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«Prepared for Caribbean Export Development Agency Barbados April 2001 CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION The rapid growth of an intellectual property and ...»

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Since the mid-1980s there has been a proliferation of digital studios which proved to be more cost-effective than the previous generation of analogue studios. This period saw the emergence of computerized studios such as King Jammy’s, King Tubby’s, Donovan Germaine’s Penthouse, Gussie Clarke’s Music Works, Roy Francis’s Mixing Lab, Dave and Tony Kelly’s Madhouse. King Jammy’s, for example, is credited with recording Wayne Smith’s ‘Under Me Sleng Teng’ in 1985 which paved the way for the new sound of digitalized ragga and dancehall where artists would ride a rhythm or ‘riddim’.

This led to the growth of one-rhythm albums, where different artists -- as many as fifteen -- sing over the same ‘riddim’ track. These products were targeted particularly at the singles market and low budget compilations. The shelf life of these songs was short as they fed into the competitive environment of the soundPolyGram is reported to have bought Island Records from Chris Blackwell for US$300 million in 1989.

system clashes in the dancehalls. This new genre of Jamaican music gave primacy to the input of producers as well as the influence of sound-systems. By the late nineties the music market context had shifted such that artists were becoming second in importance to producers in terms of the marketing of the product. For example, the recent release of the riddim track, “The Bug”, by the hottest producers of the late nineties, Dave and Tony Kelly of Madhouse, highlights the producers and features top DJ Bounty Killer.

A number of major developments in the 1980s had impacted on the business model of the recording industry. Some of the major developments were the growth in imported cassette players, the sale of locally produced pre-recorded cassettes and pirated tapes. The latter are cheaper and are often viewed as being of a higher quality than the legally mass-produced ones, thus giving the pirates an advantage in the marketplace, a problem that has plagued the industry ever since. The significance of the pirate market is reflected in the sustained growth in blank tape imports as well as the import of cassette recorders and other sound recorders. As table 2 shows the import of unrecorded audiotapes has more than tripled over the period 1994 to 1998. Some of this trade (i.e. the magnetic tapes) goes to the legitimate industry firms for the production of pre-recorded tapes but the growth in blank audiotapes is a reflection of the expanding pirate market.

This trend corresponds with the growth of imports in cassette and sound recorders as illustrated in table 3.

TABLE 2 UNRECORDED AUDIOTAPES IMPORTS, 1994-1998 Audiotapes 2,427,647 7,938,809 14,031,582 7,726,033 8,045,110 Magnetic tapes 2,680,091 5,284,596 6,664,324 5,812,217 5,382,983 Other magnetic 2,891,983 20,922,695 4,090,204 2,408,551 16,079,936 tapes TOTAL 7,999,721 34,146,100 24,786,110 15,946,801 29,508,029 Sources: The Statistical Institute of Jamaica External Trade, Provisional Part II.

Kingston: Jamaica, 1995; 1996; 1997; 1998; 1999.

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recorders TOTAL 44,118,95 87,030,35 108,029,6 107,596,2 147,203,5 Sources: The Statistical Institute of Jamaica External Trade, Provisional Part II.

Kingston: Jamaica, 1995; 1996; 1997; 1998; 1999.

The emergence of CDs as the new international format in the mid-1980s was another major development for the industry. It impacted on the export capability of the industry by the early 1990s and also created a new source of import dependency. As table 4 shows CDs account for over 80% of soundcarrier imports. The growth of a consumer market for CDs on the local and international market did not see a commensurate response from the record producers in terms of investment in CD technology. This has resulted in a shift in the business model of several of the larger firms, for example, Sonic Sounds, Dynamic Sounds and Tuff Gong. Up until the late 1980s these firms were producers and exporters of soundcarriers (i.e. vinyl records and prerecorded audiotapes) and re-exporters of international product for the regional market. As table 5 illustrates vinyl records have remained steady at about J$

2.4 million, audiotapes have declined by approximately 90%, and CDs have dropped to a virtual trickle.

Consequently, the recording industry In Jamaica became net importers of soundcarriers. This is because the distribution side of the recording business has become the dominant income stream. This trend is reflected in the trade statistics when soundcarrier imports and exports are compared (see tables 4 & 5). 1995 is the first year that imports exceed exports. The trade gap has widened rapidly since then.

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One of the most significant recent developments has been the establishment of a local CD plant, Laser Works. The Laser Works CD plant is reported to have cost US$1 million and has a production capacity of 200,000 units per month. It is expected that it will employ between 30 and 50 workers once fully operational.

The aim of Laser Works is to service the local and regional market since it is the only one of its kind in the region (Star 1999).

Laser Works began producing CDs for the market in September 1999. It’s first product was a CD single of Dave Kelly’s new riddim, ‘The Bug’, which features four mixes of Bounty Killers’ ‘Look’. The CD plant is currently focussing on producing singles, especially for the local market, as it is affordable and well suited to the production and consumption pattern of the dancehall genre. Laser Works has also begun exporting. The first single has received a warm reception in the UK since its release. The suggested retail price from Laser Works is a very competitive J$55.00 which includes a 50% markup. Laser Works is able to offer CDs retail ready for prices as low as US$1.50 per unit in quantities of 500 – 4,999 and US$1.10 per unit for quantities over 5,000 (Hardcopy 1999).

It is quite possible that this new investment can boost soundcarrier exports and reduce imports, thereby addressing the growing trade deficit that the recording industry has been experiencing. It may also have the potential to reverse the growth in the pirate market given the superior quality and the affordable prices of the CDs. Retailers report a sudden upsurge in the sale of CD players as a result of the new CDs on the market (Hardcopy 1999).

One of the problematic areas for the recording industry has been the area of publishing, especially in terms of mechanical, synchronization and performance licensing fees. The latter has proved to be particularly problematic. Jamaica has a long history of copyright infringement, for instance, broadcasters, concert promoters, nightclubs and restaurants, which did not pay license fees for the public performance of music. This situation is being rectified more aggressively with the coming into being of JACAP in 1999. JACAP was able to get broadcasters to agree to pay outstanding fees and comply with copyright laws.

JACAP replaced PRS, which had an agency in Jamaica.

Because of the long history of PRS in Jamaica most Jamaican artists are either members of PRS or one of the US collecting societies, ASCAP, BMI or SESAC.

Table 6 gives some data on the number of registered copyright owners and the musical output. JACAP is therefore faced with the problem of attracting membership from these more established societies. In addition, because most artists are members of foreign collecting societies it means that their royalty income is not reflected in the foreign exchange earnings of the local music industry. As a result, the only data available on royalty income is from local collections, which are then remitted to PRS in the UK. Table 7 shows the local royalty collections for the period 1991 to 1998. Royalty collections have grown appreciably, over 50% during the period.



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Another area of concern has been that of mechanical licensing fees which arise once a copyrighted music composition is incorporated into commercial phonograms or soundcarriers, for example, records, tapes, CDs and MP3 files. In the early days of the recording industry it was common for producers to list themselves as the authors and pay the composers and singers a flat fee or a wage for a recording session. This occurred largely because artists had little understanding of the business of publishing and their rights as copyright owners. Consequently, many artists never saw any monies from performance or mechanical licenses. This scene has begun to change as many top artists have formed their own labels to manage the publishing. However, it is noted that many artists have sought this route out of pure frustration and mistrust of producers (MBI 1997: 51).


Reggae's transition from a local artform to a global one was not automatic nor did it occur without some amount of corporate manipulation and reconfiguration to meet perceived Western market considerations. Carolyn Cooper, commenting on the export of Jamaican popular culture, points out that "raw talent would not have been enough without the operations of international capital" (1993: 5). Cushman also argues that "in its diffusion, reggae music was

transformed from a form of cultural criticism into a cultural commodity" (1991:

18-19). Alleyne (1994) suggests that while the commodification of reggae may have empowered Caribbean people at home and in the diaspora through an expansion of geo-cultural space, it is the transnational corporate entities that control the discourse and reap the economic benefits.

Jamaica is reputed to have more releases of ‘45’ recordings per capita than anywhere else in the world. This strong presence in the international market is reflected in the personal incomes of some of the top performers. For example, in the early 1990s conservative estimates put Shabba Ranks, Buju Banton and Patra annual incomes between US$250,000 and $750,000 and the Bob Marley estate earnings from royalties and merchandising at US$250,000 (Bourne & Allgrove 1996: 5). It is also suggested that the major recording companies pay the top artistes in excess of US$100,000 per album (Watson 1995: 21). It is reputed that these artistes make more earnings from touring. At home artists fees have also appreciated, especially for top performers like Beenie Man, Buju Banton and Bounty Killer. These artists are able to demand performance fees ranging between US$15,000 and $20,000.

The exact contribution of the music industry to the Jamaican economy is difficult to ascertain but it is clear that it is not insubstantial. One of the problems with identifying the export earnings of the Jamaican music industry is that there is limited data on the sale of reggae music internationally. This genre of music only shows up in one territory, the UK (see table below). Other territories, for example, the US and Japan -- where it is known that reggae sales are significant -do not publish sales data for this genre.

In the UK there is data on sales of singles as well as albums. Table 7 shows that reggae music sales peaked in 1993 accounting for 7.6% of singles sales and 1.5% of album sales, for a combined total of 4.0% and sales value of £52.8 million.

Since 1993 sales have dropped precipitously, especially in the singles format. The 1997 sales share for reggae was 0.4% for singles and 0.8% for albums, for a combined total of 0.9% and sales of £15.0 million. An example of the music market’s decline is the case that the top selling single in the UK in 1996 was Beres Hammond’s “Over You”, which sold less than 10,000 units (MBI 1997: 49). In 1998 the top selling artists were in rank order, Finley Quaye, with over a third of sales, followed by Bob Marley, UB40, Buju Banton, Red Rat, Horace Andy, Sizzla, and Beenie Man (BPI 1999).


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The demographics for reggae music in the UK, based on data from the British Phonographic Industry (see table 8 below), is such that buyers are predominantly male (64%) and are heavily concentrated in the younger age groups, the under 34 year olds account for 73% of buyers. The breakdown of the data is such that the 15 – 24 age group accounts for 32% of reggae music buyers. This group is only surpassed by the 25 – 34 age group with 41% of buyers. In the older age groups the 45 – 54 age group accounts for 18% while the other segments are 5% each.



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The above data on reggae music sales in the UK can be viewed as a conservative estimate given the lack of data and the high level of under-reporting associated with Caribbean music. Nonetheless, it gives a useful benchmark to gauge the value of reggae internationally.

In the Japanese market reggae achieved significant growth in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Japan became an important source for additional recording sales as well as concert touring. The success of Japansplash, a Japanese version of Reggae Sunsplash3, with crowds of 50,000, has established an important market base for reggae music. In the early 1990s sales were very encouraging as Japan became the third largest overseas market for reggae music. However, sales have declined in recent years as reggae has lost market share because of the downturn in the Japanese economy and competition from the increasingly popular dance music.

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