My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Increase Fines and Taxation for the #Jamaican Music Industry

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Increase Fines and Taxation for the #Jamaican Music Industry

The days of Dancehall and other performing Artiste from Jamaica going to other countries and even here locally and doing and saying what they like in the name of Freedom of Expression are over.

This is the general mood that most people who attended the recent Gleaner Editors' Forum take from the event, as it would seem that Dancehall, after the arrest of Mark Myrie, otherwise knows by his nom de guerre as Buju Banton, by Federal Agents on charges of dealing in and attempting to smuggle cocaine as stated in the article “No an easy road - Buju Banton held for cocaine possession in the United States”, published Sunday, December 13, 2009, by Livern Barrett, Sunday Gleaner, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Buju Banton is now under closer scrutiny from foreign countries as the Dancehall Artiste now traditional source of revenue upon many of which are dependent to live their lavish lifestyles – touring – is become more difficult to access.

Touring their main source of Funding – No revenue from CD Royalties

As discussed at the Gleaner Editors' Forum, Digital Music Piracy make it difficult for Dancehall Artiste to make money from their music, as many Dancehall Artiste have admittedly changed their business models, going into investing their hard earned money in clothing lines, perfumes, beauty salon and barber shops and even condoms as in the case of Vybz Kartel.

The main source of financing for these Artistes is touring and corporate sponsorship, as they barely get any revenue from CD single and album sales, royalties and airtime payola as access to the internet becomes more prevalent, spurring an increase in music and video downloading.

However, since early 2009, when Esther Tyson, Principal of Ardenne High School wrote her stirring editorial in the Sunday Gleaner in response to the airplay given by the song “Rampin’ Shop” by the duo Vybz Kartel and Spice and the Government of Jamaica.

The Broadcasting Commission has since responded by banning all forms of music that had sexually explicit and violent content, specifically Dancehall acts that continually gave airplay to songs that had “bleeping and beeping”.

Dancehall has to be compliant – No more Violent or Sexually Explicit Lyrics

The tables have been completely turned for these Dancehall Artiste who still have been non-compliant and are now facing a more re-energized Government of Jamaica that seems ready to punish them for their sexually explicit and violent content, making them for the first time face a grim reality: clean up their acts or face certain financial starvation.

For not only have Dancehall Artiste found it difficult to make money by singing Dancehall tunes with sexually explicit and violent content, the Dancehall Artiste have also found increasingly that they are being banned not only by local corporate entities, who are no longer allowing them to perform at their corporate sponsored events.

On the airwaves, Radio DJ now fear being banned by the Broadcasting Commission but also by countries abroad, both in the Caribbean as well as in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Canada. These countries have long grown intolerant of Dancehall music over the years and its tendencies to incite the worst in its citizenry via its sexually explicit and violent content.

They have begun to clamp down via the enactment of key pieces of legislation, a few of which have been championed by the Gay Lobby in these various foreign countries.

As stated in the article “Locked out - Jamaican acts finding it more and more difficult to get into some countries , published Sunday, December 27, 2009, by Howard Campbell, Sunday Gleaner, The Jamaica Gleaner, a lot of these Dancehall Artiste are finding their livelihoods under threat as they are now not only unable to have their Dancehall songs with sexually explicit and violent content get airplay.

Radio Stations fear the heavy penalties as well as the threat of losing their broadcast licenses, but they are being banned from performing in foreign countries as well. Thus the Dancehall Artistes are being faced with a simple reality: clean up your act or start looking for a new career, as it is no longer business as usual.

Corporate Sponsors run away from Dancehall – Throw their money behind Televised Competition

Part of the problem with Dancehall acts is that a lot of the Brand Managers at such Corporate Entities, especially those that distribute brewed and non-brewed products e.g. Red Stripe, Red Bull, Magnum, are young people in the age range 25 to 30 years old.

Clyde McKenzie, a veteran music personality, was quoted as saying that recently at a Gleaner Editors' Forum:  “Most of them [young brand managers] don't know the history, so you find that they are not aware of where the music is coming from” , as stated in the article “Clean up your act! Music personalities urge Corporate Jamaica, Media to help clean up Dancehall content”, published Sunday, December 27, 2009, by Roxroy McLean, Sunday Gleaner, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Thus it would explain why before the Broadcasting Commission imposed the ban on the public airplay Dancehall songs with sexually explicit and violent content, most of these stage shows, such as Sting and Reggae Sumfest had a lot of Artistes who basically were flaunting the law with expletives and as they themselves would say, “giving the public what they paid for”.

After the ban, not only have most of these brewed and non-brewed products as well as Telecoms Providers and other distributors or products shied away from using Dancehall Artistes to promote their products and services, they have now begun to throw their corporate dollars behind supporting such local productions aimed at finding and promoting local yet-to-be discovered Artistes via such televised programmes as:

  1. Digicel Rising Stars
  2. Magnum King and Queen of Dancehall
  3. Dancing Dynamites
  4. All Together Sing
Brand Managers have also been put on a leash by the Senior Managers of the companies that they represent after having Dancehall Artistes use expletives and lyrics with sexually explicit and violent content.

They now have withdraw their support for major stage shows and have now begun to stop using most Dancehall Artiste, especially those associated in the past with the usage of expletives, sexually explicit and violent content and run-ins with the law from promoting their products and services.

Another part of the problem is the contribution to the so called “Gaza-Gully” conflict played by the media, which some felt, like the young Brand Managers, perpetuated the continued attention paid to the conflict and even its expansion to the point where it began affecting young adolescents at high school, as stated in the article “Clean up your act! Music personalities urge Corporate Jamaica, Media to help clean up Dancehall content”, published Sunday, December 27, 2009, by Roxroy McLean, Sunday Gleaner, The Jamaica Gleaner by another veteran in the music business, Michael Barnett.

He was quoted as saying that, “At what point have we decided that these people are so important to us that everything they do is to be on the front pages of the paper? I think that the media need to sit down and decide what is priority”.

This a rather telling statement, as if the media had not played its part in perpetuating news and giving the conflict more attention than it was due, the “Gaza-Gully” conflict between Adijah 'Vybz Kartel' Palmer and David 'Mavado' Brooks would have, as the article further goes on to state, “died its natural death long ago”.

Academia defending Dancehall Lyrics – Study sample size not representative of Jamaica Population

But the most troubling contributors to the problem of sexually explicit and violent content in Dancehall is the fact that local academia at the University of the West Indies are still defending the use of such lyrics in the public space, despite the fact that Dancehall Artiste are not only being banned locally but abroad.

Lecturers such as Dr. Donna Hope-Marquis continue to preach the idea from the pulpit of the lecture theatre that the sexually explicit and violent lyrics of Dancehall music do not have the “propensity to damage the psyche of our children”, as she was quoted as saying in the article “On the Dancehall bandwagon - Local academics being blamed for falling standardspublished Sunday, December 27, 2009, Daraine Luton, Sunday Gleaner, The Jamaica Gleaner.

This particular lecturer has even gone as far as publishing a body of work which she claims as proving that there is “no statistical correlation between youth consumption of Dancehall music and violence”, despite her research work having:

  1. Too small a sample size of only three hundred (300) persons to represent her target population
  2. Not covering every school in Jamaica
  3. Being myopic in her focusing on young people in the 15-24 year-olds in Kingston, St Andrew, St Catherine and Clarendon between June and August this year
Her study’ time period was a very short period of time for a study and not taking precautionary safeguards to ensure that the participants were in fact telling the truth and not merely viewing the questionnaires as a form of social control being imposed on them by adults. My article entitled “Response to Research conducted by Dr. Donna Hope-Marquis” neatly summarizes my opposition to her arguments.

The majority of well thinking Jamaicans outside of the privileged halls of the University of the West Indies most likely has ignored her research, citing the obvious “Gaza-Gully” conflict which contradicts this view as per my blog article entitled “Response to the research of Dr. Donna hope Marquis”.

Music CD’s as Self-Promotion – Financial Starvation abroad as Musicians getting banned

In fact, it would seem to be more a form of  “self-promotion” as stated by Mikey Barnett, veteran producer, also at the same Gleaner Editors' Forum, by foreign trained academia or “new PhD’s”, who on arriving in Jamaica, in a hurry to get known quickly, “support a cause that the grass-roots people in Jamaica, which are the majority, are associated with, and that was Dancehall music" to quote Mikey Bennett.

This sentiment was also echoed by Dr St Aubyn Bartlett, Member of Parliament for Eastern St Andrew, who in responding in Parliament recently to comments made by Cordel Green, Executive Director of the Broadcasting Commission, who told the Human Resources and Social Development Committee of Parliament of the strides being made by the Broadcasting Commission in media education literacy.

Dr St Aubyn Bartlett stated that “When a professor from the university backs the Gaza and Gully and the Dancehall tradition in some of the wickedest lyrics that come out of it, you know, you hear at the corner from the professor or from the university man, dem like it, so a must something good”.

Thus one comes to the conclusion that The Gleaner Editors' Forum was a most revealing exercise, as it sought to cover most of the bases in the entertainment industry, particularly the problems affecting the Dancehall Artiste in 2009.

With much tougher legislation before Parliament to extend the powers of the Broadcasting Commission even into private spaces, Dancehalls and other private venues such as hotels as well as to extend bans enforced on these Dancehall Artiste set by foreign countries as it relates to the collection of taxes and fines for Dancehall Artiste who run afoul of the law.

The repercussions will still be felt among the Dancehall Artiste in 2010 and for a long time to come, as if the Dancehall Artiste do not clean up their act and their behavior both on and off stage as well as in their lyrical content, they will most certainly face financial starvation in 2010 and beyond.

This as their last stable sources of revenue in foreign countries are slowly closing their ports of entry to them after years of warning them to cease and desist from the usage of expletives, sexually explicit and violent content and run-ins with the law.

Recommendation for Increased Fines - Respect Rules and Regulations for Public airplay

I would hereby recommend that the Government of Jamaica, as a means of forcing compliance with the Rules and Regulations laid down by the Broadcasting Commission as well as raising much needed revenue to support any shortfall in Government of Jamaica tax revenue, begin the process of not only registering the Dancehall and other Artiste but also imposing heavy fines and taxing their income from all their sources of income.

Stage shows, Radio and video airplay, sponsorships, corporate endorsement deals, businesses, publications, and other sources of income, both documented and undocumented, with fines for non-compliance and back taxes owed to the Government of Jamaica.

The fine should be increased as high as JA$10,000.00 for the of usage of expletives, sexually explicit and violent content and performing bans for a period not exceeding one (1) year if caught breaking the law with fines of JA$1,000,000.00 in order to have the ban lifted and to be allowed to perform again.

Additionally heavier fines of up to JA$100,000 per offence can be imposed on promoters, sound system operators and private and public individuals who play music in the public space and continue to break the Noise Abatement Act and the 2:00 am curfew, with a performing bans for a period not exceeding one (1) year if caught breaking the law with fines of JA$1,000,000.00 in order to have the ban lifted and to be allowed to perform again.

These fines and bans, if imposed, would serve the dual purpose of not only raising much needed tax revenue for the Government of Jamaica but would also force compliance with respect to Rules and Regulations as it relates to airplay and public performances set by the Broadcasting Commission.

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