In the late 1960′s when Reggae roared unto the scene, Jamaica held the helm as not only the homeland of reggae, but also its economic capital. In the over four decades which have passed since then, Reggae has evolved into a global cultural meme no longer indigenous to Jamaican shores. From Hawaii, to Japan, UK To China, and every other nation in between, have spawned their own cultural interpretation of this Jamaican musical art form, which were rapidly assimilated into their respective societies.
During this time we flaunted the opportunity to protect one of our most valuable intangible national assets, which has now become a global creative common. Economically, homegrown reggae generates roughly 185 million US Dollars in an industry that has a global market value of between 2-4 billion US dollars annually. This being said, France, Germany, UK, Japan and US are not only listed as the top 5 consumers of reggae globally, but have now become Reggae’s biggest producers. The Music Export Market has become one of France’s biggest earners, and recognizing this fact, much has been put into place to not only catalyze this burgeoning export market, but also to incubate and protect it. Artists are able to tap public financial resources to fund album projects, of which a small portion returns to continue the longevity of the fund, a sort of “Artists Credit Union” from how i understand the concept. This new pedigree offspring of Reggae also presents itself as a much more marketable product. Seamless fusions of other afro centric influences such as AfroBeat, Dub, Jazz, Hiphop (another Jamaican product) and R&B, have allowed indie artists such as Asa, Ayo, Nneka, Gentleman, and the latest sensations Jboog and Selah Sue, to out sell local cohorts as much as 80 to 1 !!
French reggae artists consistently sell gold and platinum albums in france alone. In comparison the two biggest locally selling albums in the last two years has been Protoje’s “Seven Year Itch” moving an approximated 1100 physical copies in 2011, and Nomaddz “The Trod” which sold another 1000 copies in 2010. A major difference compared to France. Reggae Sumfest pulls 30,000 people each year and is viewed as one of Jamaica’s biggest tourism catalysts each summer. In France, Reggae concerts of that size dot the local entertainment calendar weekly. Numbers never lie, And with that sad fact comes an even harsher reality. France is now undisputedly the Reggae Economic Capital of the world. The title will never be regained by Jamaica. And be forewarned, if the Jamaican government does not make bold steps to protect the little dignity and national identity that we have left in regards to Reggae, I am sure, in the very near future, we will also lose the economic “whats left” that has now become recognized globally as the Jamaican Music Industry.
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