Demarco cautions reggae acts about int’l label contracts

April 19, 2022

Veteran dancehall artiste, songwriter, and producer Demarco believes that for any reggae-dancehall artiste, signing a record contract with an international label is a risk.

Demarco, who said he recently ended a contract with a US-based recording label, is adamant that "I don't want to sign to another, not like that".

He continued: "It's a numbers game for these companies [so] if an artiste releases an album and it's not able to meet a sales target, the artiste and dem music more than likely a guh get shelved."

He compared the pure album sales of a few reggae and dancehall entertainers with American recording artistes who are signed to some of the same labels.

"Between last year to the start of 2022, look at how me, Spice, Vybz Kartel, Skillibeng, Jesse Royal, Koffee, and Shenseea, among so many others, released albums. But together, the pure sales do not even add up 20,000 but, the albums are good. Alkaline is one of the dancehall artistes that did the most with little over 1,500 in the first week," he said. "Still, our local artistes are performing all across the world to sold-out venues, up to 20,000 persons in an audience. Why all these people never buy the albums? Meanwhile, [some of the rappers] selling six times the amount we do [and some] can't even leave the US to perform for many reasons, including the fact that some are felons."

Shenseea's Alpha, which debuted on March 11, moved 845 units in pure album sales in its first week, while Koffee's Gifted sold 700 units. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certifies albums that sell 500,000 units as gold albums. But most reggae and dancehall albums do not sell that well which, it is believed, causes labels to decide not to invest in the artistes.

"When this happens, the artistes get stuck," Demarco explained.

In 2019, Demarco received his RIAA gold plaque for his role in Charly Black's Gyal You A Party Animal, after selling 500,000 units four years following its release. He said record labels may be taking a risk, but the artistes take far greater risks. "That's why when me see dancehall artistes go sign with a big record label, I don't particularly like that," he said.

He added that it is better and "more profitable" to be an independent artiste, once an entertainer and his or her management team do their research properly.

"There's a lot of money in music and dancehall, we just need structure and we need our own people to buy the music. It looks bad. The people that say dancehall nah sell, [are] not supporting by making a purchase. If Jamaica and the Caribbean region purchased the music, that would reflect our potential. If all those people purchased the albums in the first week, I guarantee we'd probably hear of an Atlantic Records setting up office on our island to find the stars," he said.

Demarco also advised that for every hardcore single released 'for the streets', artistes should release a 'commercial' one for international radio that can be marketed globally. He also urged artistes who are planning to sign a contract to get an entertainment lawyer who will argue in their favour.

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