the reggae revival movement, he has received his very first Grammy nomination. Now we are seeing his work with a number of these female acts that have come to the fore. I strongly believe he is on a mission because of what happened to his mother (Lorna Bennett) in the music business. He has said she sang, but did not earn,” Stanbury added.

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