Billboard did nothing wrong, we did.
It seems once again that dancehall-reggae practitioners and its supporters are up in arms, but what’s new with their sense of entitlement. With the recent Billboard Magazine publication which shed light on Swizz Beatz ‘Verzuz Effect’ ongoing showcase, the editorial team though mentioning the genre, sought not to include Beenie man and Bounty Killer picture on the cover artwork along with others.
While my thoughts on the issue may fall on deaf ears or render flak, I think it is prudent that I too add my voice to the issue at hand. For many years reggae-dancehall industry has been plagued with and hindered by unprofessional-ism, lack of inclusivity and the cohesive support it needs to make a more meaningful impact on charts, brands, and cultures globally.
This is not to say that the likes of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Shabba Ranks, Shaggy, Sean Paul and many others should be discredited. However, most of the artiste that operate and exist within the space has/have directly or indirectly supported a culture where they blatantly ignore the general tenants of doing business in the music industry.
Take into consideration, a recent article published in the Jamaica Observer dated August 12, 2020 titled “Dexta and Sevana makes their debut” which highlight dismal sales by two acts whose latest project represent the genre in its entirety. The article also sheds more data for other acts demonstrating weak sales according to the Nielsen Music/MRC Data sales-driven US Current Reggae Albums chart.
Before Hapilos, ZoJack, Johnny Wonder and other distributors came to the forefront, many argued with just cause how certain distributors and or record labels robbed the industry. Though they might have grounds to such arguable facts, they too have fostered a subculture limiting access to certain gate holders who only seek to appropriate the culture when it is fitting to them.
So how can we then complain when the industry we have is of our own making? We have seen how throughout the Caribbean how many writers, publicist, producers, publications, charts, award shows etc. have sought to be recognized and or given a fair amount of access to help grow the genre and ensure its marketability globally. Yet, the same people who today are complaining have failed to support their very own.
The only time we see unity from the genre, or culture is when there is a perceived disrespect which could be viewed as a simple profitable business decision, strategic editorial decision, or just best practice. How should we expect those on the international stage to take us seriously when we only join in clamor when we feel like we have been disrespected by others but if it’s our own its OK???? Very too often we see promoters and DJs complaining about show bookings/deposits, getting radio drops/dub for radio/media placement which only serves to help grow the brand we all love so much.
We have a culture that refuses to buy/stream music, conduct interviews, show up for shows on time, lacking professionalism as if we are owed something, and that is never acceptable. When artiste, producers and DJs operate under a ‘hustler’ or ‘scam’ mentality and not creating, fostering, or supporting a system where music is treated as a ‘legitimate business’, it only leaves us looking more like fools internationally and at a disadvantage.
You may ask what this have to do with Billboard not putting the genres face on the cover but what does the genre really do for Billboard? Can any major company really partner with genre to garner a return on investment? How much copies of the magazine will the face of Bounty and Beenie man sell? How can we then asked to be included, when we ourselves do not see the value of the work all of us do equally.
How have we together created a commercial value worth recognizing on an international stage? The biggest appropriator of our own music and culture is the Jamaica Tourist Board as they see the value and reap its benefits through marketing material plugged globally. Yet, they do little for the culture itself. Where is clamor demanding more, or holding our own government to task?
How many of you have chosen to share, download a song instead of streaming or purchasing it? How many of you have given many other talented acts access to the same space? How many of you have blocked out our very own because it did not suit your needs? How many of us have put the needs of the genre ahead of our own? How many playlists are curated by facts rather than favoritism and access? How many charts are compiled ethically? How many artistes is given access to interviews or features on international platforms? Are they really gate holders or appropriators of the genre?
Yes, I too agree that there needs to be more representation and inclusion on the international stage. More of own writers for their website; playlist curators from our space; access to more platforms and overall inclusivity but this must start at home. We need to first evaluate ourselves, the role we have play, its impact negatively or positively before we can make any sort of demands. Complaining about the omission of any reggae-dancehall artiste picture from the cover of any international publication is really a non-starter especially when the people complaining neither buy/stream the songs they produce; purchased or is a subscriber to the publication(s) in question.
I will try not put any specific artiste single or album under scrutiny, but numbers do not lie. We see constantly the nauseating sales reflected on the international charts, making it a non-factor though its culturally trendy globally. So why again would the genre get cover placement when it does not move the needle? Why would a business put something on its product which won’t guarantee sales to its core audience? Remember the publication or editorial job is to produce materials and or content that generates the necessary returns for its stakeholders.
So instead of seeking materialistic gratification for the genre, how about we truly foster a productive discussion about reforming the business of the genre. How about we ask Apple for our charts; ask that dancehall name gets added to all the platforms and catalogs; about having our own writers on their teams; having our own segment at the Grammy stage; asking our government to do more for the sector; and getting more access to platforms so we can grow.
Lest we forget, we got invited to their show out of courtesy so be grateful. It is time we stop complaining and do the work. Become and foster what you seek.