Minus $72 million

Four years ago the Artists Coalition sent out a call for musicians to submit non-soca, non-chutney, non-festival local music to us. We received over 1,000 albums in about a week! We now have over 2,000 CDs, recorded in the last five or so years, by mostly young Trinbago artists.

It’s a drop in the bucket of what exists and could exist. Bear in mind this is Trini-rock, reggae, R&B, electronica, jazz, fusion, rapso, and other styles. These 2,000 CDs — most with laid-out covers and notes — have on average six songs. The average cost of doing a song in the studio is $6,000.

Let’s do the math. That’s 2000 CDs with six songs — 12,000 songs by $6,000 a song. That’s $72 million spent by young artists in the last five years on music that basically was never played by our 37 radio stations! That is madness, youth oppression and cultural genocide.

Listening to the best couple hundred of these songs you would be floored by the talent and dedication to craft in them. And this is despite the musicians knowing in their hearts they would never be played on radio. You wonder if this is the same generation that many say is delinquent… 

In pure dollar terms this represents huge wasted assets, especially when one considers the return on this private investment could be billions. And we have the evidence…

Annual attendance at industry trade-expos is the tried and true method of getting deals in the music industry. Contingents are sponsored by major labels or by nations.

The annual Jamaican booth is as big as a small house. Trinidad and Tobago just does not go… If you don’t go to these expos you don’t exist in the mainstream industry. And thus we don’t exist.

The only times we went were spearheaded by private individuals. We went four times in the last 18 years to MIDEM — at the time the most important.

The return on those four times was an astounding $150 million in deals — for less than $5 million spent. Every single international breakthrough our industry has gotten stems from these trips. The deals include KMC’s signing, the signing of at least five albums that then went gold, the “Who Let the Dogs Out” deal, etc… Imagine if we’d gone every year with the full complement of songs and artistes!

Most of these deal-getting songs were not big “hits” in Trinidad. Most have been killed by radio programmers since. However they are multi-million dollar-earning songs internationally! Similarly hundreds of the songs assassinated by radio gatekeepers are potential earners.

We at ACTT believe that direct earnings from musicians alone could bring in net $.5 billion in foreign exchange annually. The two greatest saboteurs of our music and TV and film industry are: lack of airplay, and the failure of governments to fund merit-based contingents to trade-expos.

At present only .05 per cent of our artistes tour — this number should be 35 per cent!

From that number dozens will become millionaires, hundreds will become middle-class…

Of the 12,000 songs, I’d say there are hundreds of genius tracks that can contend internationally — being flag-bearers for that artiste’s international career. There are thousands of local songs — for all formats — that should be played on radio regularly. On ACTT’s radio programme “Indigenous” (every Monday from 8-10 p.m. on 91.1 Talk City) — the only place you’ll hear this music — we’ve played almost 400 new releases by these artists in the last year.

indigenous logo

Thousands of fans have joined the Facebook page and hundreds vote every week for the historic chart carried weekly in the Sunday Mix. Why do we constantly have to prove we have worthy artists in this country?

We’re the same nation that produced Selvon, Lovelace, Naipaul, CLR James, Lawrence Scott, Wayne Brown and nurtured the voices of Derek Walcott, Oonya Kempado, and Nalo Hopkinson. We created filmmakers like Horace Ove — the first black film director in Britain; Frances Ann Solomon who was given films to shoot for the BBC and Canada — but not us…

We’ve a diaspora of talent yearning to do work home including Tatyana Ali, Nia Long, Alphonso Rebeiro, Lorraine Toussaint, Geoffrey Holder, Nicki Minaj, Heather Headley… These are who our local programmers and advertisers are blocking…

As a nation we cannot destroy the dreams of our youth like this. We cannot silence 12,000 songs “jes like dat”! You pay dearly for such sins…

Every silenced song has come back to us as a bullet. Every flickering light of a dying dream raises an alarm to riot. We have sent our angels to sit in dark corners with fingers on their lips…

ACTT is proposing: that local short-films be shown before each movie in the cinema; that local content reach 50 per cent over two years — with 85 per cent at prime time.

We’re demanding that CNMG be converted into a PBS, BBC, or Britain Channel 4 model where local film-makers provide content.

If we cannot do this in our 50th anniversary of Independence and 100th anniversary of recorded music — then we do not deserve Independence. If we cannot liberate our angels — then we will deserve our devils…

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Posted on May 10, 2013, in President's Blog and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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