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COLUMN – The next step with our music

ronniemorris-101Barbados’ emerging music industry ebbs and flows with the changing tide of the global realities of the business, yet maintains stability, economic relevance and an outlook of potential growth based on returns from our traditional festivals, global industry penetration by Barbadian artistes who then reinvest in their homeland, and copyright cash flow, among other revenue streams.

Yet, as with everything in existence in the world in which we live, nothing is perfect; so it begs the question: what is the next step? How can our domestic music industry grow to achieve its full potential?

Last week, reference was made to the potential of our copyright export arena, through the maximization of COSCAP’s operations. This week I delve deeper into other areas ready for future development.

There is certainly a need for an increase in the use of current technology, with respect to digital marketing and distribution, and full compliance with trends within the industry. Admittedly, some acts have embraced the changes, while the majority have simply ignored them.

While once lofty sales levels attained by physical CDs have fallen sharply across the world, a fact momentarily put into question with the 32 million units moved by Adele’s monstrous album 21, there has been a rise in revenue generated from streaming, apps, digital downloads (in some key markets) and, believe it or not, vinyl.

One glaring example is the fact that the millions of Vevo and YouTube views being achieved by many Barbadian artistes are not being fully monetized, as few of those links are supported by “smart URLs” which connect those videos
to a multiplicity of online music retailers, including Amazon, iTunes, and so on, as can be clearly seen directly under videos by Katy Perry, Sam Smith and the like.

Barbados’ own Vita Chambers has done this to perfection, joined by a very short list of acts from the 246.

Apps also give artistes the opportunity to have readily available retail outlets on the phones of the masses, allowing them to access content with the touch of a screen, inclusive of concert tickets, digital singles and albums, photos and the ability
to order merchandise.

There needs, therefore, to be more collaboration between the island’s developing technology and music sectors, which will in turn enable them to have mutually beneficial partnerships going forward.

Our musical exponents sold hundreds of thousands of vinyl records in the 1970s and 1980s, and, sadly, production of the wax discs virtually ceased for the two decades plus  that followed. This is a niche market Barbados can tap into, especially if the equipment used in the past can be put back into operation to produce compilations which can be distributed globally.

In the United States alone, sales of vinyl records in 2014 rose by 52 per cent to 9.2 million units, according to Billboard Magazine, and the medium is predicted to grow by leaps and bounds in the near future, owing to the overwhelming popularity of vinyl releases, which have become highly desired by music connoisseurs the world over.   

Another major gap in our domestic music sector is the absence of a cadre of (adequately financed) record labels. A record label, staffed by experienced professionals, discovers and develops talent. The label also finalizes the product and oversees its sale to the market.

A ready pool of public and private sector investors is needed to enable the establishment of labels, to facilitate the refining of the said talent into market-ready, exportable commodities. Pyramid Entertainment Management Inc. is an example of a Barbadian music company that has the required framework and potential to expand into a fully functioning record label.

Clusters should be encouraged and financed to fully propel the industry, in much the same way as was the case with manufacturing through the establishment of the Newton, Grazettes and Harbour Road industrial estates some years ago.

In summary, it is my belief that we have the necessary creative components (singers, songwriters, producers), and with the development of a functioning and modern marketing and distribution framework, we can move one step closer to fully realizing the potential of our music industry.

(Ronnie Morris, is president of Gold Coast Records and director of the Barbados Music Awards. Email:

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