Reggae music has a buyers problem. Consider this, if every Reggae music fan bought the music they loved, there would be a lot more Reggae hit songs. Music sales have always been a big part of the equation that determines which songs and albums typically make it onto well know music charts. Typically there are 2-4 data points that are weighted together as part of a formula to determine what makes it onto a music chart and at what position. The Billboard Hot 100 chart for example considers sales, airplay, and streaming to determine what gets onto the chart. Sales consideration is typically 39% of the total. Simply put, without Reggae music fans putting their money where their ears are, Reggae will continue to be an entertainment genre, with no economic power outside of live events.
Consider the dearth of Reggae artists signed to major record labels. The main reason is not a lack of talent or creativity of Reggae creatives. It’s an issue around monetization. Record labels will sign and invest in their artists, however a return on investment is required. Even though there have been issues between artist and record labels, usually of trust, there is no denying the actual fact that a major label’s support can be a force multiplier for an artists career.
The retail issue is a bit nuanced in it’s main causes. Consistent availability of releases is one issue. If an artist is not plugged into a label that can get releases distributed to retail channels, whether physical or digital, then no one can actually purchase. With digital distribution however this issue is becoming less so. Another issue is knowing what is out there. Mainstream music has radio airplay, cable music video shows, and digital platform promotions that can alert fans to releases. Acting as a trigger to activate purchases. Reggae fans have to wait longer periods of time for good songs to surface as determined by word of mouth and YouTube views, and then that is even if it can be found through the main digital channels for purchase. The third and maybe the larger issue for Reggae music, is the unwillingness or laziness of Reggae music fans to buy what they love.
Reggae videos on YouTube for example routinely rack up millions of views. If just 1% percent of the fans who watch a reggae video on YouTube for example, went out and bought that song it would have a ginormous impact. That song or album would become economically viable and it may even get on mainstream charts! A lot of fans of Reggae music consume the genre in environments that do not train them to buy the music. Most are accustomed to the ultimate free music channel, the radio. If you grew up only consuming music on the radio, buying is not a natural inclination. Keep in mind however, that Reggae has managed to hold its own through the sheer will of artists, producers, promoters, labels, and the true fans who open their wallets. If you are true fan of Reggae, you must become an active purchaser, not just a consumer in order for the genre to grow beyond a plateau.