How The Pandemic Inspired Innovation In The Jamaican Music Industry – DancehallMag

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We’re all familiar with the saying, “only the fittest of the fittest will survive.” But when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic and the music industry, only the most creative and tech-savvy are thriving. 

When the coronavirus made landfall in Jamaica in early March, some industry players tried to proceed as normal though foreign promoters were canceling events. By the end of the month, there was an islandwide curfew, the borders were closed, and the message that the virus wouldn’t be kicking the dust any time soon was received.

Since then, the local industry has partly moved from relying on the government to restore lost income by getting COVID creative to sustain their fanbase and generate cashflow.  

Here are five ways in which the pandemic has inspired innovation in the Jamaican music industry. 

Increased live streaming

The live streaming culture has blossomed in Jamaica over the past few months. Though many of the concerts have been in aid of COVID-relief, some artistes have curated their own concert experience like Chronixx, who staged ‘Cool as the Breeze: Live Stream’ last month. Sizzla Kalonji recently oversaw his own live-streaming event, which was broadcast on OnStage.

These events have been beneficial in promoting an artiste’s catalog which encourages streaming in the absence of in-person concerts. These events have also provided a platform for other artistes to share their music and connect with fans, like Jesse Royal, Kabaka Pyramid, and Lila Iké, who appeared on Chronixx’s show, and a number of young acts who were billed for Kalonji’s showcase.

Additionally, artistes have been able to utilise YouTube to premiere these events, allowing them to monetize the performance in a time where touring royalties are missed. Some have even been part of pay-per-view concerts, like Beenie Man, who recently gave an exclusive performance for Neverleveled TV.

Quality showcases

Artistes have been able to explore their creative genius when it comes to set design and stage production during this pandemic. Traditionally, when a Jamaican act is booked for an international event, they receive a specific time slot and may have little room for production creativity. The pandemic has produced quality showcases where acts have been able to experiment with stage design, like Chronixx performing in the middle of a pool and Lila Iké offering a neon-lit, library aesthetic for her recent NPR Tiny Desk (Home) performance.

Good quality doesn’t always mean more, as acts like Agent Sasco have employed a simpler set-up, performing live for their Instagram following in a home-studio setting. In any case, artistes are able to manipulate designs and locations to best reflect their brand, and production costs are reduced if you stick to the basics: stable internet connection, a musician (or laptop), and a dope space. 

Greater online fan engagement

Artistes including Macka Diamond, Jada Kingdom, I-Octane, Kranium, and Kemar Highcon have become Instagram live staples since March, going live with fans all over the world, allowing them to give their views on a topic, showcase their talent, or just pop in to say hello.

Even IG live rarities like Sevana, Beenie Man, and Aidonia have surprised fans by going live more often. Speaking of online fan engagement and Instagram, the platform has provided the biggest artiste-fan experience with the creation of the Verzuz music battle series. Dancehall’s Beenie Man and Bounty Killer received a boost in music streams after their Verzuz face-off in May, which had almost 500,000 live attendees.

Bounty Killer (left) and Beenie Man (right)

Reinvention

Singjay Macka Diamond pioneered this by starting a fruit-vending business, selling oranges to meet the demands of vitamin-C. On the other hand, entertainers Ishawna, Renee Sixthirty, and D’Angel opted to sell exclusive content through OnlyFans accounts.

D’Angel has also tapped into her drama skills by releasing weekly skits of characters Pamela, Ashley, and, most recently, Susie, a hilarious but troublesome food vendor.

Recording artiste Yanique’ Curvy’ Diva has also added caterer to her resume (though she said this was planned pre-COVID), and artistes like Spice and Wayne Marshall have become vloggers. Also, several entertainers have started online profile shows, like Agent Sasco’s Riddim Classics series and producer Steven’ Lenky’ Marsden’s Diwali Broadcast.

Inclusive listening parties

Pre-corona, album listening sessions were reserved for music industry elites, close friends, and the press. With social distancing measures abound, listening parties for new projects have been an inclusive online affair.

Buju Banton played some tracks from his Upside Down 2020 album for fans the night before its release in June, Lila Iké did the same for her The ExPerience EP in May, and Protoje continues to premiere new singles on his Instagram live platform.

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