The international recording industry has in recent years been subject to tremendous pressure brought on by rapid technological changes that have greatly influenced consumption patterns. The global economic recession has also had severe negative impact on music sales. As a significant music producing country Jamaica has without question felt the effects of these changes.
Despite the challenges being faced globally, there is still however some evidence of growth in some major markets, as well as increased opportunities, as new revenue streams are created for music and entertainment products. As far as the Jamaican music industry is concerned however, one would get the impression that business has reached the lowest point ever, and prospects for the future seem very dim. There seems to be a stark difference between what is taking place for music in general on the international music scene and what we are experiencing in the local and international markets for music produced and coming from Jamaica.
It is my view that this difference can be attributed to the failure of locally based industry stakeholders to seriously treat Jamaican music and entertainment business development with the level of respect and professionalism required. The anything goes “let the sufferer eat a food” approach has not worked to the benefit of either the sufferer or the wider society. Many of the misguided sufferers have used the opportunity given to them to poison our youngsters with their lyrics in their quest to “eat a food”.
There are however some encouraging signs that all is not lost. The recent outpouring of disgust from the majority of Reggae music lovers serves as an indication and admission that we have finally accepted that there is indeed a problem. We however now need to work towards some solutions to save the local music industry. These solutions should include strategies to address some of the obvious deficiencies in how we have operated in the past. We must for example start with the revamping of our approach to formal education and training with a view to totally eradicating the description “extra-curricular “ as used to define school activities in the area of the Arts. Music, drama, poetry and other Arts courses must now be given equal weight and prominence as is English, Mathematics and the Natural Sciences. Arts related courses must now be treated as a part of the regular school curriculum.
We must also place greater emphasis on the support for specialized training in the technical and administrative aspects of the Arts, both within the formal school system as well as through appropriate vocational training and short term skills upgrading programmes. Industry practitioners, private investors and government must also make it a priority to put in place and support physical facilities that will enable artists to exhibit and perform for the benefit of the public at costs that are not prohibitive.
Our media practitioners must recognize their role as more than that of a conduit of content, and start acting as a product development contributor. Local media needs to be more creative and collaborate with industry players to develop and market Jamaican entertainment content globally, rather than focus on domestic sensationalism. If we commit to doing these things there is a chance we can save the music.