The Jamaica Music Society (JAMMS) has been in operation since 2007 and Chief Executive Officer Evon Mullings is responsible for organizing a cohesive mechanism locally and internationally, to collect royalties on behalf of its members, while playing an active role in improving awareness of the music industry in Jamaica. .
In this interview, we talk about the immediate challenges of the music industry and how new artists and producers could grow their brands and make more money.
Evon, how did you get to your current job?
I was in music production before becoming head of JAMMS, working full time as an economist by training. I was still in the process of getting into music production. I used to hang out in studios and get beats while working my usual job, but at some point I decided that I would rush into the music business. As faith would have it, my wife saw this job in the newspapers and said “why don’t you apply for the job and mix business with your pleasure?”.
What is JAMMS and what is your daily job?
JAMMS is a music rights management company. We manage the rights of record producers, artists and musicians. We manage the rights they have to their music not only in Jamaica but globally. We do similar work to BMI, ASCAP, and Sound Exchange, except we manage the rights of record producers and performers. We have agreements globally to make sure that anywhere in the world we are able to bring royalties to our members.
What I do on a daily basis is build the organization with an appropriate structure, make strategic decisions, plan, organize, negotiate with broadcasters (and others) so that they can have the rights they need. to play the music and pay us the fees. And when there is infringement, we take care of the business.
Since you joined JAMMS, has the music business in Jamaica generated more revenue?
Certainly. The first five years were difficult because we are dealing with a market that is not used to paying for music. Our revenue base has grown very strongly, locally and abroad. We were able to establish a foundation of continuous income streams that even helped us cope with this time. We have lost a lot of the events, but we have income from broadcasting, radio, television, etc. Every year, except last year, we have had an increase in distribution to our members.
Since 2007, what is the biggest royalty check that you have distributed to a member?
We carried out checks of almost J $ 2 million.
How much have you paid to the industry in general?
We have been close to a payment of C $ 200 million since 2009.
Is there a bigger role that JAMMS could play in helping to advance the Jamaican music industry?
I think we have a huge role to play in helping Jamaicans see and participate in the music business. There is some inertia and we haven’t learned as much as we should. We research and do the development. We want to focus more on business and we’ve seen a certain shift where hundreds of people have decided to join in and say they want us to do their business.
From your position, how do you think Jamaican artists and composers and sports stars can turn their cultural capital into financial capital?
A big part of it is management. There is talent, but what it takes is astute management to pave the way for them to succeed. Having managers who know how to manage is a gap that must be filled by more trained and talented managers and artists who see the need for management and are willing to pay for it. Many artists have great potential but surround themselves with people who cannot go very far. It is also necessary to invest properly to achieve this.
Why do you think reggae and dancehall sell so little?
Songs don’t make it to streams. The song is on the digital platform, but it’s just putting a product in a store. You have to make sure that the product on the shelf is appealing and that you need huge bucks to smash songs. To truly have an internationally successful song, it will take resources. Look OMI, this song took a few years to break but they never wavered; they made sure the machinery was there until it started to gain traction and turn into a bang. We throw away songs with a high release rate but they become disposable.
Who are your top five artists at the moment?
I listen to Jaz Elise, Lila Iké is at the top of my playlist, Jesse Royal, Protoje, and I have Garnet Silk and Dennis Brown. I also like Yaksta, Nation Boss.
From this list, who do you think can make it to the top?
I love Lila Iké. Her writing is good and I think she will be successful. Jesse Royal is there. We watched Intence, Skillibeng but they are hitting the mark locally but I don’t see them hitting overseas yet.
There are songs that feel good, but I still can’t see anyone who is a Shabba Ranks… maybe Shenseea is the closest to becoming the next international star.
What advice do you have for new artists?
Build your catalog. Find a team of writers. Have a good team around you and once you get to a certain level get a manager. Be willing and open to allow people to invest in your career, be open to partnerships. Make songs with a lifespan somewhere in the world.
Evon, thank you very much.
For the full interview, listen to the World Music Views podcast on Apple and Spotify.