Where were the Dancehall and Reggae music albums in 2011?

by Richard Johnson
(Jamaica)

The question as to why so few albums from reggae acts were able to 'cross it' in 2011 was put to two noted music industry insiders: Cristy Barber, formerly of VP Records and former Columbia, Island and VP Records executive, Maxine Stowe.


For Stowe, the music industry is going through a period of transition — the move from the sale of physical albums to digital downloads and related products including ringtones, As a result she points out that a genre like reggae is being left behind as it is truly defined by albums.

"For the most part, people are not buying albums, instead persons are going for the hit singles, downloading and creating their own playlists, and 2011 did not see any driving single from a reggae artiste that was big enough to make a dent in the digital market and therefore drive the sale of physical albums," she explains.

This point was supported by Barber who added that the buying of records is now a luxury and therefore the consumer has to be guaranteed something out of the ordinary for them to take hard-earned cash a purchase an album.

"For the music from Jamaica, or anywhere for that matter, to have an impact in the international market the music has to be fresh and different. The focus has to be on making great music that will have a wide appeal," Barber stresses.

She points to up-coming work by deejay Mavado, who is working with US-based DJ Khaled, as the kind of "out of the box thinking" which has to take place in reggae if the music is to gain any traction on the international stage.

While urging new, fresh ideas to come to the fore, Barber is careful to point out that the root of the music, that original, authentic reggae sound should never be forgotten.

"Keep history alive," she says, drawing reference to the Grammy-nominated Stephen Marley album Revelation Part 1: The Root of Life. "This is a work in which you get a foundation vibe with a current flavour — it's all Stephen, but there is a Bob Marley vibe," Barber states further

Stowe adds other elements to the lack of strong reggae albums. For her to lack of sophisticated marketing programmes to push the music is also a factor. "It is not enough to just produce the music, if we cannot take it to another level, then the efforts of the artistes, musicians and producers would be in vain."

She also points to the fierce competition Jamaicans are receiving from reggae groups for all corners of the Earth. Stowe notes that Jamaica has no exclusive right to the music which has grown much further than could have been anticipated in the early years.

Rather than sit and complain, Stowe is urging music industry players to buy into the change by getting educated. "Learn about the new directions the music is going and take advantage. Create the business models to support this shift in the biz, as you cannot be stuck in the old ways and expect to be successful in 2012 and beyond," she adds.

On the matter of whether or not dancehall music is dead, both record execs offered a resounding "no".

Barber, a professed dancehall queen, notes that one has to accept that dancehall music had its heyday in the 1990s. However, she states that despite the fact that its popularity has waned, there is still a market for the genre.

Stowe echoes Barber's sentiment, adding that dancehall music out of Jamaica continues to fertilise other music forms in Africa and South America and therefore is alive and well.

by Richard Johnson : Source Jamaicaobserver.com

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