How Reggae and Dancehall can make more money in the global music industry.

Reggae and Dancehall acts should not only rely on record labels because labels have nothing to give that the artists cannot give themselves. Additionally, niche artists in the genre won’t fit into the mass appeal needed for record labels to invest.

How money is made in music industry?

According to the RIAA year end revenue report streaming accounted for 75% of music income for the year 2018.

A lot of the money generated from music comes from Royalty payments. Mechanical royalties come from streams and downloads with each royalty per stream approximately $0.0007 per download. Even more is generated from physical sales of cds, performance royalties and synchronized royalties.

According to Citi study, US$4.9 billion was generated on recorded music royalties in 2017 and 85% of this sum went to Record labels and the few artists that own their masters.

With this in mind, every Reggae and Dancehall artistes should be thinking about owning their music masters and making better deals with long term value contracts. Regardless of how much initial money may be on the table from record companies, production deals or corporations, the long term value must rhythmically increase for both the artist and company.

To make it simple here are seven things you can do to as an artists to increase your earning potential even without a label support:

1. Use endorsements don’t let endorsements use you.

Artistes subsidize their earnings with corporate endorsements but what many neglect to realize is that their image or name on a poster, a billboard or on corporate products is of a lesser value to them and more valuable to the corporate entity unless they have a stake in the company.

Popularity does not guarantee money.

To ensure sustained returns on your career, part of the negotiation for endorsements should include the sharing of the your music and merchandise with the costumers of the company you are endorsing. For example if corporations are using your talent to sell their products, insist on a clause in the contract for the use of corporate resources to help sell your music?

This may include bundle sales with the corporate products whether it is a mackerel, cosmetics or electronics, included in each product sale should be a copy of the your latest album or single if you expect to gain in the long term.

In a deal like this, the corporations will pay for the music , and simply pass on the “free” value to the consumer as “brawta”. Jay Z negotiated a similar deal with Samsung when he released his Magna Carter Album in 2013.

One Million Samsung handsets got a copy of the album. This guaranteed Jay Z’s platinum status upon release of his music and Samsung got their endorsement from Jay Z’s brand in the value exchange. It is of little value for an artiste to be a walking billboard for a product he has no financial stake and instead of the music which is his/her core business.

2. Own your Masters.

Perhaps the most important lesson for all artist has been about their master recordings. As much as possible, artist should do all in their power to own their recording masters and for gold measure the publishing of any music with a dance groove. In addition to the brand, for artiste this is the most valuable portion of their music career. Owning a catalog of their music transitions them from just a simple recording artiste to a business person.

Michael Jackson was a priceless pop star, not only because he was a great performer but because he negotiated and purchased ATV music. He later sold fifty percent of ATV to Sony Records for 100 million dollars in 1995 to form Sony/Atv music publishing, a company that Jackson owned fifty percent. That company owns the Beatles catalog, Elvis Presley, Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen. When Michael made his initial purchase of the company he made a US$47.5 Million investment after having a discussion about the value of music publishing with Beatles member Paul McCartney. Recently Sony bought his remaining interest for just under 1 billion dollars after his death.

3. Use YouTube.

Live-streaming with social media and YouTube platforms can build audiences and distribute content beyond borders. With telecoms companies like flow now offering unlimited youtube packages streaming is happening now more than ever in the Caribbean. There is one youtube channel that makes US$40,000 per month from criticizing children’s play dough. Another promoted slime for children and became a billion dollar brand. More artistes are finding the youtube community to be the place of choice to distribute their musical content first as it is the largest streaming platform with 1.6 billion persons making it the most popular music destination. It is the new MTV and BET.

Music was YouTube’s leading revenue source last year earning over three billion USD and music videos are the most popular category with 32% of all site views.

Many of the streaming platforms like iTunes and Spotify have geo-blocks on their sites to prevent Jamaicans and people from the Caribbean region from accessing their sites without a VPN or a foreign address. However, YouTube is available to all. Shenseea and Rygin King have used the platform to create massive fan bases by putting out full length catchy music videos. Snow made a huge comeback with Daddy Yankee with a number one YouTube hit Con Calma. World Music Views now shows how music is being consumed on YouTube weekly for an audience of over three million people.

There are songs that will break on YouTube that wouldn’t have the same impact without the visuals, so make your videos as interesting as possible. “This is America” by Childish Gambino proved this recently.

Youtube pays artistes by the amount of views they have and the clicks on embedded ads but aside from what YouTube pays the currency of attention can propel your career internationally. Your job is to feed content to your tribe everyday.

4. Live Streaming.

In addition to youtube’s attention and revenue, as an artistes you can live stream your concerts and get them sponsored.

Facebook and YouTube have the biggest gathering of people on the internet, so by making your musical concerts easy to watch and accessible to them on those platforms you can become an international household name using your own media channels. I imagine there are countless people all over the world who would love to witness a Tarrus Riley, Buju Banton, or Sean Paul concert live from Germany or Jamaica. Remember you are making music for it to get to the most people in the easiest way. Impress this value on the concert promoters and negotiate deals that bundle with the streams a copy of your latest release.

5. Think like an entrepreneur, act like an artist.

At the same time you are recording the music you should set up an independent plan in place to sell your music. You are the CEO but hire people to assist with your organization. Set up a website with your products available for sale easily and conveniently like amazon. Invest in the pressing and shipping of your Cds, music cards with a personalized touch by you. Streamline an independent operations by making good music and providing a rare experience. Fans will appreciate this and you will create and maintain a cult like following. Include posters, T-Shirts, hats, badges and other images for sale and bundle it with the music. It can turn out to be a lot more interesting and profitable than selling just cds by themselves. Some fans may not want to purchase the music but they will buy merchandise.

Dancehall-Reggae acts can borrow strategies used by artists like Prince, Radio Head, Chance the Rapper and Tech N9ne who plays over 100 concerts every year and earns over 8 million US dollars independently.

6. Be Bold in your asking.

With this demise in record sales, artistes in general are touring more often and concert subscriptions are now at an all time high. Since most of the top Reggae or Dancehall artistes make their money from touring, they should always present themselves as top billing acts on every show and organize their own tours with seasoned, educated promoters in order to properly compete. If ten thousand paid persons attend each concert, you are guaranteed ten thousand cds sold if you bundle ticket sales with the music. After ten shows of a similar audience, that is a sale of 100,000 records. This could count towards Billboard chart statistics and make for bigger narrative.

7. Negotiate everything

Everything is negotiable even when it is already written down and you must leverage your power to negotiate from the beginning.

On my Top Form Podcast I speak to many Reggae and Dancehall acts and the common fruit of their musical success began with the early seeds planted. If you choose to give away your power out of desperation or immaturity, you will pay for it in the latter days. So make fine music, and negotiate better deals for yourself by being consistent, sincere and thinking BIG.

Donovan Watkis is the CEO of Think Media, and host of World Music Views on TVJ during ER.




Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store