As Reggae artists, producers and distributors navigate the ever changing market filled with shortening attention spans one can’t help but wonder. What’s Next? While staying up to the time with trends and technology is important it is still secondary to making good music especially when consumers have easier access to pick and choose from more than ever before.
Since the 80’s, with digital sequencers and the emergence of Dancehall, reggae beats or riddims have been more syncopated and reused. One musical track may be used by several artists releasing separate singles or on one compilation. This may seem like the producers and labels are getting more mileage or that healthy competition between the artist is good and everyone will bring their best knowing that they do not want to be out done by their peers. Unfortunately the overall results are stagnant at best in todays digital market.
Music listeners all over the world love reggae. Some are die hard listeners becoming immersed in the culture and some just love to dance to it. But, the success of a genre is measured more by the staying power of premiere artists and their constant chart positioning, which show the public’s willingness to spend on it, than by the public’s acceptance of it’s entertainment value. Reggae cross over successes seem to happen more by chance with the throw singles out there and see what sticks mentality.
Today more than ever an artist needs multiple memorable songs to connect with consumers and create a fan base so they have to be the top hit man for hire on the hottest riddims. This climate makes it difficult to nurture the kind of artist producer relationship that develop the artist or producers fully and distributors rarely have a franchise star to market consistently. There is nothing wrong with releasing singles, after all Jamaica creates more records per capita than any country in the world. However, consumers want more balance and such a impactful genre should be producing more quality artists with consistent records like Tarrus Riley and Chronixx in addition to the latest stylized singles. The talent is there but is the incentive for producers?
Reggae artists in Africa, California and Hawaii are on the rise and they are not taking the fast food approach. They are producing full projects, touring and building a fan base online. We need more of this from upcoming Reggae artist and they need the support from fans, producers, promoters, distributors and even the local government to do so.
The blame game never works so there should be a shared responsibility. It is understood that there are other extenuating circumstances like say travel visas but ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship so the real question is….Are we satisfied or do producers, artists, and fans want and deserve more?