Lessons aplenty


Lessons aplenty

JaRIA president wants more for entertainment industry

Observer senior reporter

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

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For Ewan Simpson, president of the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA), there is a plethora of lessons to be learned from Saturday night's much-talked-about online clash between dancehall favourites Beenie Man and Bounty Killer, which was staged as part of the ongoing series Verzuz.

He noted that while the event was huge, and a big means of exposure for Jamaican music and culture, it was not really a surprise, pointing to what he called a serious demand and market for Jamaica has to offer the world in terms of entertainment.

“Saturday night was just a snapshot, just a piece of what is really out there. This is just something that originated out of the United States. When you think of the rest of the world... Europe, Asia, and Africa, you get an idea of what that hunger is like. Each time there is an event such as this, when Jamaicans shine on an international stage in front of a mass audience, whether it is the Grammys or the BET Awards, we get excited, but it is time for us to harness that into real gains,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

Simpson said he noted the lack of Jamaican sponsorship for Saturday's event, which for him showed the continued reluctance of local brands to support the entertainment and creative industries.

“I am not sure how the whole thing works, given that Verzuz is a American entity, but this would have been an ideal platform for some local companies to be featured and get really great exposure. It is crazy that local companies still don't see the opportunities that our entertainment and culture provide. The event also showed how great we are at putting on a show. We can find ways to market ourselves even during a pandemic. Beenie Man and Bounty Killer put on a proper clash within the context of the regulations, with no real audience, and they were absolutely entertaining. Younger artistes must learn from this... how to deliver every time. In this day and age, when everything can be live, you never who is watching; and the ability to go viral is now more instant that we ever imagined.”

Simpson further noted that in the discussions about post-COVID-19, with task forces and committee to get the economy going, there is a silence from the authorities regarding the creative industries.

“There is a lot of talk about thing such a post-COVID-19 fund, but nobody is mentioning culture... This is short-sighted. Don't give me the excuse that the entertainment industry is not properly mapped; that is the excuse given all the time, but while it is not untrue, it is still an excuse. The truth is the entertainment industry is not given the platform to be formalised. How many creatives can go into a bank and access a line of credit?

“This is our diamond, Saturday night proved that again. We must now begin to apply business acumen and have systems put into place so that the industry can grow. Culture and the creative industry can be that thing for the Jamaican economy. We are not serious about monetising what he have,” he stressed.

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