Monday, December 3, 2012

Some challenges facing the internationalization of reggae music

I would like to agree with Mr. Charles Campbell on all the points made in his article published in the Jamaica Observer on November 05, 2012, entitled: “Wanted – good song writers”. The observations posited in this missive have always formed the base of my many discussions on the possible ways to further internationalize reggae music.

Indeed there are very strategically important marketing mechanisms that need to be developed and utilized to ensure the music reaches its intended target audience and market. Astute management and strategic international marketing must form the key support bases upon which the reggae music industry must be developed. However, in marketing one must pay very keen attention to the product being produced to be sold.

The world is in need of good reggae music. And while good seems a very common place word, I would like to further advance that sensible lyrics, conscious themes, enlightened expressions of current affairs both at home and abroad, the revamping of the reggae balladeer, all must form the collective psyche of the modern song writer. Reggae music will not take its rightful place on the international stage if it is encumbered by murder lyrics, homophobia, graphic pornographic references and melodious odes to the use of marijuana.
While perhaps in some sections of the local industry there might be an insatiable market for what one might deem hardcore reggae; internationally however, no market will welcome it. Therefore, when writing their songs, reggae song writers must look beyond the local and regional markets and the enclaves of Diasporas and cater towards a more international audience.

Reggae is not the only Caribbean genre facing the dilemma if internationalization. Trinidad faces the same battle regarding the internationalization of Soca. And unlike the way Sean Paul and Shaggy have in recent times been the international faces of reggae music, Soca sadly only has Machel Montano.

More emphasis must be made at putting out high quality songs not only in terms of musical arrangements, but also their lyrical content. Bobby ‘Digital’ Dixon, in a recent Jamaica Observer article, made the very poignant point when he said: “Not everyone is patient enough to make lasting material that will be still fresh 20 years into the future. Now it is like operating a fast food chain...the music is too disposable."

The reggae music industry must fix its product. With a viable marketable product, it can certainly sell it where ever it chooses. There is a need for good reggae music.

Mainstream artistes continue to flirt with reggae music. Bruno Mars’s reggae influenced “Billionaire” and “Lazy Song” have sold 2.9M and 2M copies respectively to date. Alternative rock band Maroon 5’s recently released “One More Night” has already sold over a million copies to date. These are just three mainstream songs that happen to be heavily influenced by reggae music performed by non-reggae artistes. The world has shown that it would buy reggae music. Jamaica needs to ensure that it assumes the role of market leader in the market for reggae music and not the distant follower it happens to be at the moment.

Long live reggae music!

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