It can be argued that the greatest exportable commodity that the Caribbean has to offer is to be found within our culture and creativity. From a musical perspective, we have always done a great job in the creation and performance of the art form. However, we have not been able to create wealth and employment from this invaluable commodity of music. We have exported numerous global superstars, but not the business professionals to support them globally. What this creates is wealth for a few artists and thousands of taxable jobs for non-nationals to work closely with our exported talents, resulting in foreign governments and their private sectors benefiting more than our regional governments and private sectors. Today we have a large amount of talented individuals at the top of the pyramid, supported by very few business professionals at the bottom of the pyramid. This is not a very good model and it is time to correct this inverted pyramid structure found in the Caribbean music industry.
Caribbean music is more than just reggae, dancehall and Soca, with unique, diverse rhythms that are well known and popular around the world. When fused with other popular genres, we witness world-dominating superstars such as Bob Marley, Rihanna, Nicki Manaj, Sean Paul, Jimmy Cliff and many others. Caribbean artists are particularly strong in live performances as it is our number one line item for making a living. We forget however, about the many other supporting roles that can generate income ; individuals such as songwriters, graphic designers, arbitrators, stylists, makeup artists, sound engineers, producers, publicists, business managers, choreographers, dancers, photographers, video directors, script writers, social media specialists and the scores of other roles that make up a vibrant and perpetual music industry
CEO OF C2W MUSIC LIMITED CONTRIBUTOR INDUSTRY INSIGHT – MUSIC
Born in the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, Ivan Berry has over 30 years of experience as a senior executive in the Canadian music industry. He is currently the CEO of C2W Music Limited, a Caribbean music publishing and artist development company publicly traded on the Jamaica Stock Exchange. Berry’s notable career includes top-level positions with music management and publishing company tanjola entertainment inc., Ole, the number one Canadian music publisher and Sony BMG Canada. Berry is also an established educator and has created curriculum courses at two universities in Canada where he lectured.
Despite the turmoil or even downturn of the physical record selling business, the music industry, and more importantly, the entertainment industry, has remained healthy and has in fact prospered.
Capacity building in the music business industry would aid in employment generation, poverty reduction and the creation of wealth in the industry, resulting in benefits for our youth.
In order to capitalize and enhance the capacity of underlying career opportunities, we must build a local syndicate of persons for the identified areas in the business of music, who will participate in the full development of the sector, to support our superstars of tomorrow. We have to strategically strengthen linkages with international executives, artists, songwriters, producers and others to build on the collaborations for future marketing, promotion and exploitation. We have to perfect the art of songwriting and artist development and create ‘hit’ songs for export to the international market, while the intellectual property and the foreign earnings remain in the region. Our formal educators have to offer new career options in the business of music in an effort to impact job creation, encourage entrepreneurship and alleviate poverty, while giving a sense of purpose to idle youth, increasing their earning potential, and reducing crime associated with unemployment. Our governments will have to enhance legislation, while strongly enforcing laws that create wealth for our content creators. All this will eventually bring recognition to the Caribbean as the new musical frontier.
Jumping the first Hurdles
Despite the turmoil or even downturn of the physical record selling business, the music industry, and more importantly, the entertainment industry, has remained healthy and has in fact prospered. Copyright owners and brand managers are exerting more creative and strategic autonomy than ever before. Technological developments have made it possible for music creators to record, distribute, market, and sell their own music within their own networks, globally.
With the shifting industry paradigm that has seen the emergence of an artist-entrepreneur model, major Caribbean labels have been slow, and reluctant to take risks in exploring how to utilize emerging technologies and exploit potential new business models to maintain their reign over the music marketplace. They have become increasingly obsolete over the past several years, and indeed may be extinct in the not-too-distant future.
With this harsh reality staring us in the face, it is time for Caribbean independent artists and companies to take steps toward the so-called ‘360 All Rights’ business model, in which there is profit-sharing with the artist in earnings from a variety of artist-driven revenue streams. The model has drastically changed from the selling of the physical CD to the selling of the all-encompassed BRAND. We have to perfect the effective monetizing of the entire brand of our artists, while creating a new and improved industry, with
young entrepreneurs at the helm of the supporting jobs that sustain the artist’s brand. There are now, much more than before, a range of jobs that create numerous revenue streams in a cohesive manner within the music industry. This means intellectual property could be created within the region, to generate revenue globally, wealth comes back to the region to its rightful owners, and governments benefit from an increase of taxable income.
Capacity building in the music business industry would aid in employment generation, poverty reduction and the creation of wealth in the industry, resulting in benefits for our youth. We need to effectively groom leaders in the Caribbean music industry, so that they can genuinely represent the interests of our talented and creative right brain thinkers. We need to establish sustainable, structured, transparent, accountable and profitable business models for the sector. We need to align risk and reward, where the interests of creative citizens, governments, investors and the public at large, are matched in order to establish the music industry in the Caribbean, as a viable and respectable avenue for wealth creation and retention.
Connecting to an Audience
Popular music as an outlet for youth expression is undeniable. The disproportionate attraction to music as an area of professional interest among youth is equally as undeniable. In fact, it is believed that the vast majority of ‘youth at risk’ identify music as their primary area of professional interest. What is disturbing about this is that music, from the perspective of those same young people, is defined simply as its live performance and nothing else. They are oblivious to the hundreds of distinct roles and role-players that contribute to the success of any one artist and their performance. They are also oblivious to the low probability of success associated with careers as simply a professional vocalist/recording artist.
Our youth must first be taught to align education, both practical and formal, with their creative talents to create a sustainable, vibrant and perpetual recording music industry in the Caribbean. We must not fail our right brain thinkers; we MUST educate them towards a global perspective of the Caribbean creative marketplace. In doing so, young people will recognize the plethora of options available to them and that the combination between talent and education is an indomitable fortress.
This piece curated from Caribbean Export and Development Agency.