Jamaica is losing its grip on Reggae.

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.”

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5 Comments

  1. You don’t blow up unless you go pop. And, the status quo doesn’t have taste. They herd like cows and follow the manure.

    I would like to propose something that I hope doesn’t fall on deaf ears. There should be strict rules about what makes the reggae charts. For instance, you must be Jamaican. You can’t just have a Jamaican producer either, that’s cheating.

    Let’s equate real reggae with a real Italian pizza. To be a DOP (Italian phrase Denominazione di Origine Protetta — “protected name of origin.”) pizza you have to have certain Italian ingredients- nothing more, nothing less. Fair and true.

    Real reggae has elements of awesome. There should be criteria set and no one can break that unless you’re Jamaican. With that said, everything else is faux reggae. OMIs track is not reggae (anymore) for instance. It’s EDM pop. Just like Major Lazer. They may sound good tp some people but it’s not reggae. OMI can still be reggae as he’s Jamaican but Major Lazer, can not be reggae unless the “band” is 90% Jamaican. Something like that. Stupid, Sublime and the likes- they’re not reggae- they never were, they never will be. For the record, I hate Sublime’s corny doodoo. Their renditions of reggae is the biggest farce ever since Vanilla Ice and Elvis.

    If Hawaii can have a Jawaiian category for their soft, poppy, island music then those lesser sounds/musicians who have infiltrated the reggae music charts can have their own category too. I like the stand out of real reggae and crossovers don’t count. I don’t know about Pinoy Reggae much (but I would like to) however, copying and imitating should have it’s responsibility to more than just Bob Marley.

    Reggae music is protest music. Reggae music is island (Jamaica) music. Regulation music (reggae) is for the world by Jamaicans.

    Ironically, I call for regulations for what makes reggae music reggae. I envision a Jamaican Reggae Federation (with only Jamaicans- sorry, Chris Blackwell) to call it for what it is. They take back what’s theirs and I get a free t-shirt and a lifetime pass to all reggae concerts ever for suggesting they boot out the fakers, the stealers, and the imitators who are gentrifiers of earholes. Yeah, I said it.

  2. Restricting Billboard reggae category to just Jamaicans is one of the most retarded suggestions I’ve ever heard. Sheer lunacy. Reggae is now an international sound and there are many international artists who do it just as good or better than Jamaicans. Take Groundation for instance. So you are saying they don’t deserve to be considered in the reggae category? Midnite? Pressure? Steel Pulse? Misty in Roots? Black Roots? John Brown’s Body? You, my friend, are fucking mental.

    • hahaha, i will take your name calling as compliments, they bother me none. many non-jamaicans do reggae well. steel pulse is amazing for their UK Reggae. it’s all reggae, yes, but if you must, the UK was also the colonizer. their appropriation of reggae is their beauty- nothing taken from anyone who’s ever made ‘reggae’ that isn’t jamaican however, per the stance of the original blog, using roots and culture (as the example) from jamaica and all the beautiful variations of reggae from ska to dancehall to mashup, there is nothing wrong with having an authentic category vs subcategories just like any other music, and the variations i just mentioned.

      To answer your question, if I was on a Reggae Music Federation Board, Midnite, Pressure, Steel Pulse, Misty in Roots and Black Roots have Jamaican and/or West Indian origins. They make the grade to be in the reggae genre of a broad reggae Billboard chart however, John Brown’s Body- there kind sir, I lost respect for your panties that caught on fire. They’re an American (Boston. translation: white) reggae band who plays fine music I’m sure but it’s not the real deal. They call their own music ‘Future Roots Music’ and that, regardless of label or styles they play is not ‘real reggae.’ But what do I know? I only grew up with Jamaican singers, crooners and Djs.

      This was a passing thought and not that serious. If Jamaican’s or West Indians were to create something for them and of course, they would be inclusive of the world (because they have love for all people), that would be amazing. Other than that, the real deal Holyfield is still Jamaica (and West Indies) reggae- to me.

      Thank you for the reply. 🙂

  3. The reason by and large why Jamaican artists are losing sales has to do with language. While most of the young artists today follow their immediate predecessors like sizzla/capleton, they forget (or don’t care) what made the original man dem like bob and Burning spear and a host of other roots rastafari artists so world wide; bottom line? ACCENTED ENGLISH VS. THICK PATIOS. It is ironic that the pride and uniqueness of JA patios becomes a deterant, but it is

  4. same thing they did with hip hop and rap is what they are doing with reggae dancehall.

    dancehall has turned into satanism. Just like rap has turned into devil music

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