SCORES of Caribbean music professionals used the downtime caused by COVID-19 to sharpen their musical skills and enhance their business knowledge.
Singers, songwriters and music producers from as far north as the Dominican Republic and as far south as Guyana recently took part in a 60-hour Virtual Regional Songwriting and Music Production Training programme organised by the Caribbean Export Development Agency. The initiative was held in conjunction with the OECS Competitive Business Unit.
Allyson Francis, Services Specialist with Caribbean Export, said the training was designed to enhance the quality and trajectory of regional music by focusing on songwriting, 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.
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 was released.
“You have done excellent work here. What I really liked was the collaboration that took place between the different countries. 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,” Ms. Francis told participants.
Encouraging them to continue working together, she also told practitioners to ensure that they knew how to monetise their work and that they understood the rudiments of the music business.
“Beyond production is distribution. We have to start to talk about the platforms and begin to utilise them to distribute the music. At the end of the day, it’s about money. 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.
“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. 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” she stated.
Sobers Esprit, Business Development Officer with the OECS Competitive Business Unit, also called for increased collaboration. He pointed out that the collaborative approach had been successfully used by big-named artists for years and suggested participants should consider this strategic approach.
“The interaction during the programme has been excellent and I’m even more excited about the outcome. 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 programme were people, who represented all the islands of the Caribbean, coming together for this venture; it was tremendous.
“The Caribbean needs that at this difficult time in our history. 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” Mr. Esprit said.
Timeka Marshall, a Guyanese singer/songwriter, is no stranger to collaborations. While she endorsed regional “collabs”, Timeka urged persons 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. So it is something I would always encourage. A few years ago I released a song featuring StoneBwoy from Ghana. That opened me to a whole new market and Africa is a huge market for reggae and dancehall. 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; the more we can mix and the more we can blend, the better for us,” Timeka shared.
As a result of the programme, some 23 tracks are being produced to be showcased virtually to buyers and sellers from North America, Europe and Africa and Asia.