Music is big business; and some may argue the role of music in the development of the local and regional economies has been understated over the years.
When one thinks about the royalties paid to artists, the taxes they pay to government, the micro, small and medium-sized businesses that benefit when shows are held, the number of career options associated with the industry –– and the list goes on, you could see why music could be considered a major contributor to an economy.
And some local and regional players in the industry tell Bajan Vibes they believe there is room for even greater contribution, once all business aspects of the industry are fully explored.
Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture Stephen Lashley believes the island is “fast becoming a destination where music is on the up and up”, and he believes that with the right combination of laws, lyrics and entrepreneurial drive, Barbados could become “the mecca of music in the Caribbean”.
“We have a good platform on which to propel that; and I believe our young artistes are going to lead the way,” said Lashley.
“People need to see music as a business. It is no longer a pastime. We know that over the years, without the necessary legislative infrastructure, it has been very piecemeal. Now we have the kind of legislation in place that people can tap into and get the kind of incentives to drive their businesses forward. So I think that will pick up as time goes on, and as the excitement continues, in terms of music,” the minister said.
Lashley said he also believed that as more Barbadian artistes became more recognized in the region and on the international scene, a lot more people would become focused on the various businesses that could be derived from the industry.
“There are different aspects of it. It is not only onstage. There is the whole dynamic of the management of the artiste, creating the awareness of copyright, all of those areas that are ripe for business ventures; and I want to encourage the private sector to come on board because a lot of our artistes require support,” he said.
Pointing to the recent Cultural Industries Bill, Barbados’ Soca Queen Alison Hinds told Bajan Vibes that musicians should see it as an opportunity to focus more on the business aspect of what they do.
Agreeing the industry had much to contribute to the Barbados economy, Hinds said music could also play a greater role in attracting more visitors to the island.
“There is definitely a lot of business. It will probably take some more education in terms of people knowing what is happening . . . . So it is something that is exportable, and we need to tap into it some more,” said Hinds.
Meanwhile, Empress Roli (Roli Roachford) said she believed one way to get those in the music industry to focus more on the business various business aspects was to have more local music playing on air.
She also noted that there was a need for more local shows to allow musicians to sell their talent and create spin-off job opportunities for other entrepreneurs.
“I feel we need to incorporate our music as a daily food for our nation,” said Empress Roli, pointing out that there was also “a big avenue” for local musicians to provide more sound tracks for movies.
“When you study it, the amount of royalties sent overseas –– say, we send $1 million to Jamaica or America; that money could have stayed within our own nation. The taxes could come forward to the government and families could be living better. So artistes need more respect; and people need to realize it is a circle,” she said.
For some time, Jamaica has created a thriving music industry. Some of that country’s musicians agreed that Barbados had what it takes to make music a major money earner for the economy throughout the year.
Jamaican singer and record producer Highland “Dobby” Dobson told Bajan Vibes that while Barbados had produced some of the finest in the industry over the years, they could do more to ensure they were getting their full earnings from it.
“I find that Jamaica is getting a lot of economic benefits from music because they use it as a tourism tool. And they get behind their artistes once an artiste seems to have potential and is about to get a break. So Jamaica has produced a lot of international artistes.
“Barbados is on the right track, but it should be a little bit more intensive because Barbados has a lot of talent,” explained Dobson, adding that Barbados’ range of music genres, including spouge, could be big sellers on the international scene if properly marketed.
“Barbados has talent; it just needs to make it into the country’s economic programme,” he said.
“It has to be a big money earner. Jamaica is earning big money off music and, truthfully, Jamaica has a lot of big names. But that can also be cultivated right here in Barbados.
“I have never heard anybody who sings as melodiously as Jackie Opel and Richard Stoute, and some of the other guys from Barbados,” added Dobson.
Queen Ifrica agreed that the Eastern Caribbean island was “sitting on a gold mine” when it came to the music industry and its potential contribution to the economy.
“What can we do? We need to start digging. We need to start walking out the house and looking around and see that there are diamonds and pearls out there and start to process it,” she said.
Queen Ifrica believes it is up to policymakers to create the right environment for the musicians to grab hold of the available opportunities.
“And the companies can really come and use their power. There are powerful companies hooked up all across the Caribbean. I know they really do things here and there, but we need to do it on a bigger, broader level,” she pointed out.
She also suggested that in the mix of things each country should seek to learn something from others who have had some success in areas they were seeking to develop or expand.
“One of the lessons that Barbadians can learn from the Jamaican artistes is that there is a variety of us, and there are always choices. So it depends on what you want to learn from a particular artiste,” Queen Ifrica said, adding that Jamaica could take a leaf from the page of Barbados when it came to the emphasis placed on education.