24July2014

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THE curtains came down on the Reggae Month's celebration yesterday. However, plans are already in place for next year's staging.

Charles Campbell, Jamaica Reggae Industry Association's (JaRIA) executive director and vice-chair, said a venue change is in order.

"We will be moving to Ranny Williams Entertainment Complex for the next five years," Campbell told the Jamaica Observer.

The executive said the move is in keeping with JaRIA's vision to establish a village for month-long celebrations.

He said the venue would not only showcase talent, but would act as the premier marketplace for conducting business.

Campbell said plans were in place to develop new streams of income in order to maintain the organisation's independence.

The JaRIA vice-chair said he was satisfied with this year's staging while acknowleging there is room for growth.

"What makes me feel good is each week attendances grew larger as the events built momentum. Last Wednesday was the biggest Wednesday of the series," he said.

The activities included Reggae Wednesdays free concerts held at Emancipation Park and Ranny Williams Entertainment Complex in St Andrew; the Open University discussion series at Ranny Williams Entertainment Complex; the Dennis Brown Tribute Concert in Kingston; the Trench Town Rock concert; and the JaRIA Honour Awards.

In an effort to woo more up-and-coming artistes and established acts, Campbell said it was a work-in-progress.

"We just have to continue chipping away at the block. The more successful Reggae Month is, the more we incorporate all the elements of our music in the programme and the more we will get active participation from those sector," he said.

Formed in 2008, JaRIA's mandate is to organise Reggae Month events with a view to uniting the entertainment industry.

Reggae Month activities were first held at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in St Andrew.

It outgrew the venue in the first three years then moved to Emancipation Park in St Andrew.

"We are now in the third transition, that in itself speaks on the growth," Campbell added.

Published in General Reggae News
Sunday, 21 July 2013 00:00

Jamaica's Reggae Sumfest 2013

Jamaica's annual Reggae Sumfest will draw thousands of reggae music fans to Montego Bay this week.

In its 21st year, the festival, dubbed by organisers as "the world's greatest reggae show on Earth," is yet again expected to be a major economic driver for both Jamaican tourism and the reggae music industry.

The week-long festival, which starts today and runs until Saturday, takes place in Montego Bay's Catherine Hall. It kicks off with a beach party tonight, while Dancehall Night will take place on Thursday and International Nights 1 and 2 will follow on Friday and Saturday.

Popular artists such as Flo Rida, Beres Hammond, Barrington Levy, Damian Marley, Romain Virgo and Chronixx join this year's line up.

Tickets range from US$25 at the gate to $60 per night. There are also several packages available, including a weekend pass for $110 and a VIP pass for $210.

The festival's corporate sponsors include Digicel, Iberostar Hotels & Resorts, Secrets Resorts & Spas, Pepsi Music, Ting, Red Stripe and Jamaica Tourist Board, among others.

Each year, when festivalgoers arrive in Jamaica for Reggae Sumfest, the tourism industry benefits. This year is predicted to be no different.

"For many festival attendees, reggae music is their introduction to Jamaica," says Jason Hall, the deputy director of tourism for Jamaica.

"We're not at our peak time of the year for Jamaican tourism, but during Reggae Sumfest almost all the hotels are filled," says Charles Campbell, the executive director of the Jamaica reggae industry association.

Many hotels are booked as far out as Ocho Rios, which is an hour and 10 minutes' drive away from Montego Bay, according to Mr Hall. Several hotels, including Half Moon, the Richmond Hill Inn and Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort, offer special Sumfest packages for the occasion.

While the festival draws fans from around the world to the region, other tourism areas, beyond hotels, also enjoy a boost in traffic and revenue. This ranges from guided tours to dining and nightlife to beach-related activities such as boating and parasailing. There is also the potential for repeat travellers who will attend the festival again or will choose to visit Jamaica another time of the year.

In addition, the festival provides an infusion, in terms of profits and public attention, for the reggae music industry, both locally in Jamaica and worldwide.

"Jamaica is the ground zero for reggae music," says Mr Hall.

"Reggae Sumfest provides a platform for truly dynamic artists along with those up-and-coming musicians stepping on to the global stage for the first time," he adds.

This year's festival comes at a time when the reggae industry in Jamaica is suffering something of a setback while other regions, such as Europe and the United States, seem to be thriving.

"Over the years, the business of making money in music has changed significantly," says Mr Hall.

He says recent milestones such as the inclusion of a reggae category in the Grammy Awards, the musical equivalent of the Oscars, and a special reggae segment during this year's BET Awards, which celebrate African Americans and other minorities in entertainment, has helped attract attention to the industry. However, he adds, the artists are still required to rely mainly on live performances for a steady income stream.

Mr Campbell agrees. "Reggae artists are doing well on the live circuit, but they are simply not doing what they used to do in terms of sales of CDs and merchandise, like T-shirts and posters," he says.

Music industry insiders say downloading songs from the internet is a big contributor to the declining sales of CDs.

The US sales tracking company SoundScan reported paltry record sales last year for big-name Jamaican reggae artists. For example, Reggae Music Again by Busy Signal showed sales of 4,548, while Romain Virgo's The System sold just 1,490 records. Beres Hammond's double compact disc titled One Love, One Life sold only 2,198 copies.

Meanwhile, although Jamaica and its artists have been in a slump regarding sales, Europe is experiencing "somewhat of a renaissance for reggae", according to Mr Campbell.

"More of today's popular reggae artists are living in Europe but come to Jamaica to produce music and for the vibe."

US reggae artists are also having more success. In contrast to the record sales of popular Jamaican musicians, American reggae hits such as Peace of Mind by the California band Rebelution sold 52,488 copies and Soja's Strength to Survive had sales of 38,427 in 2012, according to SoundScan.

However, reggae advocates in Jamaica firmly believe the country surpasses any other for this type of music, historically and in the present day.

In fact, many people share high hopes for a bright future of reggae in Jamaica.

"Jamaica is to music production as Bombay is to film production," says Mr Hall. "You have more musicians, technicians and sound mixers per capita in Jamaica than anywhere else in the world.

Published in Reggae Music News

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