How do you break a Dancehall record in the US mainstream? Part 2
To address this issue, back in 2010 myself and a music business colleague had meetings with the hierarchy at all the major radio stations in Jamaica and with Cordel Green, head of the Broadcasting Commission. We lobbied for playlists at all the stations because we could see what was happening and the negative impact the status quo was going to have down the line. We offered practical suggestions such as weekly meetings at the stations between its disc jockeys and PDs to discuss records that deserve to be playlisted, as well as formatting, testing records and implementation of other proven radio models that will make hits and benefit the wider industry.
I don’t have to tell you that we were given lip service but nothing changed. I’m not trying to look like a visionary because it wasn’t rocket science that we would reach where we are currently, but nobody wanted to take action at the time. Since then all you hear is people talking about Dancehall is dead. OUR beloved Dancehall? It can’t go suh people.
US record labels have also pretty much tuned-out of our genre in recent years. Sean Paul had a phenomenal run but probably also fell victim to the overall slow-down in the genre and has sold far less records than the millions of yesteryear, not to diminish his achievements, the likes of which we will probably not live to see repeated. But that and the paltry sales and Billboard presence of the majority of the “hot” acts in recent years certainly made labels shy away from signing Dancehall acts.
When Serani’s No Games was blowing up in New York, we signed him to Universal Republic. Its a blanket statement, but pretty much true, that major labels don’t know what to do with a Dancehall record or act and wether they realize it or not, they still put us in the box even after they sign on the dotted line. The label’s urban radio promo team will get on your record but in today’s climate if it doesn’t fly out the gate like the records they usually work with, they won’t press the booster button and you will get shelved pretty fast. They don’t understand the road is much harder for Dancehall and Reggae, it needs much more nurturing, a much more hands-on approach. Universal Republic officially released No Games the same week that Jeremih’s Birthday Sex dropped. I can’t remember the exact figures but while we sold great numbers, relatively speaking, Jeremih outsold us by almost 3 to 1. The label heads couldn’t understand why one of the hottest records in New York wasn’t selling as well as another one and became disillusioned. When the radio promo team, great people I have to say, had a hard job getting our record on air in places like Texas and the Mid West we were no longer a priority. We quickly got out of the deal, got our masters back and kept it moving independently.
I signed Mavado to Khaled’s We The Best because Khaled is a one-man hit factory and uniquely one of the few powerful industry players that has a love and deep background in Dancehall/Reggae. But even he has discovered just how different it is and how hard you have to work Dancehall/Reggae records or records with Dancehall artists on them. His connects, energy and ear leave me certain that situation will still lead to huge success for Mavado. Atlantic have recently signed Kranium. Its chairman, Craig Kallman, has a long history and love affair with Jamaican music – from Garnett Silk to Sean Paul, so he’s in the best place he could be in 2015. As a US-based artist Kranium already broke the mould with Nobody Has To Know. He’s a diligent, hard-working kid who has a dedicated team around him, he’s also close with Shaggy and we’re rooting for him to win. We all need him to win.
How do you break a Dancehall record in the US mainstream? Part 1