Marketing Marley in 2021Tuesday, May 11, 2021
BY HOWARD CAMPBELL
BOB Marley had no shortage of well-heeled admirers. Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Carlos Santana befriended him or sang his praise when he was alive.
Forty years after his death at age 36, Marley is a pop music icon whose songs have been covered or sampled by numerous artistes. How would Bob Marley have fit in today's social media culture and evolving trends?
“If Bob Marley was alive today he would be as big as The Rolling Stones and selling out stadiums around the world. He would be hanging out with his fellow icons like Stevie Wonder and U2,” music industry veteran Wayne Jobson told the Jamaica Observer. “But he always had his ear to the ground, and so he recorded Trenchtown Rock (Kingston 12 Shuffle) with U-Roy at the beginning of U-Roy's career. Today, he would also be working with younger artistes like Drake and Rihanna.”
Jobson, whose cousin Dickie Jobson worked with Island Records, the company that distributed Marley's most successful albums, admits a young Bob Marley would be a tough sell in the music business today.
Record company executives are no longer interested in developing careers of message artistes like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez or Joni Mitchell. Quick sales are the order of the day.
“One of the main reasons that Bob made it in the 70s was because he had one of the greatest record men of all time, Chris Blackwell, and Island Records behind him. In today's music business it is even harder to break with so many artistes out there,” said Jobson.
“So, if Bob was just starting out now he would need another visionary record company to spend a few million dollars, just to get him noticed. Bob always toured a lot but he would have to be touring constantly now if he was a new artiste, as all new artistes have to. The reason why 'Cali' reggae bands have become so big is because they play every night of the year,” he added.
The Cali reggae sound is driven by bands like Stick Figure, Rebelution, and Tribal Seeds. Their non-stop touring is similar to pre- MTVrock and reggae bands who hit the road to promote their latest albums.
With social media, such arduous trekking is no longer necessary.
“It's impossible to sell millions of albums today, so one has to focus on a single and find a way to get it noticed like with commercials, film, TV or TikTok. The biggest Jamaican song of the past five years is Banana by Conkarah and Shaggy with one billion streams – and that is because of TikTok,” Jobson explained.
However, like Dylan or Jimi Hendrix, he believes there would still be a place for Bob Marley.
“Whether 50 years ago or today, Bob Marley would still be a major star no matter what, as it is hard to hold back that level of genius,” Jobson said.
Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at https://bit.ly/epaper-login