There’s a suggestion that Barbados could use music to help grow its economy.
Senior Fellow at the University of Technology (UTECH) in Jamaica, Dr Vanus James said if more investment was pumped into the music industry in Barbados and other countries in the region, there could be greater innovation in the sector.
He argued that a lack of investment could be stifling innovation, which was leading to under export of quality music.
The econometrician – an individual who uses statistics and mathematics to study, model, and predict economic principles and outcomes – put forward the argument while addressing an online policy forum under the theme, Music, Innovation and Economic Development.
The recent function was hosted by the Association of Caribbean Copyright Societies (ACCS) in collaboration with the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute for Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) and the Barbados-based Copyright Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (COSCAP).
James said he believed that in order to adequately compete on the global stage, the region’s capacity to innovate in the music industry should be increased and this would require greater levels of investment.
“That may come as a surprise to policymakers in the region,” he said.
“The critical observation we have to make about this is that it means growth of capacity to implement competitive strategies and to innovate. Growth of this capacity . . . is achieved by growing the output of domestic capital. Music is a prime creator for domestic capital relative to all other output,” he explained.
The international consultant said that in the case of Barbados, “I have produced evidence to show that a one per cent increase in the capacity to innovate displaces imports by 0.19 per cent, while growing exports by 2 per cent. So that is a net gain if you increase your capacity to innovate”.
Adding that Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago would also see gains if they grow their capacity to innovate, Dr James argued that digital streaming and other technological advancements in the industry in the region remained “way below the curve” when compared to other markets.
James maintained that the region had the ability to be world leaders in the music industry and become a “global talent hub” that could facilitate greater trade of music.
However, he said, increased investment was necessary in the growth of knowledge and skills to help the industry, pointing out that the Caribbean “cannot implement optimal competitive strategy by simply following the rest of the world”.
“You have to invest energetically in holding your own; and Caribbean musicians know that. Every year they bring new music to the world,” he said.
Meanwhile, Director and Senior Research Fellow at SALISES Don Marshall said while music was one of the “defining traits” of the Caribbean, “the question of our innovation is something that still remains an unheralded story”.
He suggested that creative sector officials and the region were still not getting their “just desserts”, despite “long discussions about the creative industries and how we augment that”.
“It is important that we harness the rightful gains that our musicians and our artiste are due for their creative work,” Marshall said.
“There has been a long discussion of the power of our music, its reach, the global icons that we have gifted to the world, but the underside to that story is one where we have not always harnessed the potential from the fact that we promote this very powerful music.”
He pointed out that Barbadian-born superstar Rihanna and her team was one example of modern innovation, adding that “not since Grace Jones have we had a Caribbean icon of symbolic, popular appeal like we have had in Rihanna”.
“This is the power of the music. And sometimes through music we don’t capture well enough how our musical entrepreneurs define or redefine what innovation really means,” he said.
This development comes at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has put a damper on large gatherings and resulted in the cancellation of festivals and tours in the region, forcing creative industry operators to find new ways to generate income.
President of the ACCS John Arnold gave the assurance that his organisation had ramped up efforts over the past year, as it engaged national collective management organisations to ensure greater benefits for members.
The ACCS has over 10 000 members.
The Trinidad-based Arnold said work was ongoing in the areas of digitisation, capacity strengthening, regional licensing policies and tariff settings, and online training programmes.
He said the ACCS was also enhancing its visibility while strengthening membership with other organisations as it seeks to “monetise creativity in post COVID-19”.
“The challenges are many and we have to stare down the barrel of an unpredictable future. We determined that despite the uncertain times, we will look for the opportunities, collaborate…and honour our commitment to the creators,” said Arnold.