My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Jamaican Music Industry 2 Years post-Ban - How Artiste and Booking Agents Launder Money

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Jamaican Music Industry 2 Years post-Ban - How Artiste and Booking Agents Launder Money

And whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own funeral drest in his shroud

Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

It appears that the problems of the Music Industry have apparently gotten worse since my last article on the subject of sexually explicit and violent content addressed in my blog article entitled “Increase Fines and Taxation for the Music Industry”, a remedy that is yet to be fully implemented.

Granted, since Shabba Ranks found himself afoul of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance during the heyday of the 80’s another artiste, the situation got progressively worse for Dancehall Music. It came to a head in the First Quarter of 2009 when the Vybz Kartel song “Rampin Shop” made Esther Tyson, Principal of Ardenne High School put pen to paper– and a ban on sexually explicit and violent content Music followed.

A stir was created in society, which finally came to its civic-minded senses when the ban on sexually explicit and violent content in the Broadcast Media came into effect, signaled a Civic Society coming to an agreement as it relates to what constitutes hate speech, specifically against homosexuals and lesbians.

But it was not until towards the end of 2009AD that Dancehall and Reggae Artiste were to start to feel all that negative energy that they had been pushing out over the years coming back towards them.

First, Mark Myrie, otherwise knows by his nom de guerre as Buju Banton, was arrested 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, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Buju Banton has since been charged, fined and sentenced as stated in the article “Destiny - Buju Banton Found Guilty - Sentencing Date To Be Determined”, Published Wednesday February 23, 2011 by Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter, The Jamaica Gleaner.

This should ensure that no-one sings songs that are effectively hate speech again in Jamaica!!!

Though unconnected from a purely logical point of view, pundits in the Entertainment Industry point to the fact that it may be punishment visited from up on highly the powerful Gay and Lesbian Movement, who have tentacles of power in all parts of Government of the United States of America.

I’ll leave that for you to decide!

Then there is the now obvious phenomenon of a few Dancehall and Reggae Artiste who may notice that they are unable to gain access to certain markets, thanks again to their sexually explicit and violent content, not to mention their events not being properly managed 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, The Jamaica Gleaner.

That is just December of 2009AD.

Apparently the Dancehall and Reggae Artiste have not heeded the words of Mikey Barnett, Veteran Producer and Clyde McKenzie, a Veteran Entertainment Consultant, who were present at the Gleaner Editor’s Forum in December of 2009 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,The Jamaica Gleaner, urging a change of direction and content or face bans abroad.

In a subsequent blog article entitled “Pass the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or Jamaican Music will be banned”, I began highlighting action that was already occurring in France (can I now say Europe, please?) as it relates to Dancehall and Reggae Artiste not paying their relevant taxes.

This as documented in the MIDEM Report by Senator Olivia Grange, Minister of Entertainment as stated in the article “Grange passes on bad MIDEM report – Little interest in Jamaican Music”, published Sunday 21st February 2010, Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer, The Jamaica Gleaner

That was February 2010AD.

They have thus far successfully complied as it relates to lyrical content, with such anti-gay Music being kept off the airwaves. The problem of Digital Music and Video Piracy and the current crackdown by US Authorities highlighted in my blog article entitled “UWI and Piracy - Release the Kraken” has solutions.

Some of the solutions, are Radio Playlists so as to clamp down on sexually explicit and violent content and aid the collection of Royalties as stated in my blog article entitled “Radio Stations and their Playlists - Dungeons and Dragons”.

The main one currently being pursued is Digital Distribution, which thus far is in the form of Apple iTunes, Digicel InTunes and other legitimate online Music Distribution Platforms and has met with pyrrhic success, as CD and DVD Piracy is still on the rise as stated in the article “DIGITAL MUSIC SALES UP - Marley dominates local ringtone charts”, published Friday, April 08, 2011 BY STEVEN JACKSON Observer staff reporter, The Jamaica Observer.

The Government of Jamaica is still yet to enact legislation that would force Dancehall and Reggae Artiste to be fully registered with a professional body and be taxed in much the same way PAYE employees are being taxed and to declare all earnings, both locally and abroad.

Since then, with inaction from the Government of Jamaica glaringly obvious, the countries in which these Dancehall and Reggae Artiste are continuing to run afoul of Civil Society and their laws have stepping up to the plate by taking action against them coming to their countries – and leaving with taxes unpaid.

This now in the form of US Visa revocations as stated in the article “Dancehall Hit! United States Visa Woes Will Cost Jamaican Entertainers Big”, published Sunday April 4, 2010, by Mel Cooke,  Gleaner Writer, The Jamaica Gleaner and the article “Visa woes taint Music industry”, published Friday, April 09, 2010 by STEVEN JACKSON, The Jamaica Observer.

As a former Telecoms Technician who used to work at CLARO (2008 to 2009) and C&W (2001 to 2004), all the above is pretty new to me, as I do not follow the Entertainment Scene in Jamaica, neither do I know anyone in the Entertainment Scene.

I do, however, listen to Music during my downtime!

Not even the popular Digicel Rising Stars and the raft of other reality shows that permeate the airwaves on our local free-to-air broadcasters, namely Television Jamaica and CVM TV. This is because there has been nothing new, as it seems Jamaica creativity in Music revolves around this one Musical genre.

Agreeably, I may be biased as I may be too Americanized and Europeanized in my Music taste, but I prefer the Music coming out of the US of A, simply became of the variety.

I don’t like Rap or Hip-hop (like dancehall, no creativity, too much bling!).

But some of the new artiste like Nikki Minaj, Ciara and Eminem blend different genres best, making them sound more like rough uncut blue diamonds instead of the regular junk that one chisels away when unearthing Music while online.

The current Music in all genres is to me, trash, possibly with the exception of Country Music artiste such as Taylor Swift. Pop has too short a shelf life. Gospel Music is always decent, but needs more Christian and less world in it!

I am really more a fan of 80’s Music though. Classical Music (Bach, Mozart, et al) will always be my Sunday listening pleasure and study Music.

But that’s why I like American and European.

I got choice.

Jamaica’s sole Genre offers no such choice.

Even within the lyrical content, it’s the same topics been touched upon, including the divisive anti-gay hate speech and sexually explicit and violent content. Not to mention sexual prowess with women, Marijuana and money.

If that is all the creativity that Dancehall Music offers, with Millennials [ages 13 to 28] increasingly shifting towards US and EU Music Genres, Reggae and Dancehall faces increasing problems surviving post-2015AD! Dancehall Music holds no interest for them, left for the older folk to enjoy!

Not surprisingly, Events staged islandwide are down some 20% in the First Quarter of 2011AD when compared to the First Quarter of 2010AD based on PIOJ (Planning Institute of Jamaica) figures as stated in the article “Events hit by recession - 20% drop recorded in 2010”, published Sunday, May 15, 2011 BY STEVEN JACKSON Sunday Observer staff reporterThe Jamaica Observer.

Effect of the Recession? Or Reggae and Dancehall Music no longer holding their attention due to the quality of song selection? You decide how you interpret the statistics!!

Admittedly there are other genres of Music such as Gospel and even Mento, but they get very little promotion from Local Promotions and Booking Agencies, mainly because of the lack of mass local support, which mostly follows Dancehall Music.

Apparently, Jamaicans like their Music served piping hot and violent. Even my SDA princess, Audia Granston, when alive, was an ardent Gully supporter (I believe that is a reference to Mavado!!), simply because his lyrical content did not express violence against women, albeit a bit too sexually charged for my liking.

My views as to the lack of creativity among Dancehall and Reggae Artiste are obviously well supported in the wider society. But a snapshot of it can be seen, surprising in the comments of Jon Baker.

Jon Baker, Manager of the Jolly Boys, a Mento band, stated as much in his article entitled “No creativity - Baker blasts stagnation in J'can pop Music”, published Friday, October 01, 2010 BY STEVEN JACKSON Observer staff reporter, The Jamaica Observer, quote: “We going through a stagnation of creativity in Reggae for the last five years. Dancehall artistes sing about the same old stuff. It has not had anything dynamic to cross over into the mainstream”.

Five (5) years ago would place us at 2006AD, when the Music went into a downward spiral in terms of what was allowed to be played on the Radio and on Television.

Now with the current state of the Business Music, which appears to be limping along, they, the Dancehall and Reggae have apparently fallen into another creative rut.

As apparently their lifestyles cannot be maintained with the current declining number of events islandwide and cancelled US Visas and EU work Permits restricting their ability to travel abroad!

Much as Apple CEO Steve Jobs creates and other follow, local Dancehall and Reggae Artiste seem less compelled to be creating when it comes to putting out Music, especially as they have no one to follow, now that the Gaza Empire appears to be losing its creative edge.

They, the Dancehall and Reggae Artiste are STILL leaning on their old Achilles Heel, that being touring Abroad. In their desperation, many of these Reggae and Dancehall Artiste may be enlisting the help of Booking Agencies to Launder Money earned abroad into Jamaica!

This premise of mine is based on a recent encounter I had with one of these Booking Agencies named Headline Entertainment under the guise of another company called Breakthrough All Communications with regards to a completely different matter, that being my writing.

To be completely clear, my writing for long winded and rather obnoxious my blog, My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica, was really a death bed request of my Deceased Audia Granston, who pointed out I should not keep giving away my ideas in email, an argument which she kept up, much to my disinterest, as in my eyes, I had no way of breathing life into them due to my financial state.

Even working as a Telecoms Technician at CLARO!

So after she passed, I decided to follow her advice and start tracking down all of my ideas and suggestions I had given away from as far back as 2003. This is not an easy task, as many of them are not even in Engineering but in other related fields!

Effectively I became an idea Ghostbuster; scouring the Internet for my ideas given away and documenting them, as indication that they were originally emailed away by yours truly, with the blog as evidence.

Thus far, my articles have to capture a lot of attention, despite my verbose writing style, mainly because of:

1.      My registering my website with dozens of search engines,
2.      Optimization for search
3.      Document hyperlinking
4.      Referencing the names of famous local and foreign Media and entertainment content and personalities i.e. People and movies.
5.      Catchy topic titles
6.      Emailing my article to hundreds of newspapers worldwide for print in their Writers column

It appears to be working to my benefit too.

Not only have I landed a freelancer’s gig with Kelroy’s Geezam blog, who trounced upon the My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica, but I also apparently attracted the attention of a Mrs. Khorie Ann Robb-Beckford of Breakthrough All Communications who called me via the number 351-2584.

Strangely, off the bat, I was offered a gig to write an article on HDTV and paid JA$3000 for the work. This struck me as odd, and I responded pointing out that I am not a professional writer, just a freelance blogger already with an affiliation with Kelroy’s Geezam blog, for which I write for free.

Not to mention the bad rap of being associated with Media personalities, as the initial emails appeared to have a Ms Carlette DeLeon and Mr. Jerome Hamilton affiliated in some way with this company.

Not a good sign at all!!

Still, I was curious, as this struck me odd that I would be paid for something I normally do for fun and for free, as is a trait of most bloggers. The Facebook/Google PR debacle as stated in the article Facebook-Google rivalry intensifies with PR fiasco, published 13thMay 2011AD 10:56:36, Go-JamaicaThe Jamaica Gleaner is enough evidence of how paying bloggers to write articles for PR can backfire!

To us, such shenanigans are ripe for a story on OUR blog!! We are, after all, informal news hounds, always on the lookout for a scoop!! This as traditionally, bloggers make money from advertising on their blog, but you start out initially just writing for writing sake, with the dream of publishing and making money somewhere in the hazy distance!!

So I decided to give it a shot and go down the rabbit hole! I reworked the guide document I was subsequently sent and working around the topic infused it with my style, which is based on predicting the future.

Amusingly, the topic, which was about Flow gives viewers HD Options was ironic, as it was one of the ideas I had given away back in 2009, but mainly for Free-to-air broadcasters to go HDTV via DSO (Digital Switch Over)

I also specified payment via direct deposit to my NCB Bank account, being as travel to Kingston for JA$3000 is a bit of a stretch!!

With the article completed and emailed in on Wednesday, April 6, 2011 at 4:57 PM, I was subsequently paid on Monday April 11th 2011. Oddly, my article was not printed in any publication anywhere, yet I was paid.

Also, the terms of payment change from a direct deposit, to a check at one point appearing as if I had to travel to Kingston.

Paid for an attempt as I at last discovered from emails? Strange, as aside from the foibles with the payment, I have NEVER been paid for such a thing!

Were that true, then I should also be getting money from all those ideas I have given away over the years, including Digicel Rising Stars, an original suggestion of mine from 2003 up to the Apple iPad in 2009!! Believe it or not!!!

So after a bit of digging in-between work, and writing, I gradually forgot about the whole thing. That is, until yesterday, Monday June 6th 2011.

On that day, I got a call from a young man, claiming to be an Entertainer, who was interested in using SMS (Short Messaging Service) to sell tickets based on his reading of my blog article entitled “Telecom Providers and SMS - CoreTalk, Raiders of the Lost Ark”!! During the discussion, I recommended he talk to Mrs. Khorie Ann Robb-Beckford of BreakThrough All Communications, as his idea had a Public Relations ring to it, defiantly not my scene.

During the conversation, I mentioned the odd correlation of names in my contacts with Mrs. Khorie Ann Robb-Beckford of BreakThrough All Communications and he thus filled in the blanks, giving me a glimpse of the Entertainment World. Apparently in this unknown Parallel Dimension, there IS some semblance of order, he confirmed. As previously, based on the above writings, I assumed that they [Dancehall and Reggae Artiste] did all their bookings themselves.

And yes, BreakThrough All Communications, as I has suspected, has some connection to Headline Entertainment, albeit their websites are nothing alike, muchless having any connection to each other, as one appears to be very dapper and the other a rather poor Blogger-esque stepchild!

Solid Agency and Headline Entertainment, two names I purloined from the article Visa woes taint Music industry”, published Friday, April 09, 2010 by STEVEN JACKSON, The Jamaica Observer.

The article also confirmed what the young man had said, in that there was indeed a link between BreakThrough All Communications and Headline Entertainment in the form of Ms Carlette DeLeon, who appears to be some sort of Administrative Director, albeit I cannot verify, as other articles perused painted her as a Publicist!

We Telecoms Technicians and Engineers usually refer to people in the Entertainment Industry as the “left-brained” people.

Mainly because they are more Arts than Engineering, which is traditionally occupied by people who uses the left side of their brain (creative thinking) than the right side of the brain (logic, reasoning) typical of Engineering and Technical fields.

Plus, it is good to note that traditionally, Engineering and Marketing Department in the Telecoms Sector, the closest we will ever get to the Entertainment World, don’t get along!

At all!!

While working at Telecom Provider CLARO, most interactions with the Marketing Department were via emails. I dreaded going to their Department, as so many females wearing g-string underwear and six-inch heels in one place reminds me too much of Palais Royal, as I am constantly on the lookout for a dancing pole!!

Still I do respect Marketing!

After all, I did work two (2) summers back-to-back at Desnoes and Geddes now Red Stripe in the Marketing Department (1999 and 2000) and I know Marketing and Customer actually works, despite the Management seeing it as pointless. Apple is a shining example of a company with great Marketing savvy behind their equally stellar products! You can see how it helps to push their product sales!!!

So this whole encounter made me think: if a Public Relations Company with affiliation with a Booking company can give away JA$3000, this could be an excellent way to launder Reggae and Dancehall Artiste earnings from abroad.

Artiste wants his money but does not want to pay taxes?

No problem!! Booking Agencies such as Solid Agency and Headline Entertainment collect the money and under the guise of legitimate business, convert the cash to a cheque and give it back to the Dancehall Artiste in the form of a cheque lodgment.

The Reggae and Dancehall Artiste only having to provide a reason for payment for the purpose of accounting! In my case, it was an invoice stating the reason for payment, that being writing an article!

This would validate the transaction, so no-one would ask questions later, even if the reason for the financial transaction was false. Also, by doing it through the Reggae and Dancehall Artiste bank account, it legitimizes the transaction.

Heck, to avoid suspicion, the Reggae and Dancehall Artiste can specify that they be paid in installments! Elegantly simple if I do say so myself!!

But how did they carry the money into the island in the first place?

Most likely the money from the promoter of the event is given to representatives of Headline such as Ms Carlette DeLeon the money in the form of a Prepaid Bank Card while in the States as stated in the article Prepaid Cards Attract Money Launderers, published Sunday May 29, 2011, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Perfectly legal and harder to trace and withdraw-able at any ATM by the Reggae and Dancehall Artiste!!! However, Tax evasion and money Laundering (as it is money obtained from proceeds of crime!!) are offences punishable under both Jamaican and American Law!

Thus the Dancehall Artiste gets their money, Taxes unpaid, already in a spendable form. Thanks to Shawn Thomas (324-2538), a supplier of Virtual VISA Rechargeable Credit Cards in Jamaica!

My Virtual VISA Rechargeable Credit Card on my blog is one of hers, and she filled in the blanks!!!

This as one of the MAIN reasons why Reggae and Dancehall Artiste are being banned is due to non-payment of taxes, both locally and abroad.

Locally in 2010 vehicle seizures by the Tax Department of vehicles belonging to Elephant Man and even Bounti Killa as stated in the article Taxman fed up - Authorities seize Bounty Killa's luxury vehicle”, published Saturday August 28 2010, The Jamaica Observer highlights the degree to which many of the Reggae and Dancehall Artiste live lives akin to Drug Dons.

Abroad, it is more difficult as aside from having Booking Agencies sneak the money home for them in Prepaid Cards, they can also convert the cash to something else, such as a vehicle or clothes, to be resold later for a profit.

No different from a Drug Don laundering money. Surely is this what the Music and Entertainment Industry is reduced to: Laundering money to evade taxes?

More articles are slated to come, as I have now decided to track this story!!

I don’t have a problem with the flashy lifestyle, as my SDA Princess Audia Granston, a NCTVET Certified Cosmetologist was quick to point out that many of them became possessed by “some evil forces” due to their money.

Money buys things, but not the things that count, which is friends and family as I can remember her saying as if it was yesterday. Audia would point out the many clients she had with Dancehall and Illegal Drug affiliations who oft poured out their problems in her hairdressing parlour, aptly named TJ Beauty Salon, after the first initials of her two children who survive her. 

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