Reggae Music the State of Affairs: Stan Evan Smith Talks Lloyd Stanbury: Entertainment Attorney& Industry ConsultantPublished Jun 17, 2013
Lloyd Stanbury is an entertainment attorney and creative industries consultant with several years’ international experience dealing with legal and management representation of recording artists, music producers, film producers, media operators and event promoters.
Lloyd is presently a member of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Pool of Experts for Culture and Development, and has provided consulting and training services on various aspects of music industry development in countries such as Kenya, Seychelles, Ivory Coast, Senegal, South Africa, Burkina Faso, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Colombia, Dominica, and Jamaica.
He is the co-founder and former Vice-Chairman of Grove Broadcasting Company Limited (operators of Jamaica’s number one radio station IRIE FM), and has served as a director of the Recording Industry Association of Jamaica (RIAJam).
I first met Lloyd Stanbury in the late 1990’s as part of an American press contingent, representing UNFOLD Magazine, from New York covering the Caribbean Music Expo. Lloyd took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions from Jamaicans.com Senior Editor and North East Media Coordinator Stan Evan Smith.
Stan Evan Smith: A convincing case can be made that first Marley generation of reggae artists, followed by the Shabba Ranks, Shaggy/Sean Paul/Damien Marley generation succeeded in their primary mission of establishing reggae and dancehall as international genre. Today any major artist in the US can record a reggae track and, with the right promotion machine make it a hit on the mainstream chart, What do you see as the mission, if there is one, for the current generation of reggae artist to the music next level?
Lloyd Stanbury: In my view the current generation of Reggae artists should embark on a mission to focus their efforts on good song writing, good music production, and on achieving high levels of professionalism in areas such as the negotiation and execution of contractual obligations, the packaging and presentation of their products and services, media relations, and punctuality. They should also ensure they secure experienced music business representation, and place emphasis on effectively utilizing online social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Reverbnation, and Soundcloud.
Stan Evan Smith: The American Reggae bands are doing better in the US market because they understand that reggae is universal and, to be successful their music has to be universal to relate and reach a much wider demographic, why have the Jamaican artist been unable to do adjust to this new reality?
Lloyd Stanbury: Many Jamaican artists have lost sight of the global picture as a result of the short-sighted and limited demands of the domestic Jamaican market. Too much emphasis is being placed on what works in Jamaica. This narrow perspective has been fueled by the local media. Jamaican artists need to make touring for promotional purposes and the building of a loyal fan base more of a priority, instead of touring strictly for the pursuit of monetary gain.
Stan Evan Smith: Why is Jamaican artist unable to increase reach the wider demographic market?
Lloyd Stanbury: Same answer as above.
Stan Evan Smith: Why is there such a difference between how Steel Pulse, or Jimmy Cliff and the American reggae bands and how dancehall acts relate to their fans?
Lloyd Stanbury: I think most Dancehall acts, write and perform songs that focus around materialism, sex, and violence, while Steel Pulse, Jimmy Cliff and others write and perform songs that focus on themes such as Rastafari, love, peace and social and political issues. The issues addressed by the artists determine the composition of their fan base and the nature of the artist/audience relationship.
Stan Evan Smith: In 2013 the Reggae/Dancehall got off to one of the music best start PR-wise in decades, the Kingston dancehall Puffy thing went Viral, Tarrus/Gramps/John Legend performance at Jazz and Blues is good indicator of what reggae dancehall needs, the Jimmy Cliff Volkswagen commercial coupled Beyonce choice to include a reggae dancehall flavor in (Sean Paul/Dutty Wine) hit in her half time performance with at the Super Bowl was a huge bonanza for the brand. The Grammy Award Bob Marley mini- tribute proved that from $ and PR perspective mainstream knows reggae/dancehall still has mainstream appeal in big way. Is the reggae industry poised or have they positioned themselves to both exploit and maximize of these opportunities by taking e advantage of this entire free PR?
Lloyd Stanbury: I do not think there is enough cooperation and collective effort in Jamaica among participants in the music industry, nor is there a national policy or plan for industry development to guide and support any such collective effort. Things continue to move along in an ad-hoc fashion with no coordinated of collective focus or initiative designed to take advantage of free PR opportunities like the ones you have mentioned. So simply put, I would say the industry has not positioned itself to take advantage. Industry development requires more unity and cooperation among music industry practitioners as well as between industry practitioners and government.
Stan Evan Smith: US based American reggae artist like Groundation, Rebelution and Soja, have been doing far better that the Jamaican contemporary reggae dancehall artist from the standpoint of touring, sales and having presence in the US on mainstream radio and charts, why is the Jamaican brand lagging and what in your estimation needs to be done to stem this tide?
Lloyd Stanbury: There are a number of issues to be considered here. First and foremost, I think that when it comes to touring we have had several negative reports implicating Jamaican artists in criminal activities, and this has made it harder for Jamaican entertainers to secure work permits to enter the USA. The pro-gay lobby and the stop “Murder Music” campaign launched and still maintained by powerful gay rights organizations have also made live Reggae events unattractive investments for concert promoters. Touring builds fan base, and fuels/cd/download and record sales. No touring, means low sales. In addition, most Jamaican artists do not have effective publicists to adequately service North American radio.
Stan Evan Smith: Do you see any artist coming out of Jamaica who can spear head a rival of reggae music, what would that artist have to do to make it in the USA today?
Lloyd Stanbury: Most definitely. I see Protoje doing just that. He has already in my view started on the right foot with the production and release of two albums with good songs and first class music production. He has mastered the art of online social media music promotion, with very effective use of YouTube, Facebook and Soundcloud. He now needs to tour the USA extensively to build his North American fan base.
Stan Evan Smith: Veteran record executive Murray Elias (VP Records) argues that reggae has run its course, and that Jamaicans should accept their forty year run is over, Ziggy Marley agrees with Murray Elias, that the halcyon days of reggae are passed, both argue that there are no artist coming out of Jamaica capable of reviving reggae’s great days here in the US, what are your thoughts on these statements?
Lloyd Stanbury: I do not agree that Reggae music has run its course at all. Reggae music is here to stay, and will forever be a relevant music genre in the world of popular music. I do agree that Reggae has grown way beyond the shores of Jamaica, and is no longer the exclusive domain of Jamaican recording artists and music producers. Reggae music producers and recording artists from other countries, and international artists who specialize in other genres, will continue to successfully record and perform Reggae in the USA and other major music markets around the world. The US music market is the largest single market in the world, as a country, but it is by no means the only significant music market for Reggae. I also totally disagree with the thinking that there are no artists’ coming out of Jamaica today that are capable of reviving Reggae’s great days in the USA. There is a very significant movement in Jamaica, which is now being dubbed the “Reggae Revival” that has brought to the fore a number of new Reggae artists who are definitely equipped with what it takes to make a significant mark on the US music market. They just need to get the necessary support and guidance. Reggae’s “great days in the US” happened because there was support and management guidance provided to the acts.
Stan Evan Smith: If the Jamaica music fraternity embraced the Grammys, en mass becoming members and using the Grammy award the way the American artist do for career advancement do you think, given its importance to popular music in America, that becoming voting member heighten brand profile in the mainstream US market and by extension lift the status of the Jamaican contemporary reggae artist??
Lloyd Stanbury: Yes, I think more Jamaican membership in the NARAS/Grammy would ensure to the benefit of contemporary Reggae in the mainstream US market.
Stan Evan Smith: Booking agents such as George Mickelow (Fast Lane) argues that reggae is now "International” in its appeal and that for Jamaican reggae acts to succeed in the USA they now have to garner mainstream appeal by competing on the same level as American mainstream acts, what do of contemporary Reggae Jamaican acts need to do compete in drive improve their mainstream appeal?
Lloyd Stanbury: As said before: they need to write and produce good songs, effectively use online social media, tour extensively, and get professional representation.
Stan Evan Smith: If you disagree with Elias and Ziggy Marley What in your estimation does reggae/dancehall music need to reestablish it success on mainstream radio chart and rotation play across the US?
Lloyd Stanbury: I do not agree that Reggae music has run its course, either in the USA or globally.
Stan Evan Smith: Touring is how the artist develops and marketed their brand, contemporary Jamaican reggae dancehall acts aren’t touring beyond ethnic enclaves, instead their current practice is week end shows, one of or spot date, (the primary factor always being how much money is a show going to pay) also they use social media, as a replacement instead of argumentation in developing their brands; how can contemporary Jamaican reggae dancehall acts be successful in mainstream if they do adapt to the paradigm of developing their brand?
Lloyd Stanbury: I do think online social media plays a very significant and ever increasing role in brand development and recognition. This does not mean traditional media is not still relevant. Traditional media is however way less relevant than it was 10 years ago. A combined approach of social media mixed with traditional media is what is required in my view. I think many of the newer/younger Jamaican artists have demonstrated that they are ready to adapt to the changes necessary to develop and promote their brand in today’s digital entertainment world.
Stan Evan Smith: Given the sustained blows the music has suffered over the last decade, self-inflicted or otherwise, like the demise of Kartel, incarceration of Buju, the visa revocations, virulent homophobia etc.) given the damage these events have wrath on both the image and the music’ development do think it is time to revisit Mike Bennett’s concept of finishing school for Jamaicans contemporary artists to deal effectively with their public relation and their public profile?
Lloyd Stanbury: I think we need more than a “finishing school” that is focused on artists’ behavior. We need comprehensive arts and entertainment management programmes at the certificate, diploma, and bachelors levels for music entrepreneurs and managers in Jamaica, coupled with short professional development workshops. These programmes should address issues related to music business management, intellectual property rights, professional etiquette and conduct, image development and management, PR management etc. I do think a holistic approach to the business of music has to be taken.
Stan Evan Smith: Veteran music producer/manager Donovan Germain among many other critics have argued that “Unless the dancehall producers and artists bring something new to the table… the music will continue to be in the gutter” where do you fall on the in this debate?
Lloyd Stanbury: I agree that the issues addressed in dancehall by the artists and producers need to be wider in scope, and not be limited to sex, bling-bling, “di gal can wine”, demons, guns and gangsters.
Stan Evan Smith: Does Germaine argument that the inferior quality of the current contemporary reggae dancehall music scene (music and lyrics) hurt the reggae music ability to get to attract mainstream audiences?
Lloyd Stanbury: There is an audience for all types of music. Reggae artists who focus on the traditional themes of peace, love, unity, social injustice, Africa, and Rastafari can co-exist with Dancehall artists and lyrics that some of us consider to be negative. The local and international Dancehall community supports Dancehall. The local and international traditional Reggae music community should support and encourage traditional Reggae music that projects the more positive themes.
Stan Evan Smith: As evidenced by Sound-Scan, the American cd sales tracking company 2012, was one of the worse years in decades for the Jamaican brand of contemporary reggae in the USA, no album or reggae /dancehall artistes out of Jamaica had any impact in the US on charts, presence on Urban radio, touring and sales, can this decline be stemmed, if so what has to be don to improve this?
Lloyd Stanbury: Yes this decline can be stopped. As I said before, artists need to write and produce good songs, utilize social media and traditional media to promote tour extensively and get professional representation. North American radio and TV does have a major role to play in stopping this decline. More and better working relationships should be created and maintained with community and college radio in America. Many Reggae radio personalities in the USA are also in my view stuck in the past.
Stan Evan Smith: So many Jamaica based contemporary reggae dancehall acts appeal are limited to the ethnic market in North America is this reflection of the quality of their music or is there a larger issue?
Lloyd Stanbury: I think many contemporary Reggae/Dancehall artists are indeed restricted to the ethnic market because the messages in their music have very limited appeal to the wider and more diverse international audience. There is also the issue of access to professional experienced management representation. Many artists resort to friends and family with no music business experience as managers, rather than seek professional relationships.
Stan Evan Smith: What kind of material (music and lyrics) do you think these acts need to produce to be able to extend their brand into the larger mainstream market?
Lloyd Stanbury: I think they need to record more melodic songs with lyrics addressing issues that non-Jamaicans can also identify with. In my view commercial success in music requires good hooks that people can sing along to, and messages that a wide cross-section of people can relate to. Jamaican artists need to think more in terms of a “World View” as against a “Yard View”.
Stan Evan Smith: Would collaborations with American mainstream acts help many of the Jamaica based contemporary reggae dancehall acts to establish their brand and penetrate deeper in the US mainstream market?
Lloyd Stanbury: Yes, this is a formula that has been tried and proven, although not absolutely necessary. I don’t recall any recording collaborations that Bob did, although mainstream international musicians were utilized on studio overdubs on some of his early recordings for Chris Blackwell/Island. On the other hand, we have also had some collaboration by Dancehall acts with mainstream American acts that produced big international hits, but failed to convert to mainstream market acceptance for the Jamaican acts.
Stan Evan Smith: Neil Robertson, VP Records, Director of Touring say that Popcaan has proven that he knows how to make songs that the youth mainstream market like and his lack access to the USA market to support his singles at radio hurt him on his way to that "International Reggae" artist ranking. What would you advise artist with the same potential do to avoid Popcaan fate?
Lloyd Stanbury: I am not familiar with the specific issues that may have affected or prevented Popcaan’s access to the USA market. My previous comments about touring and professional representation would be my advice to other artists.
Stan Evan Smith: Are the Grammy Awards important to the future of reggae/dancehall music in America, if so what do the Jamaican base reggae acts need to learn about to how use the Grammy Awards to succeed in the US market?
Lloyd Stanbury: Whether we like the way the Grammys are done or not, it remains a very significant institution and event in the world of popular music, and not just in the USA. A Grammy nomination still makes EVERYONE revise their biography. The effective participation and representation of Reggae in NARAS and at the Grammys is an important element in improving Reggae presence within the US market. More Jamaican Reggae artists and music producers need to become members of NARAS so they can have a vote and a say as to what happens with Reggae in that space. We cannot affect the situation by standing on the sidelines talking every year the nominations are announced.
Stan Evan Smith: Finally, despite a 30 year history in the US reggae music has never been able to institutionally cement presence in mainstream radio/chart, can reggae ever see return its heydays?
Lloyd Stanbury: I think Reggae can definitely see a return to the days of appearances on mainstream music charts and many live tours in the USA. The music industry is however not the same as it was back in the day. There are far more products competing today for the attention of the consumer seeking entertainment, and the methods of delivery to the public have changed dramatically. Reggae music practitioners must make the necessary adjustments to cater to these changes and to fit in with the new era of entertainment.
Stan Evan Smith: What is your advice to a young reggae band or artist coming into the music business?
Lloyd Stanbury: Take the time to practice. Try to write songs with wide global appeal, or align yourself with a songwriter or songwriters who do. Familiarize yourself with the Internet and ensure you have good Internet presence with content that properly represents your brand. Get professional and experienced representation or mentorship.
Stan Evan Smith: In closing do you have any advice, or predictions for the future of reggae music?
Lloyd Stanbury: I am once again actually quite excited about Reggae music coming from Jamaica. For the first time in almost 20 years I have a great feeling of optimism and pleasure in what I hear and see coming out of the young musicians in Jamaica. I think we are about to witness a new era of great Reggae from Jamaica. I would strongly advise and recommend that members of the local music industry find ways to collaborate to enable collective and unified representation in a partnership with government and international interests to ensure that the new era does not suffer from some of the mis-steps that were made in the past.
Stan Evan Smith is the Host of State of Affairs on The Keys Blog Talk Radio. (www.thekeys107network.com)
Senior Editor and North East Media Coordinator: Jamaicans.com (FL)Contributing writer: YUSH .com (UK).
Contributing Editor: Everybody’s Magazine (NYC)
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