Caribbean music professionals urged to collaborate

Caribbean music professionals are being urged to collaborate, as scores of artists use the downtime caused by COVID-19 to sharpen their musical skills and enhance their business knowledge, according to the Caribbean Export Development Agency (CEDA).

CEDA said recently that singers, song writers and music producers from as far north as the Dominican Republic and as far south as Guyana recently took part in its 60-hour Virtual Regional Song Writing and Music Production Training program.

CEDA said the initiative was held in conjunction with the sub-regional Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Competitive Business Unit.

According to Allyson Francis, CEDA’s services specialist, the training was designed to enhance the quality and trajectory of regional music by focusing on song writing, production and the business of music.

“There was also a practical component which involved a collaborative approach to writing and composing content that would find a place in regional and global markets,” she said, noting that trainers also paid attention to the construction of melodies, phrasing, hooks and themes.

Francis said singers, songwriters and producers were placed in groups, “a move which created fertile ground for skills sharing, as well as intercultural and cross-genre collaboration.”

“By the end of the 20-day period, a strong cadre of new songs were released,” she said. “You have done excellent work here.

“What I really liked was the collaboration that took place between the different countries,” Francis added. “I really think it means we are going in the right direction.

“The Caribbean is so rich, and what you all have done in a short space of time is exceptional,” she told participants, urging them to ensure that they knew how to “monetize” their work and that they understood the rudiments of the music business.

“Beyond production is distribution,” Francis said. “We have to start to talk about the platforms and begin to utilize them to distribute the music.

“At the end of the day it’s about money,” she added. “It’s no longer just about a like and a love; it is a business, the business of music and the business of what we do; as a team, understanding which aspect of the value-chain you best fit.”

Francis said COVID-19 has exposed the fragility of the music industry and reinforced that practitioners must find ways to promote, sell and showcase their work beyond live performances and carnivals.

“From a Caribbean Export standpoint, I’m very pleased to be part of this, but we can only do so much as a development agency,” she said. “I want you to continue to do your part, as we will continue to contribute to making sure you are successful.

“One way at least will be to ensure you have digital presence,” Francis urged.

Sobers Espirt, business Ddevelopment officer with the OECS Competitive Business Unit, also called for increased collaboration.

He said that the collaborative approach had been successfully used by “big-named” artists for years, suggesting that participants consider this strategic approach.

“The interaction during the program has been excellent, and I’m even more excited about the outcome, Espirt said. “We are hoping it will spur greater collaboration because, internationally, the success of the music industry is through joint efforts.

“What we witnessed in this program were people, who represented all the islands of the Caribbean, coming together for this venture,” he added. “It was tremendous.

“The Caribbean needs that at this difficult time in our history,” Espirt continued. “Caribbean Export has played their part in terms of bringing the resources required to get all the artists,  trainers, mentors and producers together, but the part that you must play has to be to thicken the collaboration, to seek out support from each other and to see how we can work to produce different grids of music for Caribbean listeners, and for global listeners who are looking to buy and consume Caribbean music, because that is the goal.”

Timeka Marshall, a Guyanese singer and songwriter, is no stranger to collaborations, CEDA said.

While she endorsed regional “collabs,” Marshall urged music practitioners to explore joint ventures beyond the Caribbean.

“Collaborating is something that I always love to do, because you get a chance to reach into someone else’s fanbase and be exposed to a whole new set of people,” she said. “So, it is something I would always encourage.”

Marshall said a few years ago, she released a song featuring StoneBowy from Ghana.

“That opened me to a whole new market and Africa is a huge market for reggae and dancehall,” she said. “With the explosion of Latin music, Latin artists are collaborating with English artists, and the Spanish market is a huge market.

“The world is one just one huge melting pot of culture, sounds and so on,” Marshall added. “The more we can mix and the more we can blend, the better for us.”

As result of the program, CEDA said some 23 tracks are being produced to be showcased virtually to buyers and sellers in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia.

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