Reggae as a brand is going through some major changes. Some of the pioneers who we have come to know have been more focused on refining their own repertoires and trying to collect royalties, while the younger generation has been touring and developing catalogues aimed at global distribution.
The pandemic, while debilitating as it has prevented public gatherings for tours and festivals, has provided a rare, golden opportunity for artistes to get their house in order. Ideally, this time should have been used to conduct any research that was needed so that once it is time to hit the road, one is armed with the data on where the greatest opportunities are.
The truth is it is not too late and there is no time like the present. So for that artiste and his/her team get cracking and do that needs to be done so you are prepared to reap the rewards at the end of the day. When one checks the newspapers daily, for example, there are stories about deals that were not in the best interest of the artiste. Some of the artistes now have to be spending a lot of money to do extensive research. That needs to change.
Without pointing out any particular reggae artiste, I am aware of teams of attorneys and intellectual property experts who gather weekly to do the requisite research with a view to pointing the artiste, their team and estate to how and where to collect royalties which is where we need to go as a matter of course, not a knee-jerk response when there is some kind of crisis.
Therefore, the real question is: Are we any better as a reggae industry in ensuring all the deals are what we want, but more importantly, that these deals is in the best interest of the music and artiste?
So, how do we work to attain the best deal?
It starts with a talented artiste who can capture the attention of his audience, but just as important is the team in securing this deal. The team assembled must look out for the best-balanced deals for the music and the people. A new brand of reggae team is needed. Before I even make any suggestions how the team should be made up, I am urging folks in the business of reggae to get serious about how the business is treated and handled.
The aim is to:
• sign the right deals
• get your music on air
• get paid for you and your team
• engage in off-stage activities to
complement your brand
• meet with your team during breaks
to plan ahead
One of the major downfalls of some of the pioneers in the business has been their lack of a formal structure to their business deals. I get the feeling they are now ensuring that the legacy of the music is intact, but also there is a value attached to the royalties that they are due, most are trying to identify a process of how to collect same.
The business of music is believed to be worth an estimated US$65 billion which should be reached by 2023. Statista, the online market data firm, has also indicated that the industry will continue to grow by at least seven per cent annually. So let us explore an opportunity for the industry to get the most out of the business using all the assets the reggae artiste has at his/her disposal.
If I am to borrow an example from sport, I want to make some suggestions about organising teams to ensure that the brand is being developed in a way to strengthen the artistes' reach while finding suitable partners for exposure, collaboration and other business-to-business (B2B) activities.
The artiste, for the purposes of this article would have the technical side worked out. A band and/or a studio would have already been part of the package. I am suggesting therefore that the following be added:
• booking agent
This sends the message that you are in fact serious about what you do and who you do it with. The roles for these members of your team must be clearly defined and should be used as a guide to make the best business decisions moving forward. When one enters any kind of business discussion, those in the boardroom are more open to engagement when there is a team.
The artistic work is the core of what an artiste does. However, to add value, there has to be some amount of off-stage quality that will grab the attention of business partners who are willing to invest. That discussion must be part of what the team has ready to present, as well as the approach to be taken on who to go after in making the artiste as a product more attractive to consumers.
The primary value of any artiste is how the music is delivered. However, the sustainability of the act is measured by the relationships with other brands. This ensures a number of benefits including additional income, a connection to the marketplace, and helps expand your reach within and outside you immediate geographic location.
While the artiste therefore works on content, stage craft and even mixes of rhymes and rhythms, the rest of the team should be out there getting the best deals available. The market is so diverse these days and there is enough out there for everyone, but there needs to be focus on what is needed so a working relationship is achieved for an extended period.
I could not close this conversation without talking a little about reggae stories. We are at the peak of content creation. The world is watching. So many other stories are being told. What of the reggae story?
The list of the names is quite comprehensive. The stories are diverse and interesting. Those stories should be written and supported by us to have a lasting legacy of what the music has gone through and how it is holding its own. The truth is, the music alone cannot live, the stories alongside the music must be told.
I therefore challenge a team of writers to put those stories on paper. I also call on investors to see the necessity to have your brands collaborate. Jamaica's rich culture, while well known can be strengthened by storytelling. I would expose my bias if I were to share my thoughts on whose biopic would be timely, but I am open to your suggestions.
Reggae is a large part of how we go about the business of life in Jamaica, whether it is one drop or some well-produced rhythms. But a day in the life on Reggae can sell. Who will make it happen and when?
As 2022 approaches, let's move to the beat of the festival calendar. I look forward to the return of Rebel Salute, Reggae Sunsplash, Reggae Sumfest and Sting.
Carole Beckford is a marketing, communications and public relations specialist with work covering over 25 years. She has attended reggae shows in at least 15 countries. She has authored three books on sport since 2007.