Friday, December 3, 2010

Jamaica Jamaica

There used to be a hotel on the north coast in Runaway Bay named Jamaica Jamaica until its name was changed. The facility is still in use today. There is perhaps some regret over that change in name done years ago because as it turns out the name is a powerful brand name. Hindsight is 20/20 vision we are often reminded. Much of this blog has been focused on extracting value out of the Jamaican brand and particularly doing so by investing in Jamaican creativity and culture. I have previously referenced Prof. Vanus James' August 2007 study for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) that shows,
Each dollar of foreign exchange invested in the leading elements of the core copyright sector contributes about J$6.18 of value added to Jamaica, mainly in the form of wages and indirect taxes. These elements are: authors, music composers, and independent artistes in allied activities (not music); authors, music composers, and independent artistes in the core music industry; dance studios; and theater and related entertainment services. Each dollar invested yields as much as J$6.57 in certain partial copyright sectors, such as manufacture of other leather products, luggage and handbags, footwear… and boots and shoes from leather fabrics and other materials… [read branded merchandise]. On the other hand, the same dollar of foreign exchange in communications (say, cable television) yields only J$1.49.
He added, “this simple arithmetic” makes a compelling case. Two recent publications in The Jamaica Observer newspaper have prompted me to write this installment. One is their Wednesday, December 8 article titled Jamaica? Big Problem! and the other being Usain Bolt is our key brand asset - Puma

Jamaica? Big Problem! 
In this article, the writer shares with us the story of a French band that is excited about using the Jamaica name and quotes one rather irrationally exuberant member as saying, "our choice is, of course, a homage to Jamaican music." It is within Jamaica's right to feel wronged by what the band and others like them have done, but we should not pretend that it could not have been mitigated. 

I am unable at this point to say what the registration status of the JAMAICA trademark is with the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO), however, a visit to the US government’s trademark registration site reveals that the JAMAICA used by the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) is a registered trademark in the US. So too is the term "no problem" in select classes, but the latter is not owned by any agent of Jamaica. Curiously, I do not recall seeing the insertion of the “TM” or ® symbol when the trademark is used by the JTB, at least up to the time of this writing. The US government website reveals that this registration was done through the services of a US-based attorney for use solely in Class 35 – Advertising and business. I do not know if registration in other classes was discussed, but given the distinction of the Jamaica name, it should surely have been a consideration for registration in as many classes and across as many jurisdictions as is possible, providing the respective international treaties do not offer this protection. Is it a possibility that further protection against brand poachers could have been assured if the name were registered in some of the following: Class 25 (Clothing), 28 (Toys and sporting goods), 29 (Meats and processed foods), 30 (Staple foods), 41 (Education and entertainment), 43 (Hotels and restaurants)? I suspect that this move was made in the absence of a policy as to how the state will approach the registration of its intellectual property internationally. It would appear that what we see unfolding is the result of the absence or the lack of implementation of such a policy. Failure in the system is evident and wringing of the hands is unacceptable. 

Which department of the Jamaican government will be given the responsibility for registering these elements of the state’s property? In an earlier blog I pointed to the example of how New York City achieves this. There are other options as well. It is my firm opinion that moving the Jamaica brand forward is not going to be led solely by the Jamaican state. Instead, it will take a strong partnership between a visionary private sector and the state. Indeed, there are some things that the state will need to do in order to facilitate private enterprise taking full advantage of what the Jamaica brand can offer. My hope is that the authorities and investors can arrive at the same page in short order. 

Usain Bolt is our key brand asset - Puma
The Jamaica Observer on December 3, 2010, carried a story saying, "global athletics brand Puma listed Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt as its key brand asset amidst a 16 percent rise in sales to 784 million euros over the third-quarter." This is good news no matter how you may choose to look at it. Jamaicans should be happy for Usain Bolt and they should be proud of the development work done in Jamaica for athletic talent. The question is if Usain Bolt is Puma's key brand asset then what is his value to the broad Jamaican economy? What does this say of the contribution that could be made if a structured approach to the business of sports and entertainment were made a priority? What is the real value of the Jamaican culture (lifestyle, if you will) broadly? Many in the world have been curious about the world that Jamaica made™; much of it due to the marriage of a rich musical heritage with Rastafari philosophy that the brilliance of Bob Marley and others made untouchable by the local detractors. The sun, sand, and sea have their place, even with the focus on a "non-invested" client that spends less, but the evidence that suggests what is in demand globally is overwhelming. Consumers across the world are buying into the Jamaican people; their skills, talent, and the culture that spawns them. What then is the plan to extract this value? 

In his December 10, 2010 article Jamaica's new growth path, Dennis Chung lauds the effort being put into agriculture and agro-processing by the minister responsible. With the visibility that Jamaican sports and entertainment have earned, how does one effectively marry that to agro-processing? The silos need to be dismantled and meaningful engagement of all sectors started because the greatest chance of success at exporting processed goods is by taking full advantage of the brand equity, and this is not simply label slapping as unfortunately too many of the Jamaican labeled products that are presently on the market are not well conceived, packaged and delivered. 

To rescue Puma's quote from oblivion by denial I will repeat it, "Puma views its brand image as key to its marketing of apparel, clothing and footwear," and the Jamaican lifestyle is a big part of that image by their own admission. How then does Jamaica tap into the same Jamaican source as Puma? The bottom line is the Jamaican image, challenged as it is by the negatives, moves products in the international marketplace at present. The days of speculating about the value of the Jamaican culture and entertainment product should be rapidly coming to a close.  ‎

One reviewer in commenting on Amar Bhide's The Venturesome Economy: How Innovation Sustains Prosperity in a More Connected World noted, "wealth arises not so much from creating new technological [scientific or cultural] breakthroughs as from the capacity to benefit from those breakthroughs. This 'capacity to benefit' is a higher-order capacity that includes elements such as the ability to create products based on those technological breakthroughs [and] the ability to market those products well." If this is so, then it would appear that opportunities abound in the world that Jamaica made™

PS. Click this link for an explanation of how the Classes as referred to in the post above are structured. Generally, each trademark should fit within at least one of the 45 International Classes as agreed by WIPO. You are not restricted from registering in more than one Class if it suits the nature of your business.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Monetizing Your Brand

It has been more than a year since the Nation Branding website published their article "Brand Jamaica: Copyrighted". Sparked by discussion generated by our earlier blog titled "Licensing Brand Jamaica" we are compiling a list of some Jamaican entities we think might be prime candidates for licensing as an outgrowth of their own brands and by extension that of the Jamaican brand. From the "Brand Jamaica: Copyrighted" article we detect that government administrators are aggressively on the defensive while private enterprise is challenged with how to monetize the brand. It is true that the process begins with seeking copyright, trademark or patent protection for the property which then needs to be followed up with a number of other steps. Protection is good but there should be a perceptible balance. The response in the following extract explains why:
Last month [September 2009], the government introduced a National Branding Committee. Its task could include researching whether the word jerk, which refers to both the seasoning and a specific way of cooking chicken and pork, can be protected. Even the name Jamaica is being considered for a trademark, officials say. But [Simon] Anholt, the international image expert, said trying to legally protect the nation’s assets through branding is a “dangerous” idea that is ill-advised. “It’s surely more important for Jamaica to work on ways of leveraging and profiting from its wonderful image,” he said, “rather than dreaming up ways of preventing others from doing so.”
The value of the brand to Jamaica is having manufactured products with Jamaican names and cultural content marketed and delivered globally. Protection on the part of any agent of the state should be with the explicit understanding that the rights will be readily made available to anyone subject to them meeting certain fair and sensible criteria, irrespective of nationality. Local brands owned by private businesses will need to start doing some basic things like protecting their trademarks. In going forward it is advised that they seek the professional advice of expert agents as they can help to, brainstorm opportunities, scope the market, and develop opportunities among other things. Licensing is not for everyone but with the right partners who understand your products you will get ahead in the business much more quickly than you would on your own steam. Would your brand make our list? We would like to hear from you.
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Nation Branding

Simon Anholt's explanation of nation branding is sure to be a disappointment to well-meaning civil servants and "fans" in search of the next big thing to save the day. Simon Anholt is the gentleman who coined the term "nation branding" in the 1990s and has since traveled the world promoting the concept. The disappointment is his website explains that his work "has nothing to do with marketing, advertising or public relations," because "places can’t construct or manipulate their images with advertising or PR, slogans or logos". I wish to quote the rest of the story at length from his own website:
The only sure way places can change their images is by changing the way they behave: they need to focus on the things they make and do, not the things they say. Simon Anholt’s approach of Competitive Identity, (which is also the title of one his books), is about helping countries, cities and regions to earn a better and stronger reputation in the following ways: * through courageous and enlightened social, economic, environmental and foreign policies; * through the dynamic development of tourism, foreign investment and exports; * through carefully chosen international cultural, sporting and political events; * through improved cultural and academic relations with other countries; * through a strategic commitment to international development and poverty reduction; * through productive engagement with multilateral institutions, regional organizations and with NGOs at home and abroad; * through effective coordination between government, industry and civil society; * through enhanced public and private diplomacy overseas; * through a visionary long-term approach to innovation, investment and education.
If this is so then where does that leave the well-meaning civil servants and "fans" of brand Jamaica? The experience suggests that it won't be so easy to package and promote Jamaica's challenges away without serious commitment from any incumbent political directorate. It appears stakeholders are called upon to face the real hard issues of policy development, management, and financing among others. To my mind this explains a lot about why brand Jamaica still languishes.
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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Licensing Brand Jamaica

Recently I had the opportunity to peruse the Guide to the Licensing World 2010, 18th edition. The document was published January 2010, so I’m a little late. Nonetheless, I think these ideas are still relevant so I will share them.

The publication claims to be:
The most comprehensive international directory available on the licensing industry. This year we have over 25,000 property listings, 1,900+ licensors and licensing agents, as well as 1,100+ licensees and hundreds of specialist services… Over 500 pages of licensors, licensing agents and licensees covering characters, brands, TV, films, personalities, sports licensing, artists, and more.

I was very disappointed that the only Jamaican originated brands I could find listed in the guide were Bob Marley and Red Stripe. Bob Marley shows up with representation in Canada, Great Britain and France (the company listed in the index for France does not show up in the body of the directory and therefore it may be possible that Marley currently does not have representation in France. This omission may in fact be an error so I will grant them the benefit of the doubt). Without surprise, Red Stripe appears under Daigeo USA.

I combed through looking for the top earning music personalities of Shaggy, Jimmy Cliff, Sean Paul, Ziggy Marley, Sean Kingston, as suggested in the Jamaica Observer September 17, 2010 article titled 'Reggae's top earners', but was met with zero success. Neither could I find a listing by VP Records or Riddim Driven. This does not mean that these artists and entities do not have accompanying merchandise, instead it just speaks to the scale and emphasis that is put on that stream of revenue. Some of these artists do have merchandise available via their label partners (eg. Atlantic). However, there is the opportunity available to other artists to negotiate independent agent representation. Artists with significant brand equity do not need to wait for a major label partner to initiate merchandise or service extensions of their brand and that is certainly reflected in this publication.

I was disappointed that a regional institution such as the University of the West Indies (UWI) is not represented in a publication where there are quite a few universities. I suspect though that the institution is challenged to develop a licensing strategy for its properties. In an environment where there are budget cuts all around, this is certainly one budget-augmenting avenue worthy of consideration. I do not believe that UWI graduates, both in and outside the Caribbean, would be any less willing to purchase quality relevant university merchandise were it made available and reasonably accessible.

I have often wondered if the government, perhaps through the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office, has examined licensing Jamaican properties in a similar fashion to how the city of New York has established NYC & Company Licensing to handle the business of licensing the City’s intellectual property. As a result, all official merchandise from the New York City police, taxi, fire department, parks and recreation, and the transport department benefit the city. We know that there is merchandise sold with the Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, Negril and Kingston city/town names and replicas of other property. Then there is Jamaica Tourist Board’s signature 'JAMAICA' trademark and related property that serve tourism. In addition, there are the cultural creations that become the property of the Jamaican Cultural Development Commission each year. I wonder to what extent local business, and by extension the state, could benefit from greater sales of products around these properties? This is certainly a business opportunity.

The Guide to the Licensing World 2010 is filled with information about relevant trade shows that creators may attend to seek a licensee or an agent to represent their properties. It would definitely be a plus for Jamaican businesses if they should get more representation at these shows with the name recognition some among us have. I think more of Jamaica's businesses and institutions should seriously seek out a licensing agent. I thought it embarrassing that not one of the English speaking territories in the Caribbean has a licensing agent or specialist service (licensing consultants, attorneys, designers, accountants, etc) listed. The Caribbean agents are to be found in Costa Rica and Panama according to the guide. I think this says something about the expertise Jamaica has on the island. The level of play needs to be raised.

One hopes that these omissions are corrected before the 2012 edition, Jamaican business and brand Jamaica will be better for it. The guide may be purchased at and you may find them on Facebook here.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Words to Live By

Arising from a genuine concern for the betterment of the Jamaican nation I began to wonder how useful much of the talk generated on the question of development has been. It would appear to me that the parties responsible have stopped engaging in meaningful conversation long ago and are now involved in monologues of various sorts. You see, much of the time it's really about them, their ego and their interests. What a tragedy this has become for the ordinary folk, who have become accustomed to artful talkers telling us nothing in a great harangue. I went searching for a particular quote that speaks to arguing with those who know-it-all and came across these from the Quote Garden below. I chose to include them here because they contain ideas I don't want to ever forget to apply to my own life.

To speak and to speak well are two things. A fool may talk, but a wise man speaks. ~Ben Jonson

Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness. ~Margaret Millar

Of those who say nothing, few are silent. ~Thomas Neiel

The older I grow the more I listen to people who don't talk much. ~Germain G. Glien

I am annoyed by individuals who are embarrassed by pauses in a conversation. To me, every conversational pause refreshes. ~George Sanders

Don't speak unless you can improve on the silence. ~Spanish Proverb

Isn't it surprising how many things, if not said immediately, seem not worth saying ten minutes from now? ~Arnot L. Sheppard, Jr.

Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving evidence of the fact. ~George Eliot, Impressions of Theophrastus Such, 1879

The difference between a smart man and a wise man is that a smart man knows what to say, a wise man knows whether or not to say it. ~Frank M. Garafola

In the course of my life, I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet. ~Winston Churchill

And, the quote for which I initially searched:

Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference. ~ attributed to Mark Twain

I encourage those who have ideas and are able to act to do so because those who have nothing of value to add will likely continue to talk. I learned in school that "empty barrels make the most noise" (these days they do so eloquently) and I suspect that much hasn't changed.

Stop by my Urban Yard Jamaica shop some time and check out what else I've been up to. You just might see something there that you like. If you don't see anything then make a suggestion.

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Friday, August 6, 2010

Independence 48

So today is Jamaica's 48th year of independence from British rule. For better or for worse, many nations stand in awe of the world that Jamaica made. Its unbelievably twisted I know, we claim to value freedom and life on the one hand and then we take them back with the other. I am disappointed in what the nation has become because what I see is not what my ancestors fought for. Today is a cause for reflection more than a mindless celebration. We can and should do better!

Nevertheless, in recognition of the many positive achievements despite the odds feel free to mount this badge of honour somewhere where it makes you feel proud.

Stop by my Urban Yard Jamaica shop some time and check out what else I've been up to. You just might see something there that you like. If you don't see anything then make a suggestion.

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Marijuanaman Comics? No Sah

So Ziggy Marley is throwing his hat into the ring of publishing with a new comic project titled Marijuanaman. This project is slated to hit the retailers come April 20, 2011. According to the Image Comics July 1 blog,
Ziggy is blazing into the comic world with his latest project, MARIJUANAMAN. Ziggy's new superhero, Marijuanaman, is from a planet that is in desperate need of THC. Marijuanaman seeks to save Earth's marijuana fields from destruction by the drug company PharmeXon, and thus saving his home planet from destruction.

With Marijuanaman being heralded as "the hero for a new generation", I hope we can all handle him when he arrives because some parents we know aren't likely to take too kindly to a herbsman for kids, assuming that's the new generation they're talking about. I wonder if this is likely to be a winner? Surprisingly, this is just after his "Family Time" album as well as other projects aimed at kids. Maybe I'm the one who's getting it twisted but the message seems all wrong here. I can see through the brilliance of targeting kids to grow your audience with your music, but I think the theme in this new comic is a bad idea. Kryptonite and marijuana don't exactly have the same effect on kids. "Damagement" is on the loose it appears. Then again, maybe it's all a prank. Here's the official website

P.S. Check out my new Urban Yard shop, there's something there for you. If you don't see it then suggest it.
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Monday, June 28, 2010

In the World that Jamaica Made: Make Your Vision Count

In life one thing leads to another and so true to form my participation in the Caribbean Cultural Conference in New York opened an opportunity for me to be the guest speaker at the first annual Reggae AMPPS (Artistes, Musicians, Producers, Promoters and Songwriters) Awards ceremony. This event happened on Saturday, June 26, 2010 in Brooklyn. It was a very enjoyable night and by all appearances it will get better over the years. Among the night’s top honorees in attendance were: Pat McKay of Sirius XM; Howard “Sir Tommy's” Mapp, Producer; Anthony “Downbeat” Rookwood owner of Downbeat the Ruler sound system; Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke; Junior Forbes, Chairman, Caribbean American Cultural Caucus; and Sharon Gordon & Carlyle McKetty of the Coalition to Preserve Reggae Music. This was indeed august company and I was honored to be among them. Below are some lines from the delivery I gave as the event’s guest speaker. Judging by the feedback, the ideas were well received and I am happy that I could have provided the audience with some meaningful words.

Give Us Vision Lest We Perish
I want to ensure that my delivery is one that communicates a vision, that is, a vision for a better Jamaica (and a better Caribbean). This is something I’m very passionate about and it has been a very consistent message since my school days at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona. I’m at heart a Garveyite, I swear by the essential principles of this first national hero of Jamaica: 1) self-reliance, 2) nationhood, and 3) pride in self. Marcus Garvey was a pan-Africanist, and so am I. Mr. Garvey was very clear that development was not going to happen by magic, but that it was going to take serious work, and the same holds true today. Notwithstanding, this is an ideal and it is in striving for this state of being that we become our best selves.

In the World that Jamaica Made
After I had an exchange with Nick Da Silva in February 2010, a Brazilian artist who has created a Jamaican comic book series named “Dread & Alive” here in the US, I wrote,
There is a lot Jamaicans take for granted, and it is a national privilege that just might be short-lived. Jamaica’s patrimony in a very tangible way now belongs to the world. The better part of our national ideas articulated by the best of our folk philosophers have long migrated to create an independent Jamaica. A place that is independent of the island known as Jamaica that is to be found in the Caribbean Sea - and there is no place for the petty there. Welcome to the world that Jamaica made, where “to di werl” means just what it says. Embrace it.
My friends, this is the reality that faces us in 2010 as lovers of reggae music and the Jamaican culture. Much of what we love has been received and claimed by the world. In many instances they have made it their own. Just think of the many reggae events and festivals on which Jamaicans are merely guests. What does this mean for us who were born into the culture? Do we resist this appropriation or do we accept it? Does it make their (foreign) reggae inferior to our reggae or is it just one other type of reggae expression? We’ll have to answer these questions going forward because the answers have implications for how we conduct our business.

As much as we’d like to look inward to move forward, I believe that we will have to embrace these other developments that take place outside to make more successful strides. Friends we have very little choice.

Vision: Jamaica A Cultural Super State
I was fortunate to have entered the work world when I did, after the experience of the ill-fated Caribbean Music Expos (CME) in Ocho Rios, which set me on a path to develop training solutions for the region’s entertainment sector. In October 2001, I landed a job at the Culture Division in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture that saw me coordinating the Culture in Education Programme. Inspired by a January 1996 interview with Marcus Garvey Jr. on Mutabaruka’s Cutting Edge on IRIE FM, I gave life to the idea of a “cultural super state” applied to Jamaica (not Africa as was the original Garveyite intention).

I argued then and I still believe now, that the music sector has the potential to become a cash cow for Jamaica’s ailing economy (by virtue of the convergence of entertainment, media, technology and culture). When I first gave full expression to the notion of the cultural super state in October 2001 at the Culture Agent’s workshop I contended that a focus on this idea could help to bring about:
  • Economic prosperity for all
  • A world-class educated population
  • A healthy nation
  • A just society; with little or no crime
  • Respect for the elders and every human
These are ideals that later appeared as the national goals in the “Vision 2030 Jamaica: National Development Plan” a document prepared by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) in 2009 (eight years later). Notwithstanding, from as early as 2003 the ideas got written into the National Culture Policy of Jamaica, titled “Towards Jamaica a Cultural Superstate”, a project for which I carried some of the development responsibility at the time. Happily, the National Culture Policy was approved by Cabinet in December 2003.

So what does all this mean for us? If words on paper were all that was needed to develop Jamaica, reggae music, and the rest of the Caribbean then we probably would have been developed. Unfortunately, we need more.

Dr. Michael Witter in his 2003 Bob Marley Lecture told us that any strategic development plan for the Jamaican music industry, “must be informed by the industry’s vision of its own future, and it must continue to commit its resources to realizing that vision. The industry’s vision in turn will probably derive from the vision of a few forward-looking investors, similar to the dynamic, even catalytic, role that Chris Blackwell’s investments played in the emergence of reggae as an international commodity in the 1970s.”

For those who still want data as to whether or not investing in Jamaican creativity and culture (a.k.a. brand Jamaica) makes sense, Prof. Vanus James in completing a study for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) August 2007 shows from his research that,
Each dollar of foreign exchange invested in the leading elements of the core copyright sector contributes about J$6.18 of value added to Jamaica, mainly in the form of wages and indirect taxes. These elements are: authors, music composers, and independent artistes in allied activities (not music); authors, music composers, and independent artistes in the core music industry; dance studios; and theater and related entertainment services. Each dollar invested yields as much as J$6.57 in certain partial copyright sectors, such as manufacture of other leather products, luggage and handbags, footwear… and boots and shoes from leather fabrics and other materials… [read branded merchandise]. On the other hand, the same dollar of foreign exchange in communications (say, cable television) yields only J$1.49.
He added, “this simple arithmetic” makes a compelling case, yet we have not had any meaningful action on the part of the authorities nor from enough of our homegrown investors who have the requisite capital.

Despite the struggles on the rock, it is true that within the community of world cultures Jamaica is not dwarfed. Unfortunately though, the money that Jamaica earns stays primarily in the major northern states of USA, Canada, Japan, UK and her EU neighbors under the control of foreigners. This money could otherwise be used to provide better healthcare, a more equipped education system, better roads and an overall better quality of life for Jamaica’s families. Having recognized this, a priority contribution to the national development process is to prepare Jamaican citizens to take control of their cultural products. The change needed to achieve this will only happen through strategic work.

It can no longer be considered a joke when a child says she or he wishes to become a singer, dramatist, entrepreneur or some kind of a sports person. We all see on spectacular display before our very eyes the materially bedecked stars. It should not be too difficult to imagine that from the music sector the related occupations of fashion designing, cosmetology, filmmaking, dance, marketing, tourism, culinary arts, digital design and technology services all grow to support these activities. This cycle continues as each of these areas grow. It might very well be the most apt description of Jamaica’s current situation as regards the entertainment, media and culture segments of the economy to say that the proverbial “stone that the builder refused is becoming the cornerstone of the building”. Increasingly, we have to seek our economic salvation from the creative/culture sectors such as:
  1. Visual & Performing Arts
  2. Music
  3. Fashion
  4. Events and Festivals
  5. Audio-Visual (Radio, Film & Television)
  6. Digital Technology (Animation, Digital Arts & Design, Game Art & Dev)
  7. Publishing
  8. Sports
  9. Tourism & Travel
  10. Amusement/Theme Parks
  11. Gaming & Wagering
  12. Toys & Games
  13. Culinary Arts/Cuisine

All of these areas stand to benefit from the strengthening of the others. Unfortunately, we have not organized ourselves in ways that have allowed us to benefit from these opportunities that exist. Part of the reason for this may be a collective disregard for things Jamaican, but also our feeble efforts at converting very good ideas into reality - manifest entrepreneurial weakness. This is what Prof. James calls the paradox of entrepreneurship in the Caribbean, explained by saying that, “entrepreneurs with substantial capital are usually not drawn to invest in the key creative activities of the copyright sector, such as music; those entrepreneurs who are drawn typically have only small amounts of capital”.

My challenge then to this group of Jamaicans and well wishers in the Diaspora is, organize yourself into business units that aim to invest in the opportunities that emerge from the Jamaican cultural product both on the island as well as overseas. Do not wait on the Jamaican government! Contrary to the December 2004 music industry study done for the UNESCO Global Alliance Programme, I am now very convinced that more than any government, private individuals are better suited to turn this sector for the better, by:
  1. Creating the intersectoral linkages (tourism, manufacturing, IT, etc)
  2. Marketing and promoting the music product
  3. Protecting/policing their intellectual property
  4. Developing standards of professionalism and holding yourselves to it, and to refine new talent; continually innovating for the markets
  5. Celebrating and commemorating industry achievements and heroes
  6. Finding creative sources of financing
  7. Establishing and partnering on industry training
The conclusion then is if we want greater success we should encourage education and the refining of skills, as these are primary forms of capital for the entertainment and culture sectors. The fact is, the more you know, the more you are likely to earn in these sectors. The future is in your hands.

I applaud the development work of Reggae AMPPS and the other activities in which you are involved. More of this kind of effort is needed. I will also encourage you to take what you currently do to the next level. You may very well find that you can act as incubators for a range of other entities that need to emerge in support of the growth of global reggae. If you believe Mr. Garvey’s admonitions that say, “without vision the people perish”, then you have no choice but to stick steadfastly to your vision for yourself.

Thank you for your time.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Building Your Brand

On June 18, 2010 I made a presentation titled "Building Your Brand" at the second annual Caribbean Cultural Conference held at the Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York.  I am humbled by the response to the ideas presented.  My hope is that those who participated will take the ideas I presented and run with them.  There is hope for the Jamaican entertainment product both on the island as well as globally but we must work at this wisely.  It is very evident that alternative sources of revenue need to be tapped as creative folk, and I'm confident that we can find the right sources that match with the personality of each creative.  The engagement and other feedback received after the presentation says that at least some persons who were present thought that there could be some promise in building themsleves and a brand.  These sentiments give me hope.

My commitment to the unearthing, showcasing and development of the Jamaican entertainment and culture output still stands and I will endeavor to share whatever information I can to help this process along.  The conference organizers, the Caribbean American Cultural Caucus, recorded my presentation and they have plans to share it on their website in a few days.  When it becomes available I'll share a link here on my blog.

P.S. Check out my new Urban Yard shop, there's something there for you. If you don't see it then suggest it.

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

In the World that Jamaica Made: The Nicholas Da Silva Story

There are times I think that I should have named this blog, “In the world that Jamaica made”. I say this because on my journey I have encountered so many great non-Jamaicans who are so versed in and passionate about the culture of Jamaica. The output of the collective Jamaican “kingdom of the mind” is an enviable possession that we too often take for granted; with local shenanigans being nothing but bold displays of a lack of vision and a sense of self (history).
On March 1, Brazilian born Nicholas Da Silva reached out to me after reading my last post about his Jamaican inspired comics Dread & Alive. We chatted about his project, and I took from him great inspiration and hope for the Jamaican culture, all of which he became familiar with through friends, books, films, music and a singular visit. He is living testament to the world that Jamaica made. His story is inspiring and I said to him that I wanted to tell it. Thankfully, he agreed to have me take some text from our exchange for this post. Have a read and learn about this remarkable artist who is more attuned to and passionate about Jamaica than many Jamaicans I know. He is a man with a purpose and a vision, and somehow I think he will be successful at fulfilling his purpose and attaining his vision. Kam-Au Amen (KA): So how did you even think of this project? Nicholas Da Silva (ND): Well, when I was 22 my father passed away, he was my hero, he showed me the world before I even started high school. KA: Was he connected in to the Maroons [of Jamaica]? ND: No, but he was adamant about being independent, and a history buff, he loved knowledge and believed knowledge was power. I can still hear him telling me that if you want to learn something, go to the library, it's a place of knowledge. So I went home to the funeral, and then returned to San Francisco where I worked during the day and also worked a nightclub for reggae nights. My bouncer was a Rastafarian who really helped me get through the pain of losing someone very close to you. I found refuge in reggae music and that began to pique my interest in the country of Jamaica; this is back in 1989. KA: I noticed that Rastafarian characters and the [Dread] talk feature in a few of your projects. ND: Yes, I try to always give thanks and praise to those who influence me. KA: I actually wondered if you were Rastafarian. ND: I’m not a Rastafarian but I have so much respect for Rastafarians. KA: In many ways tapping into Rastafari is tapping into the essence of Jamaican culture. ND: Yes indeed. You know, the one thing that really spoke to me about the history of Jamaica was the Maroons. Here, you have a group of people who wanted their freedom and would fight by any means necessary to protect that freedom. I told myself a story must be made and told to future children to show them the plight of freedom. [So] I set out to write Dread & Alive. KA: You tapped into a great medium to tell the story too. ND: Thank you, my friend! When I produce things, I like to mesh cultural fact with fiction. KA: How many issues do you envision for the series? ND: A lot. I want to have this story as a mainstream story that we can all feel proud of, inspire others and show them the path. KA: I agree. For my whole academic life that is the point of view I’ve been articulating. ND: I’m tired of the boring stuff I see in the US with the movie industry and how Marvel and DC [comics] depict us, we can be heroes too. Your article really touched me. From the heart. That's why I reached out to say hello. KA: Thanks man. ND: I’m going to be releasing issue #2 this month, and have already drawn issue #3, it just needs to be colored and lettered. KA: The music on the website is original, right? ND: Yes indeed, I’m doing a CD series too. KA: Is it just your music only? ND: No, I’m inviting others to join me, I have the first CD line up ready, and I am looking for CD #2. KA: From the Adobe article I read on you I could see that you are a [workaholic], you hardly take a break, I admire that. ND: Thank you! I love the arts, music, writing, and drawing. I think I sleep 5 hours every day (7 actually); but I always wake up refreshed and ready to create. KA: How are the sales on Panelfly, [the iPhone/iPod comic downloading service]? ND: I don't know because I just joined them. We will get the first reports next month; the issue is #8 on the top ten which is a good thing. KA: Is the print uptake good? ND: Yes, it is. I’m producing this project totally independent, and loving every minute of it. KA: Do you think this will do well in Japan? ND: I think so, I get a lot of traffic there, and I have a nice following through ZOOLOOK. KA: What is your overall vision, do you see a TV series perhaps? ND: I would like to see a movie produced based on the stories, and a TV series, animated and live action, I’m open to both. If you noticed on the site, I have 2 stories. KA: This is such an inspiration. So how did the link with HELP Jamaica! come about? ND: I was looking for an organization that was trying to make a difference, one that is close to me. I told my dad that one day, I would build a library in his name. I believe he is with me in spirit. I have to tell you, I do get tired of having the wrong role models forced on the kids who will be our future. Sports can only take us so far. With the mind, the journey is endless, and that’s why I do this. KA: [You mentioned in the email to me that you are getting the comics translated into Patwa.] Its great that you reached out to the folks at the University of the West Indies. How is that going? ND: [Professor Hubert Devonish and the Linguistics Team] are translating the comic book issues now. KA: I know I mentioned it in my note, but full translation would make it virtually incomprehensible to an English audience. ND: I know, but you know, I like that. KA: Hehe. ND: One of the things I will do is help Hubert Devonish; he is trying to make Jamaican Patwa an official language. I will join him and use the series to help him. ND: You know, there is one thing I want to share with you. I think it's sad that it takes a major catastrophe for people to come together to help those in need. We should do this every day. That's Drew McIntosh's moniker - everyday, I will fight the good fight to make the world a better place. KA: Thank you Nick for your time and allowing me to share this. I must say that after this discussion I was moved. Rare are the moments when you meet people and their spirit so energizes your own. I emerged from this chat with even greater conviction that the story of the world that Jamaica made needs to be told. It was also very clear to me that the army that will be summoned to tell it won’t all be recruits from the rock. Instead, they will come from among some of the good people we meet on our journey. There is a lot Jamaicans take for granted, and it is a national privilege that just might be short-lived. Jamaica’s patrimony in a very tangible way now belongs to the world. The better part of our national ideas articulated by the best of our folk philosophers have long migrated to create an independent Jamaica. A place that is independent of the island known as Jamaica that is to be found in the Caribbean Sea - and there is no place for the petty there. Welcome to the world that Jamaica made, where “to di werl” means just what it says. Embrace it. Keep doing what you doing Nick for the love of Jamaica. Walk good, and good duppy walk wid yuh!
P.S. Check out my new Urban Yard shop, there's something there for you. If you don't see it then suggest it.
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Friday, February 26, 2010

The Dread & Alive Jamaican comics

In reading up on the non-profit HELP Jamaica!, I happened upon what has been described as the first Jamaican superhero comic book series titled "Dread & Alive". The series is produced by San Francisco based Nicholas Da Silva, who hails from Brazil. According to the site Better Flash Animation, Nicholas Da Silva is,
the founder and creative director of ZOOLOOK, a San Francisco-based new media agency established in 1996 that develops entertainment properties for the web, video, television, film and wireless entertainment. Nicholas Da Silva has been featured in Web Designer magazine HOT 100 List for the past 2 years (2008-2009). Nicholas is also an award-winning graphic designer, music producer and published author. He has developed projects for TechTV, the Beastie Boys, Charles Schwab, Wyclef Jean, Front 242, to name a few.
The first issue of Dread & Alive was launched on February 6, 2010 (Bob Marley's 65th earthday) in both digital and print versions. The story follows Drew McIntosh, the Roaring Lion, who confronts the evils of Babylon - illegal smugglers, human traffickers, illegal loggers (this IS fiction) among the Maroons in Jamaica's Cockpit Country. I found an unillustrated version of the story online here, feel free to flip the pages and read it for yourself. The dialog has little to no hint of Jamaican Patwa. I was somewhat disappointed there, but I recognize that we didn't write it. Follow this link if you are interested in purchasing a $0.99 digital copy for your iPod touch/iPhone. If you are going to order the print version it will cost you $4.99 plus shipping. One other fascinating thing about this project is that Mr. Da Silva will be donating 30% of all digital sales, and 10% of all print sales from Issue #1 to HELP Jamaica!, thereby assisting in the establishment of libraries and other educational projects in Jamaica. For all subsequent issues his operations will donate 10% to HELP Jamaica!, this giving back initiative is commendable. I expect there will be accusations of cultural exploitation and I'm sure that a lot of that will be tantrums of the moment. These days I know not to get too stirred by arguments in defense of opportunities that we fail to take advantage of as individuals and as a people. There is some truth to the point that very little else comes from talkers but talk. We can choose to participate or excuse ourselves, and believe it or not we have made a choice. From the days of the admonitions of Marcus Garvey, through to the present admonitions of experts, we have allowed our leadership to guide us to poor choices. These days we just live with the consequences. A point worthy of discussion is the giving back model, which I hope will likely be used by more cultural entrepreneurs to prop up the weak educational infrastructure in Jamaica. This funding approach may also force more relevance out of the national training initiatives, particularly since these entrepreneurs see the inadequacies daily. This is to be encouraged, because as Maxine Stowe has been at pains to point out, it is only by bringing in untainted investments into the creative sector that we will truly begin to see more positive output and greater returns to the Jamaican economy from the creative product. Though there are a few questions in my mind with regards to matters of representation in Dread & Alive, I will only offer up congratulations to the team at this time for taking this bold step. No matter what happens hereafter, a door has been opened. I trust that those with vision and talent will step in. Go check out Da Silva's Dread & Alive site for more information, you might find the themed music and free downloads interesting. His primary Zoolook site links to some very good work. I found that his ultrafunkular animated music mix was very entertaining. Walk good! P.S. Check out my new Urban Yard shop, there's something there for you. If you don't see it then suggest it.
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