Most modern music genres remain relevant and economically viable through an industry and ecosystem that supports it. All industries have unspoken and spoken rules of operations. Big players, small players, and mechanisms by which the normal business of that industry is carried out day-to-day. In the music industry, the major genres such rap/RB, country, rock, pop have the full support of the giants of the music business worldwide. Reggae music has never really had that benefit.
Those giants involve record labels, radio station conglomerates, managers, producers, attorneys, publishing companies, booking agents, television, web companies, and the list goes on and on. Artists and genres that are ordained by these players get global backing and exposure that drives them in the broadest terms. As Ed Sheehan stated in an interview, he did not need a major label but he signed with one because they have a global infrastructure that would make a difference to his reach.
How then to explain the relevance of reggae music in today’s music industry given that it barely registers any major music industry support. Clearly some reggae artists get that support, but that is less than 1% of all artists. Independent labels and producers churn out hundreds of thousands of songs without any support or need for major music industry support each year.
The reggae industry has figured out on its own how to survive as it’s own standalone industry. There is no other genre of music which does not have its origin in a first world country that is as influential and relevant as Reggae music. It certainly helps that Reggae fans and creatives are passionate about the art form. It also helps that Reggae music is the main music genre In certainly localities.
A quick look at Google search trends shows that Jamaica more than any other country leads in search volume for the search term “Reggae”. The music has also benefitted from streaming and downloads which makes the music more generally accessible. But given that hit songs are made, not discovered. A sea of Reggae music songs exists without a mechanism to drive and propel them forward from release to chart topping success. It’s clear that the industry does not need that to survive.
Reggae music clearly has its own mini industry and ecosystem. However, it could benefit exponentially if it could garner music industry giants support to push It forward in its purest creative form. But that also means that the peripheral players, the movers and shakers, need to become much more adept at navigating the industry.
Managers need to be more knowledgeable and strategic. Agents need to be more relentless. Independent labels and producers need better alliances. Artists need to be more thoughtful about each step they take in their careers. Reggae music will always live on. It’s time however for it to take its place beyond being influential and inspiring others and be a commercially viable and successful genre on its own.
The market is there. Bob Marley’s music still sells by the boat load today. Those buyers can be shown that there are contemporaries to Bob Marley’s music that is just as good. Just as relevant. Just as relatable.