Entertainment

Vinyl is the way to go

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL
Observer senior writer

Sunday, November 05, 2017

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Music industry veteran Karen Mason is urging Jamaican producers to dust off their catalogues and get into the resurgent vinyl market, which had another good run in 2017.

Mason, who will attend this week's Jamaica Music Conference (JMC) in Kingston, told the Jamaica Observer that reggae has been slow to react to the vinyl revival. It's something she plans to address during the November 9-12 event.

“One of the first things I would do is to make sure that the vinyl pressing plants (in Jamaica) are reopened. Statistics show that vinyl is on the rise and reggae is one of those genres that can take advantage of that,” she said. “Secondly, the Jamaica reggae experience is like no other in the world. Jamaican producers and their heirs should be going into the vaults and re-releasing the music to the digital world. There is a market and Jamaican artistes are uniquely situated to benefit from digital and vinyl worldwide.”

In October, Officialcharts.com reported strong returns for the vinyl product, with sales of nearly 10 million units to date in 2017. The biggest sellers are classic albums like The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.

That set sold 40,000 vinyl copies this year.

Abbey Road, another Beatles gem; The Rise And Fall of Ziggy Stardust by David Bowie; and Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon, have also done well on vinyl.

Legend, the big-selling compilation by Bob Marley and The Wailers, is the sole reggae title on Officialcharts.com's vinyl album chart.

Reggae never left the vinyl scene, even with the advent of compact discs and digital formats. There has always been a market for classic songs and albums in Europe and Japan, but most Jamaican producers manufacture their vinyl products overseas as there is no pressing plant in Jamaica.

The last active vinyl outlet in Jamaica was the Marley-owned Tuff Gong, but that ceased production some time ago. The Marleys have stepped up their presence in the vinyl market, but their titles are pressed in Miami.

It is the Jamaica Music Conference's fifth year. Mason, who had a successful career at Elektra Records in the 1990s, is one of its organisers.

She described 2017 as the most rounded offering to date.

“This year represents our strongest and most targeted series of panels shaped in no small part by our New York Town Hall in August and the webinar series that led up to this year's conference. While international perspectives have been included we are focused on learning from ourselves,” she explained.

According to Mason, “From relatively recent music industry entrants like Protoje and Brendon Sharpe, to Louis Grant (Irie Jam) and Copeland Forbes, our Jamaican panellists are leading the charge as we collectively 'Reclaim Our Identity'. We have deepened existing relationships with JaRIA and Edna Manley College of the Visual & Performing Arts, and forged new partnerships with Irie Foundation (from Florida), and Caribbean Airlines, among others. The turnout and attendee feedback will let us know if our efforts have been successful.”

The JMC comprises 10 sessions at seven venues. They include the JaRIA Symposium at Jampro headquarters ; Sound System Summit at Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts; panel discussions at University of Technology Jamaica's TIC Innovation Centre; the Jamaica Music Conference Showcase at Jamnesia; and closing Beach Day with panels at Boardwalk Beach; and Skyline's Kingston Dub Club.

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