Dwayne Mendes says: Make local music a business!

Dwayne Mendes says: Make local music a business!

Every month hundreds of businesses and promoters pay the Eastern Caribbean Collective Organization of Music Rights (ECCO) with uncertainty of how their investment will benefit the industry. In actuality, most people only pay ECCO because it is law.

As such, promoters and event organizers go through the motions of acquiring a license because it is one of many prerequisites of the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO). At the end of the day, we all hope our investment of licensing music will in some way benefit the island’s music industry, but as with everything else, the devil’s in the detail.

For a more profitable music industry, one that gives credit where due, and creates a solid foundation for musicians to reap the full benefits of the art, there is much that still needs to be implemented and enforced.

Take the debate of making it mandatory that more local music be played on local airways. The topic has been bounced around for years now with those calling for the regulation comparing the advent of such to “how things should work in the real world.” By now you would have intentionally or not tuned into one of our local radio stations and listened in as local artistes shared their perspectives.

Apart from those benefiting from sometimes selective local radio play, the cry remains the same. Oftentimes, the voices are the same. Local artistes call these stations on the regular with complaints that their music just isn’t being played enough, or at all.

They share the view that it should in fact be made law that a set percentage of local music be played on our airwaves and that paying for play should not be the primary factor dictating what everyone else has to listen to. Ironically, on the other side of the fence local music is strongly supported by most radio stations but the frequency of releases and quality is more often than not found lacking. In simple terms, it cannot meet radio stations demands.

That’s not to say there are not times when local music all but takes over the airwaves. Admittedly, there is a seasonal trend with local music domination, and not coincidentally, it is in these ‘open seasons’ that the majority of local artistes release the bulk of their work. One of those times just happens to be carnival (end of May to the end of July). Across the globe the demand for music has changed with the popularity of the Internet and music streaming websites, listeners are able to listen to whatever they want at any time.

No longer can a radio station dictate what someone should listen to, hence, radio stations have now evolved to target individual demographics. Musical creators must be mindful of this evolution and cannot expect every radio station to play their song without proper strategy and marketing.

As it stands, the focus should be on finding the right approach that will encourage local music creators to release music throughout the year. What would be the incentive to have music creators release songs? Royalties (getting paid for your intellectual property). A law stating that 30 percent local music should be played on radio and in public areas would increase a local music creator’s royalty cheque from ECCO.

Musicians would then be encouraged to release and promote their music if they are confident in being paid for their efforts. However, they must be cognizant of the fact that releasing music is one thing while promoting, getting it into rotation and having it played is another. ECCO already collects money from promoters, businesses and radio stations, this law will only result in more money being paid to local music creators rather than it falling into the abyss of an international music society.

Subsequently, such a law will make our local music a business, while at the same time, invigorating local music creators to produce, release and market their work knowing they will be reasonably compensated for their efforts. There are challenges.

Most local music creators are not registered with ECCO and therefore their work (intellectual property) is not registered and cannot be remunerated. We have to encourage our local music creators to register their work with ECCO or a musical society of their choice before releasing music. In some countries music played on radio or in public places that is not registered is considered illegal.

This is to ensure that all music creators are compensated. Royalties is big business. Radio stations aren’t the only ones dishing out the cash, artistes now acquire bigger royalty cheques from the Internet (Facebook, Google, YouTube, Vevo and other music streaming websites). The music industry is not much different from other industries.

Take the food manufacturing sector for instance. The guidelines applied to establish laws where importers of chicken are obligated to purchase a 30 percent quota locally before importing fall under the same model that can be applied for the local music industry. Music can become one of our main local exports and be added to our Gross Domestic Product. The industry can reduce unemployment and create a list of new careers.

Let us support our government in passing this law while we educate and inspire our local music creators to make their music a business.

(Article submitted by Dwayne Mendes)

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