Reggae music is Jamaica’s greatest export. Yes it’s a well-known tourist destination. Yes it’s the worlds 6th largest producer of bauxite, you know, that of which aluminum is made. There is however a shameful disparity between the amount of government attention and resources that is given to tourism and bauxite than what is given to the Reggae and entertainment industry.
The impact of Reggae music has been well known for decades, however the government of Jamaica has been shameful in its ineffectiveness and unwillingness to put major resources and polices in place to formalize the industry as just that. An industry that generates significant economic activity. One could even argue that the music has at times been treated with contempt, almost as an unruly child to be kept in line or ignored.
A quick look at the entertainment industries around the world shows early government involvement helped to shape those industry into viable economic sectors that contribute to GDP. From copyright laws to rules around the formation of entertainment companies, to licensing rules needed for practitioners that provide professional services and advice.
The fact that Jamaica is just now formalizing a lot of the agencies needed to support the industry in a meaningful way is simply indefensible. Artists who spent their lives being creative were never educated on the importance of aligning their estates, as there was no formality around rights, ownership, and how that passes on via estate planning. This has led to what we call Reggae’s lost songs. The importance of supporting creative industries as a source of income and influence cannot be overstated. Hollywood is the leading player in the global filmed entertainment industry.
That did not happen by chance. The movie and filmed entertainment industry received immense governmental support from its inception. A typical blockbuster made in the USA, makes more than 60% of its revenue outside of the US. Amounting to billions of dollars annually. That’s what a creative export can do. The players in the industry should continue to demand more be done from its government to drive the industry forward. It employs thousands, and can continue to be a source of major income for many. Not to mention tax revenue and good will garnered for the island in general.