Jamaica needs to change its strategy if the country is going to continue to hold on to reggae music. That was the main message of Billboard’s Pat Meschino as she addressed guests at the International Reggae Day (IRD) conference, held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel, New Kingston, last Wednesday.
In recent years, the success of the music that helped define Jamaica as a global musical powerhouse is seemingly losing its initial identity. Non-Jamaican musicians have been dominating the international markets, while Jamaicans play second fiddle, but Meschino believes that with the right marketing muscle, Jamaicans will, once again, be able to compete on the international market and may even reclaim the number-one spot.
Comparing statistics from the first Billboard reggae charts in 1993 with the most listings, Meschino proved that there has been a shift in dominance, with non-Jamaicans taking over the top spots on both the album and singles charts. “The original singles charts had 25 slots, and of those spots, the top 16 were occupied by Jamaicans,” she said. “Today, the top 10 are split evenly between Jamaican and non-Jamaican acts, with the top-two spots being occupied by non-Jamaicans”.
Meschino also pointed out that in terms of album sales, the figures for non-Jamaican acts are significantly higher than for the Jamaican performers. “In today’s world, there are so many ways to get access to music that album sales have been falling all round, but when you compare the sales between a Chronixx (Jamaican) and, say, the band SOJA (from Virginia, USA), the numbers are significantly higher in favor of SOJA,” she said.
To date, Chronixx’s Dread and Terrible EP, released in April last year, has sold approximately 9,000 copies, while SOJA’s album Amid the Noise, also released in 2014, has sold more than 30,000 copies.
Citing the recent success of OMI’s track Cheerleader on charts across the globe, Meschino said investment and success go hand in hand. “OMI has been doing well with the remix of his single, Cheerleader, and that has a lot to do with the availability of resources and financial investments,” she said.
Pointing out that there needs to be more financial support for Jamaican music if it is going to be successful, Meschino again used OMI as an example. “The song Cheerleader was so good that even without the remix, it was possible that in its original reggae format, it could have reaped similar success if the correct marketing muscle and finances were put behind it from the beginning,” she said.
“Jamaica needs to restrategize and come up with new ways of getting the music out there,” she said. “This is the home of reggae, and you should know that from the minute you step off the plane. The music should be playing in the airports, hotels, restaurants, and so on.”