August 24, 2018
August 24, 2018

Seven Ways Dancehall and Reggae Artistes can generate more money from their music

Gold selling Reggae singer Gyptian recently ranted to Anthony Miller on Entertainment Report that record labels such as his former label VP records are useless in promoting Dancehall and Reggae Music. He said they are a “tag along with the teamand while they might have the resources, they are not marketing and promoting the reggae bands and brands like they should to properly compete on the world music scene and as a result the artistes are not selling. He said other labels are not taking up Reggae acts because they dont know how to market the Reggae and Dancehall acts either.

I agree with Gyptian on that assessment and this is no longer a situation unique to Jamaica and Jamaican artistes. Reggae and Dancehall acts should not rely on record labels because they simply have nothing to give that the artist cannot give themselves. 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.

A recent 88 page report by Citi Bank, titled PUTTING THE BAND BACK TOGETHER; Remastering the world of music, showed that the music industry in the United States, one of the largest music markets made over 43 billion dollars last year. Of that sum, the artists only made 12%.

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklyn died recently at the age of 76. Forbes Magazine estimated that upon her death she had a fortune of 80 million dollars. She sold over 73 million records during her lifetime and is one of the most license singers, but according to Forbes her yearly earnings in the 3 years before she died added up to about $265,000.

They reported that she lost a lot of earnings because she did not do many tours due to her fear of flying. To many people her earnings might seem like a lot of money, but compared to the other megastar Kings and Queens of Music of her stature, like Barbara Streisand who sold 72 million records and has a net worth of nearly half a billion US dollars. Had the respected Queen Aretha Franklyn own the rights to many of the hits songs she sang or owned the masters, her earnings would have been significantly more. Additionally, an artiste who sold millions of records and made good deals during their fruitful days shouldnt have to tour to earn well.

How money is made in music?

A lot of the money generated from music comes from Royalty payments, for last year according to Citi a total of 7.3 billion united states dollars were generated from music in the United States alone. 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, 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.

 The focus for Reggae and dancehall artistes should be on owning their music masters, making better deals finding long term value contracts. Regardless of how much initial money may be on the table from record companies or corporations the long term value must go both ways. Here are seven things they can do to increase their earning potential with their music independently:

Use endorsements dont let endorsements use you

Many artiste subsidize their earnings with corporate endorsements. However, what many neglect to realize is that the their image or name on a poster, on a billboard or on corporate products is not a value to them, it is of more value to the corporation. Popularity does not guarantee money. To ensure sustained returns on their career, part of the negotiations for endorsements should include the sharing of the artistes music and merchandise with costumers of the corporation. If corporations are using an artistes talent to sell their products, they should include a clause in their contract for the use of corporate resources to help sell the music?

This may include bundle sales with the corporate product whether it is mackerel, cosmetics or electronics , and a copy of the artistes album or latest single should be part of the sale for long term benefits. In a deal like this, the corporations will pay for the music in their deal , and simply pass on the freevalue 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 Zs platinum status upon release and Samsung got their endorsement from Jay Zs brand in the value exchange. It is of little value for an artiste to be a walking billboard for a product and not see a return value for his music which is his core business.

Own your Masters

As much as possible, own your recording masters and the publishing of any music that can have you dancing. In addition to your brand as an artiste, this is the most valuable portion of your music career. Owning a catalog of your music transitions you from just a simple 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 50% of ATV to Sony for 100 million dollars in 1995 to form Sony/Atv music publishing a company that Jackson owned 50% which contains 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.

Use Youtube

Live-streaming with social media and Youtube platforms to build audiences and distribute content has become common place for artistes. Numerous non-music persons are also doing this. There is one youtube channel that makes US$40,000 per month from criticizing childrens play dough. More artistes are finding youtube to be the place of choice to distribute their musical content as it is the largest streaming platform with 1.6 billion persons. 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. 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. Shenseea made the announcement recently that her pon mimusic video got over 8 million views in just under two months.

There are songs that will break on youtube that wouldnt have the same impact without the visuals. 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. 

Live Streaming

In addition to youtubes revenue, the artistes can live stream their concerts paid upfront by sponsors and promoters on their artistes channel. The amount will vary based on the artistes brand and youtube subscription numbers. Facebook and Youtube have the biggest gathering of people on the internet, so make your music easy to watch and accessible to them on those platforms. I imagine there are countless people all over the world who would love to witness a Tarrus Riley concert live from Germany as was the case recently. You are making music for it to get to the most people. Impress this value on the concert promoter and negotiate deals that bundle with the streams a copy of your latest release.

Think like an entrepreneur, act like an artist.

All artistes should think like entrepreneurs. At the same time you are recording the music you should set up an independent plan in place to sell your music. Set up a website with your products available for sale easily and conveniently like amazon. Invest in the pressing and shipping of your Cds with a personalized touch by your team members. Streamline your 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 to the sale of your music, it can turn out to be a lot more interesting and profitable than selling just cds by themselves. Some fans may not want o purchase the music but they will buy merchandise.

Be Bold in asking

A key finding in the report by Citi Bank showed that consumers of music are opting to rent music rather than purchase it. With this demise in record sales, artiste in general are touring more often and concert subscriptions are now at an all time high. Since most of the top Reggae or Dancehall artiste 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 to properly compete. They can bundle cds or purchasing codes on iTunes with concert tickets. If ten thousand paid persons attend each concert, they are guaranteed ten thousand cds sold. After ten shows of a similar audience, they would have sold 100,000 records. This will count towards their Billboard chart statistics and make for bigger opportunities.

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 JR Watkis podcast on Spotify and Apple podcast, I speak to many artist and the common fruit of their musical career began with the seeds planted. The long term value of music making is in the recorded masters, and touring concerts. If you choose to give away your power out of desperation or immaturity, you will pay for it in your latter days. So make fine music, negotiate better deals for yourself and be consistent.

Donovan Watkis is the creator and host of World Music Views on TVJ during ER

You may email feedback to or follow @jrwatkis on twitter or instagram.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.