SAINT LU­CIAN MU­SIC NEEDS US NOW!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Ian Sanchez

Over the last three years, Saint Lu­cian writ­ers and com­posers who are mem­bers of the East­ern Caribbean Col­lec­tions Or­ga­ni­za­tion (ECCO) have re­ceived re­duced roy­alty cheques. This is due to the fact that ECCO has changed the sys­tem of mon­i­tor­ing the amount of mu­sic played on ra­dio. The or­gan­i­sa­tion cur­rently mon­i­tors four Saint Lu­cian ra­dio sta­tions and one TV sta­tion and ECCO can ac­cess on a daily ba­sis the songs played on Saint Lu­cian ra­dio. Note that presently there are thir­teen ra­dio sta­tions and eight tele­vi­sion sta­tions in Saint Lu­cia.

On av­er­age ECCO has in­di­cated that less than five per­cent of Saint Lu­cian mu­sic is played on Saint Lu­cian ra­dio sta­tions. This means that of what ECCO col­lects in roy­al­ties, most of this money leaves Saint Lu­cia to pay re­gional and in­ter­na­tional artistes un­der the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s re­cip­ro­cal ar­range­ment.

We may ask why is this so. Are our Ra­dio an­nounc­ers (some of whom are artistes them­selves) not pa­tri­otic or is our mu­sic not up to in­ter­na­tional stan­dard? To the first ques­tion I can­not speak but to the ques­tion of qual­ity I can safely say that over the years there has been a vast im­prove­ment in the qual­ity of mu­sic recorded by Saint Lu­cian artistes in all gen­res - from al­ter­na­tive, gospel, pop, Hip Hop and R&B to Reg­gae, Soca and ca­lypso. And, mu­sic is now pro­duced, recorded and re­leased through­out the year and not just dur­ing sea­sons such as car­ni­val and Christ­mas. Nev­er­the­less, the sit­u­a­tion which now con­fronts us has as much to do with eco­nom­ics as with our in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty, and we need to do some­thing about it and soon.

In 2014 ECCO’s sur­plus rev­enue (rev­enue above ex­penses) was over $200,000. Yet the amount dis­trib­uted to lo­cal com­posers and song­writ­ers was un­der $50,000. Yes, over $100,000 was re­mit­ted to over­seas mu­sic so­ci­eties.

I strongly be­lieve that the time has come for our Min­istry of Cre­ative In­dus­tries and, by ex­ten­sion, the govern­ment to man­date to our Saint Lu­cian broad­cast­ers a set per­cent­age of Saint Lu­cian mu­sic to be played on ev­ery ra­dio sta­tion. This even as many of them are in breach of pay­ing their broad­cast li­cense and a pend­ing re­vi­sion of the Broad­cast Act by the Min­is­ter with re­spon­si­bil­ity for Broad­cast­ing.

We need not in­vent the wheel, but only fol­low the Cana­dian model where an av­er­age of 40% of Cana­dian mu­sic was once man­dated to be played on Cana­dian ra­dio. This is known as Cana­dian Con­tent (CAN­CON) and is part of the Cana­dian Broad­cast­ing Act. This leg­is­la­tion has as­sisted the de­vel­op­ment of the Cana­dian Mu­sic in­dus­try and has helped pro­pel Cana­dian artists Bryan Adams, Ce­line Dion and oth­ers.

With such an ini­tia­tive our song­writ­ers and com­posers will then be paid roy­al­ties to al­low them to in­vest in new pro­duc­tions and be more com­pet­i­tive with the rest of the world at a time when CD and al­bum sales have vir­tu­ally gone out the win­dow.

Cur­rently our song­writ­ers com­pete with song­writ­ers from the Caribbean, USA, Cana­dian and Euro­pean mar­kets where there is not a level play­ing field. For in­stance, the av­er­age USA mu­sic la­bel has fund­ing to sup­port its artistes by fund­ing mar­ket­ing cam­paigns and mu­sic videos. Can our Saint Lu­cian artistes com­pete with this?

The idea of Saint Lu­cian Con­tent (LUCIANCON) must be ad­dressed, and soon, if we are to em­brace a bur­geon­ing mu­sic in­dus­try here.

Sim­ply put, it’s about Saint Lu­cian artistes and hav­ing ac­cess to Saint Lu­cian air­waves. It is im­por­tant be­cause even as we em­brace 37 years as an in­de­pen­dent state, Saint Lu­cian pro­grammes and mu­sic give voice to Saint Lu­cians, to their tal­ent and their shared ex­pe­ri­ences. Eco­nom­i­cally, it means jobs for hun­dreds of Saint Lu­cians in an era where un­em­ploy­ment, par­tic­u­larly among our youth and most cre­ative sec­tor, is high. Em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties would range from cre­ation to pro­duc­tion, dis­tri­bu­tion, mar­ket­ing, per­form­ing and so on.

The pri­mary ob­jec­tive of this move is to en­cour­age in­creased ex­po­sure of Saint Lu­cian mu­si­cal per­form­ers, lyri­cists and com­posers to Saint Lu­cian au­di­ences, first as they build a home base and even­tu­ally to cat­a­pult them on to the re­gional and in­ter­na­tional stage.

The sec­ondary ob­jec­tive -- an in­dus­trial one -- is to strengthen the Saint Lu­cian mu­sic in­dus­try, in­clud­ing both the cre­ative and pro­duc­tion com­po­nents.

This sys­tem is in place in many coun­tries around the world and has as­sisted with the de­vel­op­ment of the mu­sic in­dus­try in those coun­tries. In essence this is a means of a rev­enue stream for our song­writ­ers, and artistes by ex­ten­sion. We need to be proac­tive and sup­port our mu­sic in­dus­try by en­act­ing such a sys­tem in Saint Lu­cia. And it is up to the mu­si­cians, writ­ers, com­posers, per­form­ers and all who claim to love the land that gave them birth, its cul­ture and artis­tic ex­pres­sion to raise their voices in sup­port of such a move.

Ian Sanchez is a di­rec­tor of ECCO and an in­di­vid­ual who has man­aged a num­ber of Saint Lu­cian artistes over the years. He has also been an or­ga­niz­ing mem­ber of the NG Soca Stage.

Saint Lu­cians blew up Face­book re­cently with pos­i­tive com­ments about the ap­pear­ance of Saint Lu­cian mu­si­cians Ron­ald ‘Boo’ Hink­son and Sher­wyn ‘Dupes’ Bryce at the re­cent Grammy awards. When will we be so moved to push for greater air­play for th­ese artistes and oth­ers as we be­gin the jour­ney of them bring­ing home a Grammy some day?

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