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Jamaican Artists Could Easily Sell Platinum In The Caribbean, Says Nigel Staff

Award-winning record producer and songwriter Nigel Staff says the Jamaican music industry has erred in not capitalizing on the Caribbean region as its own key music marketplace, where many singers and deejays could easily sell gold or platinum.

Speaking in an interview with broadcaster Nikki Z on The Bridge 99FM recently, the Ruff Kut keyboardist pointed out that the 44 million-strong Caribbean population, as a market for buying music, was largely untapped by Jamaican singers and deejays, who opt to focus their energies on the United States, where their music is in constant competition with a plethora of other music genres.

“I think we’ve never created a marketplace for ourselves.  So in the Caribbean, we could be selling millions of records and certifying ourselves, as genuinely platinum on any format, whether it’s streams or vinyl or CDs.  We’ve never done that,” Staff said.

“What we’ve done was to tap into another culture or country’s marketplace which is the US,  which is the UK.  So if we are really about doing that we need to know those rules, but we’ve never sought to know those rules.   So we cuss about the Grammys every January, February and we don’t know how it works.  We talk about going on the Billboard charts and we don’t understand what it means,” he added.

Nigel Staff’s sentiments are similar to those expressed by Ibo Cooper, then chairman of the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) in July 2016.

At the time, Cooper, in lamenting the fact that most Jamaican artist’s music sales were woefully low, compared to that of their foreign counterparts, had said that Caribbean artists ought to “focus on transforming the Caribbean and Africa into lucrative markets for Caribbean music”, according to a Gleaner article.

Cooper had even made reference to Africa, which he said was one of the world’s wealthiest continents and “the rightful home” for the majority of the Caribbean people, yet remained largely untapped by musicians where the marketing of their music was concerned.

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He had also said that while the US market has always been the main target for Jamaican artists, other markets have the same potential and described some Jamaican acts as simply being ‘foreign-minded’

“What we need to do is be about our business of building. Latin music is ahead of us with that. The Latin market listens to Spanish music and they do well without having to rely on the US,” Cooper had said.

“Latin music was selling in South America, Central America and these places without US radio. We are still trying to get through on the Billboard chart and the British charts, so it’s clear that it’s our mindset. We are fighting against CARICOM, and we need a Caribbean active market for our culture. We don’t unite and big up our thing … Chicken is still looking for a mongoose to give chicken justice,” he had said.

Where Africa was concerned, Cooper had described as ironic, the fact that it was Americans and Europeans who had realised the potential of the African market and had “been marketing their products in the continent, while Jamaicans are yet to wake up.”

“The Americans are in Africa and Europeans are there selling music and other products. However, Jamaicans treat Africa like it’s a little island or it’s a distant place. But that is part of the way we are cultured because they don’t want us to realise what we have. I have been in many discussions about the marketing of our music, and Africa – an entire continent – was never even on the list as an option,” he said.

The Gleaner had also quoted veteran American-Belizean rapper Shyne, as saying that while music was “not selling globally as it was during his days atop American hip hop”, the Caribbean ought to do better to mobilise its more than 40 million citizens and that “before targeting other territories, CARICOM should be perfected”.

“America has always been painted as the crËme de la crËme, but the world is big. The world loves reggae music, so the promoters need to understand that all you need now is an account online and to research who are the big websites in these markets like Africa, Asia, and Latin America. You take your ads out and you make the effort to reach these people…,” he had mused.

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