What makes a hit record? How are hit records made? There are people, artists and producers alike, who seemingly make hit records effortlessly. You can find them in every genre. Apart from the very few artists who’ve reached the rarified air of a large committed fanbase, think Beyonce’s beyhive, that guarantees them chart toppers because their committed fanbase buys anything they release. Everyone else seemingly follows a formula or experiments with a new sound. The big question is what is that winning formula for Reggae music and Reggae artists.
There are very few Reggae acts who have figured out a winning formula that leads to significant sales, chart toppers, and popularity in general. Artistry is not an issue in Reggae. It never has been. There are tons of creative people from writers, to musicians, producers, and artists. However are those people working in a vacuum? Do they pay attention to larger trends in pop music in general and weave those in. The big issue is relate-ability. Reggae music is great, but what about the lyrics? What about the sound, the emotion it relates. What are artist communicating? Music purchasers need to be able to relate to what moves them to open their wallets and spend their time consuming it.
Sean Paul has seemingly figured out a formula that works for him. He sells tons of music as a featured and solo artist. What can the larger artist community take from Sean Paul’s success. If you listen to his music, there is a clear understanding of who is buying his music, who is listening to it, and who is playing it. He manages to do that while keeping the authenticity of his dancehall roots. It all adds up to creativity being mixed with market awareness. That needs to be more common in Reggae music production. Artists need creative freedom, no doubt. However market trends matter and makes a difference to the success of the music.
There has to be consideration about how to bring in a larger listening audience. Its not easy but it can be done. That does not mean diluting what makes the different sub-genres of Reggae unique or original. Two of the biggest songs of 2017 where in Spanish. Both also had clear Reggae music influences, yet while staying close to the artists roots. Reggae producers and those responsible for what represents the genre need to look outside the recording studio window and build in broad market relevance and relate-ability to their creativity.