Billboard as reported lat year’s sale for reggae and dancehall and it does not look good, in fact, it is downright dismal. The sales for reggae overall is good, however the sales for reggae coming out of Jamaica is very weak.
To see where Jamaica stacks up against the rest of the world in reggae music sales, all we have to do is look at the international reggae charts. On the Billboard reggae album chart, the number one album is “Count me in” by Rebelution and the #2 album is “Amid the Noise and Haste” by SOJA. Both of these groups are non-Jamaicans.
On the iTunes top ten reggae charts, there are five albums from Jamaica, but all five are from the late great Bob Marley.
Clyde McKenzie who is an expert on reggae music believes that Jamaican reggae music became a victim of its own success:
“Ironically, we have had some serious challenges for our artistes, which is due to the success of our music. I am one who has felt that Jamaican music has become too successful, that it has spawn foreign exponents who have been able to give authentic renditions of what we do,” said Clyde McKenzie.
All is not last however. Jamaican reggae is on a comeback path with artists like Chronixx, Melodic Yoza, Jah9, Jah Fenixx, Protoje, Mr. Bertus, Jesse Royal and other members of the reggae revival movement.
In case one is wondering if the quality of reggae music as degraded so much after Bob Marley, so much that 30 years after his death, he still has 5 of the top ten albums, Clyde McKenzie explains it as such:
Bob Marley is a wonder of nature. Everything in his life, and some would say his death, is perfect timing. Bob would have been 70 this year, yet the child just born can relate to him. After all, there is no image of an old Bob Marley. No one has a memory of him that is not fresh and vital. This, ironically, is a contributor to his immense appeal. We have been fortunate in that we from a small island nation have been able to create international genres with international appeal. This is truly remarkable when you consider that people like Marley and his contemporaries came from the margins of a society which, internationally, has been on the periphery. The protest music which that generation produced was fitting for the times of social upheaval. The music of Marley, Tosh and Wailer inspired liberation struggles around the globe.
Clyde McKenzie also believes that many Jamaicans price themselves out of the market. For example, an European promoter might much rather book an European reggae band even if it is of less quality, rather than having to fly a Jamaican artists and his entourage to Europe which could be very costly.
All that coupled with the fact that many Jamaican artistes are banned from certain venues because of what some consider homophobic lyrics.
Reggae artists and fans can be optimistic however. With the reggae revival movement, the Jamaican Embassy starting issue more visas to artists and even 18 Karat Reggae putting out positive reggae music each year, the sun is starting to shine on Jamaican reggae again.