Opinion

Reggae: A Viable Commodity

Reggae distributors, artists, managers and promoters need to come together with a team approach to push bigger projects by committee and share in the success.  If the egos can be left out of the equation everyone will win big.

Most avid music fans understand the huge impact music has around the world.  But very few companies have been able to maximize it’s potential.   The Reggae sound has been used in more pop records than I can list.   The word commodity comes to mind.  Commodities are most often used as inputs in the production of other goods or services. It is definitely a viable commodity but capitalizing on it consistently has proven challenging to investors.  In the past few decades Reggae artists who achieve global success have not been able to maintain it or expound on that success like stars from other genres.  With the Marley family as the obvious exception.

Some fans don’t want Reggae to go mainstream for fear the quality will go down and more and more culture vultures will see dollar signs with out respecting it’s roots.  This is an understandable trepidation but the fact is as much as we would like to focus on the culture and creativity we can not avoid the monetary reality.   Hence Reggae impresarios, aggregators and investors would be wise to continue to do what works while adding new approaches.  Here are 3 things that help drive Reggae as a commodity and some key learnings that may help.

Live Shows 
Reggae Festivals sell out world wide.  They are like mini Woodstocks.  Just check out Reggae on the River, Reggae Rise up or any annual

Luciano Live
Luciano Live

Reggae festival around the world.   It would be nice to see live streaming of these performances.  It would add additional cost to production budgets, but the upside to this is huge.  It would bring more revenue through sales, additional brand exposure and the ability to up sell sponsors.  It is working for sub genres like battle rap, see URL Ultimate Rap League with host Smack.

Visual Content
You may have heard the term “content is King”.  More specifically visual content is the key.  In the late nineties I had the opportunity to talk to LL Cool J about what advice he would give to young artists and he quickly answered, “get their digital media presence up”.  Almost 20 years later it rings more true now than ever.  Music videos are being shot constantly and many are being done on high-end cameras but we need to push the creative boundaries of the videos and commit more dollars to budgets.

A hit Reggae song with a video gets just as many views as other genres and this can be monetized.  In my opinion the end goal should be movies that either tell the story of our high exposure hit makers or the ensemble cast approach focusing on a time period.  The movie “Belly” showed a glimpse of Reggae culture and it made a lasting impression.   Shottas was quite some time ago but there clearly is a market that has to be serviced with a good story, production quality, cultural accuracy and a wicked sound track.  This would bring in real revenue and start a trend in the right direction.

Merchandise

reggae merch
Reggae merch

Many artists sell merch with their band name or logo while on tour and do very well.  There are a few clothing lines that use Rasta colors, Jamaican colors, the Lion of Judah or other visuals that Caribbeans gravitate to.   Cooyah in Jamaica or LRG in the US are examples.  What is missing is the right artist owning part of and being a spokesperson for a strong clothing brand.  Think about what Sean John did for Puffy or what Roc-a-wear did for Jay-Z financially.  What if you had a dollar for every Caribbean person representing?  There is a real financial opportunity here.  This could very well create the funding needed to market artists correctly.

These revenue streams are already at work.  Now it is time for the Reggae community to turn opportunities into financial gains.  The support has always been there from fans and now the technology is here.   Distributors, artists, managers and promoters need to come together with a team approach to push bigger projects by committee and sharing in the success.   If the egos can be left out of the equation everyone will win big, including the youth coming up next who are watching what we do next.  Not actively maximizing our commodity is what leaves the door open for appropriation.

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