In recent years many in the music industry have been scrambling to find ways to survive as legitimate sales of CDs fall at an alarming rate. The extent of the fall-out is greater than most would care to admit. Several music distributors I know in Jamaica and elsewhere have taken the decision to close their doors and venture into other aspects of the business such as management, music publishing and training.
While the international music market continues to experience a significant reduction in recorded music sales, the recent accomplishments of recording artists such as Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, Michael Jackson, Taylor Swift and Beyonce are very instructive. These artists represent the top five selling recorded music performers for the year 2009 in the USA (the world’s largest music market), according to Nielson SoundScan. The sales figures for their records indicate that in the midst of the general recorded music sales decline, these artists continue to sell millions of units. Lady Gaga – 15,297,000 units sold, Black Eyed Peas – 12,988,000 units sold, Michael Jackson – 12,355,000 units sold, Taylor Swift – 12,302,000 units sold, and Beyonce 9,261,000 units sold
So, what is it that is common among these top selling artists? They all place creativity and their art at the forefront of their efforts. They all perform and record songs that are very well written, and their stage presentations are creative and exemplify true artistry. They are not motivated by hype and the pursuit of false and contrived popularity. The lyrical content of their music has universal appeal and is not offensive to anyone or any group of persons. In addition to the emphasis placed by these artists on creativity, it is also significant to note that they also operate in an environment that provides support mechanisms for the development and nurturing of creativity. Contrast this with the case in Jamaica where everything in the music business is based on hype and the pursuit of commercial gain, both by some so-called artists, and the media and corporate brands that support local music activities.
As we seek to pursue a path for the development of Jamaican and Caribbean cultural industries there continues to be a debate with regard to the emphasis or lack of emphasis placed on creativity and innovation. As far as the further development of the Jamaican music industry is concerned, we should ask ourselves the following questions:-
Do we give adequate recognition to the artistic and creative efforts of our artists, past and present?
Do we provide adequate support mechanisms such as training facilities and opportunities for presentation of the arts?
Do we encourage the maintenance of artistic standards and recognize and award creative excellence?
Are our songwriters and musicians (i.e. people who play musical instruments) provided with support to encourage them?
Are we just in it for the bling and the hype, and to sell more beverage and mobile phones?