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Music industry talk conference hits the spot

Published: 
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Creativity abounded at the Caribbean Dance Music (CDM) Conference 2017 as producers, songwriters, artistes and audience members came together to produce a CDM track live. Another highlight of the conference was the launch of On Lock Records by partners CDMC organiser Karilee Fifi and Kitwana “Kit” Israel of AdvoKit Productions.

The resulting track, produced by Keshav Singh of Jus Now and voiced by Kees Dieffenthaller and Aaron “Voice” St Louis, will be released on the new label, which is affiliated with Sony Records and will have access to The Orchard, Sony’s distribution service.

Jose Abreu, senior director for Digital Business in the Latin and Iberian Regions, said the practitioners present were part of the same community and needed to come together to figure out a way to move forward. “We at Sony are about supporting all music. If we don’t give it a platform, people won’t be able to make a living off of it.

We can help with connections. Let’s work together, instead of as individuals and build a brand.”

The conference also involved an Industry Talks panel, which included Abreu and industry names such as Stef Kalloo, Michael “Tano” Montano, Jimmy October and Mark Hardy, and facilitated by Carl “Beaver” Henderson.

Henderson said the practitioners needed to unite against people outside the industry who use their infighting against them. He said this is the first time in the history of T&T’s music industry that the country is on an equal footing with the rest of the world because of technology, so they should seize this opportunity to promote themselves, especially in the age of digital distribution, instead of waiting on radio play.

He also said if practitioners develop their craft, the money will follow, but they must be willing to put in the work first.

He said practitioners should start demanding their space in life and be more forceful, rather than being influenced by persons who want to tell them how to sound and what to sing.

Hardy said he began his career by singing soca, and producer Ken Bhola showed him how soca could be done differently.

Meeting Young Rudd, inventing trapso and collaborating with Bad Royale influenced his music.

He said there’s a whole world outside of T&T and practitioners need to stop living here mentally, begin exploring local markets and keep an open mind.

Tano said when he took his recent release — No One — with Kalpee to local studios, he was advised to wait for the soca season to start before releasing it, but because the song was so good, it was signed with Sony Middle East. He said this made him realise that songs should be put out when they feel right,without waiting on a season.

October’s take was that practitioners were not certain what the industry was supposed to look like. “I think you can do whatever type of music you like, it’s how you do it, and you need to know what it should look like.” He said what has worked for him thus far is having good music which is recognisable as his, having a social media presence and developing his brand. He said it is important to use all available platforms, know the business side, understand they’re creating and selling content and focus on building a fan base that will be loyal.

The panelists agreed that networking is critically important in order for songwriters to get their songs listened to, voiced and produced. They said often practitioners did not want to take constructive criticism.

They advocated for the formation of teams to work on projects, with the caveat that different teams can be formed for different endeavours. It was stated that contracts played an important part in building an industry and entertainment lawyers should always be engaged.

Audience members said owning a website is crucial, and all methods of marketing should be directed to the website, while grassroots guerilla marketing is also important.

Presentations were made by representatives of Radial, an online streaming app devoted to Caribbean music, as well as X-Originals, who spoke about the pairing of dance artists with dance music.

Joshua Moreno, one half of duo Benny Shadow, whose song Massive was recently released on On Lock Records, said it’s upsetting when foreign acts feature Caribbean talent on their productions, but don’t invest in the talent. “We should create opportunities for them to feature on our music. We want to make sure that the Caribbean is sold, not bought, we want to make it our own,” he said.