Creating a market for reggae - Greater investment, joint ventures needed to bridge the gaps
With its focus on highlighting Jamaica’s musical history and heritage, enhancing tourism appeal and attracting international acclaim for Jamaica as the ‘Reggae Mecca’ of the world, Reggae Month, first staged in 2008, has the mission to also create a market for the music genre.
At the launch for Reggae Month celebrations, Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett pointed out that the business of packaging and marketing reggae music is still in its infancy.
“If we are to capitalise on its value, greater attention will have to be given to effectively utilise the tools to enable Jamaica and Jamaicans to benefit in much the same way that New Orleans benefits from jazz, Brazil from samba and Buenos Aires the tango,” Barlett expressed.
Howard ‘Big Mac’ McIntosh, well-known in entertainment circles as a shrewd investor and promoter, added to the tourism minister’s point during The Gleaner’s recent Entertainment Forum.
McIntosh said: “From an industry perspective, we are at the embryonic stages of our development as it relates to recognition of the music and entertainment as an industry and/or creative industries overall. The fact of the matter is people outside were seeing the opportunities that exist. It is a reality, and forced us to start taking notice.”
The monetisation and marketing of reggae as a brand, he said, is visible in the formalisation of the industry which is marked by increased investment in music products and companies.
“If you look on the number of music companies that exist on the local stock market, it shows that we have more formalised entities, and finally we have gotten to the realisation. We are formalising ourselves to take advantage of the multiplicity of opportunity,” he said.
“What we need to do is ensure we own it, we define it, and that we benefit from it in the way we need to. And I believe Reggae Month is a good way to start to benefit from it.”
But the number of formal music or entertainment companies registered under the Companies Act is only a small indication of the industry’s growth, said entertainment executive Maxine Stowe, “and the connections of these companies in terms of creating a market are still not clear”.
Stowe noted that there is a small market for music locally and that the diaspora is the main vessel aiding in our music crossing over.
She said: “Like any other product Jamaica makes, the biggest market is external, the largest market for reggae and the subgenres is overseas; (so) if a formal trade relationship does not exist for music, it results in gaps. These gaps are not addressed in local plans as it relates to creating a market for our music and culture; there is a need to create the framework to turn it into a world venture.”
The entertainment executive is convinced that while the advent of streaming platforms has exposed our musical products, there needs to be a platform of some kind that helps to hold the value here.
“The market is not the Jamaican people here. Even when streaming changed the method of distribution, two of the major platforms – iTunes and Spotify – we cannot access them or it is limited. If you not analysing the issues you not going to find solutions. It is difficult to this day, and I think that a solution would be to have a direct joint venture with one of these or another international company involved in record production and publishing – a sort of music museum that operates like a macro entity, a studio space expanding beyond artiste development to attract investors here so that people don’t come here and take it away,” she said.