Stakeholders appeal to Jamaicans to buy local music

August 20, 2021
Vybz Kartel
Vybz Kartel
Album cover for Spice’s album,TEN.
Album cover for Spice’s album,TEN.

As Jamaica celebrated its 59th anniversary as an independent nation on August 6, two of its leading dancehall artistes released full-length albums.

Vybz Kartel dropped his project titled Born Fi Dis, while Spice released her highly anticipated body of work, dubbed 10.

Both albums have since landed on the coveted Billboard Reggae Albums charts. Spice's album came in at number six with a first-week sale of 1,447 total units, inclusive of consumption from streaming in the United States.

But only 676 were considered pure album sales. Born Fi Dis came in at number nine with 1,290 total units of consumption, but only 605 considered pure album sales. Pure album sales equate to the number of digital and physical copies sold.

While the numbers are considered 'low', music industry insiders have defended the statistics.

"It is a very difficult market for albums nowadays, especially in our genre. We don't really see many albums from our world getting released and doing massive numbers because very, very few people are actually buying albums. Album sales and downloads have been on the decline because people prefer accessing the music for free on platforms such as YouTube," said artiste manager Julian Jones-Griffith.

"Another issue is that our core market in dancehall are not streaming our music as much as people who are into reggaeton or hip-hop or R&B. So unless our Jamaican artistes find a way to break out of that core market, where they're attracting listeners and fans that will stream and purchase their music, the numbers are always gonna look bad."

Sasha-gay Roache of Bling Blang Works agreed, suggesting that for sales numbers to improve, music consumers need to show support by actually purchasing an artiste's work.

"Dancehall's future is very bright. Our generation is about to take things to the next level. Our streams and buys will be major, because we will be creating in a time when everyone and everything is online-based," she said. "But at the end of the day, the numbers won't go up if we (Jamaicans and lovers of reggae/dancehall) are not buying our own music. People who 'love' reggae and dancehall hardly support it by going to iTunes and buying the music. It's so easy for us to buy music from an international artiste, but when it comes to our music, no matter how good it is, we're not buying and we need to change that."

But Roache and Jones-Griffith said that sales do not determine the quality of an artiste's production.

"It's a singles-driven industry, so if an album doesn't sell hundreds of thousands of units in the first week, it doesn't necessarily mean that album is not good. It's just the market that we are in. It's not about coming out and doing 100,000 copies in your first week or 60,000 in your second week. That is not important. It's about releasing an album as a statement and a legacy. Over the years, it will do what it is supposed to do because it's always gonna be there," said Jones-Griffith.

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