Are Soca Artists Wasting Their Time In This Dead Music Industry?

by Mantius Cazaubon (SocaFreak.com)

Dead Music Industry And Soca

Dead Music Industry And Soca

Dead Music Industry And Soca
Music Industry Is Dead

Are soca artists wasting their time doing music? Some of the biggest international stars in the game are not making money in this dead music industry. On a lower level, the biggest soca stars like Machel Montano are complaining. I just read an article where Machel Montano is saying that most of the money he is making is going right back into doing videos and so on. If the leader, Machel Montano is lamenting, where does this leave the small soca artist? Is s/he doomed to poverty?


Thousands of songs are released yearly, millions are spent and the music is just given away for free. Artists do not even bother trying to sell songs because fans expect it to be free. The world, especially West Indians are largely, no longer buying music. Why buy something you can download for free anyway? The artists see this as a marketing effort. If your song goes viral, you are sure to get on a show to perform it and then you will get paid. Sadly, this hardly happens for smaller artists.

So many are getting into the soca game. Computers have made it easy to do so. There are more artists doing soca than ever before. More producers, more songwriters. But why? Why are so many getting into a music industry which clearly won't pay their bills? 99% of these artists are not making a dime from soca music. It's all a front. Most of the artists are depending on other means like their day job to get by. Many of those who win soca monarch competitions, when you look at the way they're living, they appear to be poorer than many of the fans they are singing to. Most times their expenses are much higher than the prize money. If the winners don't make any money, ask yourself how hard it is for those who don't place.

So what's the point of spending all your time and effort in a "business" which will not allow you to take care of your family or ever (let's say) build a house for your kids to live in? What is your retirement plan? Maybe you're doing this for the love of it. Maybe it's "just for the fans" as you love to say. And while this may be a good thing, how about you? Isn't it time you as an artist wake up and find some other means of earning a living?

I know this may seem strange coming from a soca music website. But maybe it is time we keep it real. You, the artist have not made any money for the last ten years. You expect to make money in the eleventh year? This soca game seems like a gamble more than everything else. Every year soca artists spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to record songs, to create videos, to buy outfits and stage props, hoping to win road march or soca monarch. And every year their income is in the negative. How long is this gonna continue? I'm speaking to artists right now. How much longer?

Some fans may not understand what I'm saying because they love their soca music. I don't think any fan would want to see their favourite artist quit the game? But on a deeper level, you have to understand that it's supposed to be a business for the artists and 99 percent of them are going no where.

Soca music is dominated by a few artists that you can count on two hands. We all know that these are artists like Machel Montano, Bunji Garlin, Fay-Ann Lyons, Iwer George, Destra Garcia, Saucy Wow, Shurwayne Winchester, Kes, Farmer Nappy, Alison Hinds and Patrice Roberts. And the fact is that some of the names in this list are not doing well. Most of the hundreds of other artists in Trinidad and Tobago, St Vincent, Grenada, Barbados, St Lucia, Antigua, Dominica and the rest of the soca nations are individually not making any significant impact on soca. One or two may have a hit every now and then as is the case with Mr Killa with Rolly Polly and Skinny Banton with Saltfish, but that is it. Over 90 percent of the artists in soca, you've never heard about them and new names come up every Carnival season.

Normally, you wouldn't hear artists complaining about how hard it is trying to make a living doing soca. They won't do it because the artist wants to present himself in the best light. The artist wants to create a bigger than life effect. But the fact is that the artists are not doing as well as most of the fans think they are. Fans shouldn't be fooled by the glitter or the pretty music videos.

Many of the youths are drawn to becoming artists and producers. Maybe they're coming in it for the fame, or maybe they are genuinely there because of their natural talent. Maybe something deep within has drawn them towards the dying or dead music industry. This is sad. Because currently, the music industry won't pay their bills. Gone are the days when you could sell music CDs. The Internet came and killed it. The only real way to make money in music as an artist is to do live shows. This means that you are at the mercy of promoters. At most shows we see the same artists over and over again. These are the only artists really making any money in this soca game. What's more is that most of the royalties made in the Caribbean is sent overseas due to the fact that we have a culture that plays more foreign music than local or Caribbean music. Even within the smaller islands, more Jamaican and Trinidadian music is played, putting the local artists at a financial disadvantage.


There comes a point when the artist must ask himself whether he is going to continue to spend thousands upon thousands each year recording soca songs and not be able to pay his bills. The artist must ask herself whether she is going to do this part time, as a hobby and spend more time pursuing income generating activities. Some people will hasten to say that it is not all about money. Yes, it may not be all about money but it is certainly about money. Without money you're homeless, you can't eat, farless build a future for yourself and children. And soca artists are not only doing this for fun. It is business to them.

So what's the verdict? What are your thoughts? Are soca artists wasting their time and energy doing something that will never bring them success? There is a saying that one should never quit. But there is also a saying that you can't expect to get a different result by doing the same thing over and over. Is that it? Should artists go about doing things in a different way? And what is that different way? More questions than answers. The international music industry on a whole can't seem to answer the questions. Maybe the Caribbean soca music industry can? Have your say!

Comments for Are Soca Artists Wasting Their Time In This Dead Music Industry?

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Nov 28, 2014
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keep up the works soca artists
by: Anonymous

Having read the page my though's are that we need to help and keep as many soca artists making music. However as you raised the problems are that radio don't play soca unless it's carnival time also since you no longer need to buy either LP's or CD's makes it either easier to get music or harder for others to get the music out to us. We no longer need to go to our record shops and spend time with the person who sell the tunes, they would tell you what was hot or who was new and you should listen to the tune. However you may have to look at the DJ's who play the same songs all the time. This make it hard for new artists to be heard. So if artists want to make the break thorough they need to find DJ's who will play there music

Dec 01, 2014
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VERY BIG ARTICLE
by: BLACKIE

You hit the nail on the head bro after reading this article I got a reality check because you are so correct my friend every year if an artiste record three songs it will cost and average of $25000.00 dollars if you record by one of the small producers in the business.

I think our main problem is that john public is not given the opportunity to hear plenty of the good songs some system should be put in place so artiste with well produced songs could be heard. And in this case the parties will not be bored hearing five songs over and over.

Great Article Bro is the truth and sometimes the truth offends.

Dec 02, 2014
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Thanks for your comments
by: Soca Freak

Thank you, Anonymous for contributing and thank you Blackie for being in agreement. We need to face reality and after we do so we can grow. All is not lost, but the first step is to admit where we are going wrong as artists, producers and music industry professionals.

A complete turn around is needed, although I don't claim to have the answers at present. If I did I'd be rich, because this is a big problem. Let's remain optimistic through it all.

Dec 08, 2014
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Joining the fray
by: John Leonhardt

Yes Mantius, you've hit the nail on the head. I have been teaching, preaching, singing, playing soca for over 15 years myself. An American-born White man. I personally have been rejected, dejected and surprisingly accepted during the course I have chosen to take. I've spent a lot of time with the likes of Scrunter, Mr. Stalin, Serenader (Bajan)and other well-established kaisopersons asking them all the same question(s).

Why is it that what I consider to be the greatest talent of world music is passed by? Lord Kitchener and Sparrow for two, should be beyond National Heroes of the Culture, set for life, as well as death, but you see them lying in borrowed graves or languishing with health issues. Talent like Duke, Spoiler, Melody, Pretender, living on a government pension or worse, when millions enjoyed the fruits of their labors for decades. Stalin hit it also with "Mr. Cultureman" (one of my favorites), everyone making the money, except they. At least Belafonte and Byron Lee managed to find their fortunes at the expense of the Artistes at large. You have to give them credit for their pragmatism.

But what bothers me is the Ministry(s) of Culture don't promote the music inside the country or abroad. I think everyone knows that Jamaica is a reggae nation, but ask anyone here in the States (other than West Indians) if they know what Calypso or Soca is, you get the same answer.....Trinis at large seem like they don't want to promote their music so no one will thief it.....like who lights a candle and hides it under a bushel? AND, the moment Carnival in T&T is over, the radio stations go right back to the American hip hop/R&B formats! Yuk!! So who's responsible? Yes, the Internet has completely raped the music industry, and it was being raped before that by the promoters and big record labels.

I watched a beautiful biannual Soca show end it's run after several decades right here in Brooklyn. Performers came faithfully to give their all and some never got paid.....you might as well put in the human greed factor as well as poor vision and mismanagement. The perfect storm. I personally wish to see the large and fabulous body of creativity exhumed and exported, meaning the superior works of Caribbean music, that has been buried in the archives of time, when it should be on the airwaves. Thank God for Trevor Wilkens. He's the only stalwart I know personally here in the greater NYC area that consistently puts on a 3 hour Calypso Show every Friday and Saturday night, 91.5 FM 8pm to 11pm. You're welcomed Trevy! My shameless plug for you!!

I would love to be making $$ for all my endeavors as well, but so far it's been the labor of love, I've spent more than I will probably ever make, making music!!

Dec 10, 2014
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Great comments on the state of soca music industry by John Leonhardt
by: Mantius Cazaubon (Soca Freak)

John Leonhardt, wow. I really appreciate your comments. Here's a man who is involved in the industry and knows what he is talking about. You made some great points.

I want us as soca artists, musicians, producers, managers, djs, music industry professionals and so on to question ourselves. We need to start asking ourselves these uncomfortable questions.

John, you said "Who lights a candle and hides it under a bushel". Hmmm. That made me think.

Dec 19, 2014
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Speak the truth
by: Lolita J

Your article was really on point and this is a sad reality that many people don t realize.I am a journalist and had the occasion to interview many soca artists such as Machel, Hinds, Bunji etc...

People see the glitters, the stage, the videos and such and think that Soca artists live like Queens and Kings. Well they don't.

I want to ask everyone reading the article when is the last time you pay to get any of the Soca song you love to jump on, chip on, scream on, wine on etc.....

I am pretty sure the answer is less than 3 percents of your readers! I personally subscribe to Spotify and listen to Soca on it, but the artists barely get anything from those deals and only the major singers are featured on Spotify.

Why they do it.. I will say HOPE. Hope that one day they might cross over, or make it to the big arena like Machel and Bunji. They also do it for fame, or the little bit of power and recognition it gives them. Human nature loves the spotlight, and even though you are leaving under a bridge, it looks cool to arrive in a club in a Hummer and sit in VIP for example. Some do it for the love of music, as any art forms such as painting, drawing etc.. that might never bring any money, but people invest in guitars, dance classes, paint, brushes, cameras etc...

So yes, it is sad to see that the Soca industry is not supported by its own "nation" as foreign music is always on the air... Sad to see how much money is generated during carnival season with costumes, hotels, transportation, food etc.. and the music which is really at the center of it all does not have enough value to people to be worth being paid for. We pay 800 US dollars for a costume but we are not willing to spend 3 dollars for 2 soca songs on Itunes.....

Dec 19, 2014
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The state of soca music industry and its artists
by: Mantius Cazaubon (Soca Freak)

Lolita, well said and thanks for your very insightful comment. You are correct about some of the reasons that many artists do soca. One word in particular struck me in your post and that was "hope". You are so right and it's sad.

Will the artist live his/her entire life in hope? There comes a time when one must get serious. Right?

Right now, I hate to say it, but largely, there is no clear-cut way to really monetize the thousands of soca songs being released yearly.

I see a lot of young people entering the game, now more than ever. It's great for the music itself. More music for fans to enjoy. But it's all FREE. The artist has no choice but to give it away for free in this new age. If this is gonna be your career and you have no other means of earning income, you better have a good idea or face poverty. Sorry to be crude.

The artist must look for ways of selling something else and using this music simply as a promotional tool. A song is perhaps no longer a product. The business model of the early 2000s and before is history!

Sadly, this situation is not exclusive to soca but to the music industry at large.

I would have loved to have the answers!

Dec 19, 2014
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Unbelievable!!
by: Soca Producer

Hold up!! How is it that a post so important like this be made on a site that has a section that says "Download 2015 Soca Music For Free"???

Dec 19, 2014
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Download soca music for free.
by: Mantius Cazaubon (Soca Freak)

Soca Producer, because this is 2014/2015. People download music for FREE. Face it! As a matter of fact artists and producers encourage it. They send out their music so it can be downloaded for FREEEEE!!!!

If you don't give it away for free how will anyone know about you? Are you still living in 1999?

It's going to be like this increasingly? Did you read the entire article and the comments?

Why are you so shocked? Come better! And while you're at it, go here to download soca music for free! :-)

Dec 19, 2014
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...mean while, elsewhere...
by: Glen Greaves

Actually the Internet hasn't killed anything. Before the Internet blame game, what technology was in the firing line? The 60/90 minute cassette tape. Blaming the Internet is a lazy way to try and debate a point. It is a soft target because it has no means to counter argue
The music industry should have been investing millions in technology, and not lawyers, to protect artists. Now the music industry is trying to play catch up, selling tracks for peanuts on all the big retail websites as digital downloads, hoping that it would persuade "music fans" to buy and not illegally download. A bit late now isn't it?
In the UK Ed Sheeran's 2012 album was the most illegally downloaded with Rihanna in 3rd place (globally her albums are No 1). However, they are earning millions because they have massive corporate backing and can put on excellent concerts. Check out Ed Sheeran comment about illegal downloads https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiS2VrPd3eM .

(Edited by webmaster to add youtube video.)



To take ah borrow from Sheeran..."It's all relative". How many Caribbean artists have tried to cut it in the Pop world? How many people from US/EU try to become artist and failed? Is it relative when extrapolated against those from the Caribbean? Has anyone looked at the market size for the Soca genre and up-scale it to the market size of the Pop genre to get a better view? What is the state of play with other world music?
In the early years of the music industry, not every household could afford a gramophone, so how did artist make money? May be vinyl/CDs lulled artist into a false sense of security? What is Soca offering to the local and wider markets? On that last question, check this link http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/k-town/6092299/k-pop-concerts-on-major-global-increase-infographic
Don't beat up the Internet. Like a hammer it is a tool that has to be used by humans to do good or bad things.
Finally, as long as cheap electronics, input/output ports, RCA cables, microphones and media for recording are available... well you know the score.

Dec 20, 2014
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Real talk about the industry
by: Anonymous

Well I agree with Lenard, the ministries of culture do little to promote and insure that their own music is promoted. They only do anything during Carnival which is not enough. They also hire outside artist and pay them thousands but do little or nothing for the local music industries. Nothing in the schools, nothing in community groups just plain nothing

Dec 20, 2014
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Blaming The Internet and the International Music Industry according to Will.i.am
by: Mantius Cazaubon (Soca Freak)

Glen Greaves, I appreciate your points.

Yet, we cannot say the Internet is not the factor. It IS the advent of the Internet that changed everything. Anything that can be digitalized has suffered. Book sales have suffered as well. DVD sales. This is not a complaint.

Yes, I agree with what you said, alluding to the fact that the Music Industry took things for granted. They mistakenly thought the CD was the answer then. They should accept some of the responsibility.

I agree that the Internet shouldn't be blamed. Blame is futile. But to state that the advent of the Internet is what shifted the goal posts (as I did) is simply a matter of fact, not blame. What I'm doing is by no means beating up the Internet. The Internet is here to stay and should be embraced fully.

You may want to watch this video as well where Black Eye Peas' Will.i.am shares his thoughts on the state of the industry.



Dec 21, 2014
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Artist Bad Drive Themself
by: Anonymous

YOU ARE SO CORRECT IN THIS ARTICLE.. BUT I BLAME THE ARTIST. CAUSE MOST OF THEM BAD RIDE THEIR OWN CAREERS. BY THEIR DEEDS..

Dec 21, 2014
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Internet: The Game Changer
by: Glen Greaves

I'll quote what I read in the opening post, "The Internet came and killed it." Was that just a bit of sensationalism to start the debate? What is being said now, I quote again, "It IS the advent of the Internet that changed everything." is the factual. The flip side though, is that every artist around the world has access to a worldwide audience, thanks to the Internet. Learning how to tap into and use the dominating internet technologies is key, and a good fan base has to be part of it.
The music industry has taken the wrong route in dealing with the Internet and its community. Has suing Brianna LaHara and the other 200+ people, back in 2003, stop illegal downloads? No. The only people who probably made money from suing 12 year olds (like Brianna at that time) were the lawyers. Willi.am's quote is correct but must be interpreted correctly 'everything that we THOUGHT the music industry was is dead.' i.e. the old ways/business model is dead. Even other businesses recognised this and evolved. Those that didn't are now extinct or a shadow of what they use to be e.g. Woolworths. Granted food and clothes cannot be consumed digitally, it is largely the music industry's attitude that has landed itself in this position.
If the music industry wants to regain some level of control, it is possible. It will require cooperation from the electronics industry, music streamers and the software industry. It would also require sweeping out the dinosaurs in charge and bringing in the tech savvy thinkers, the likes of Will.i.am. That window of opportunity is closing for specific music companies, as there is nothing to stop Google from setting up as a Sony Music, et al. Given Sony's latest monumental mess-up that could be sooner rather than later.
In the Soca industry, there needs to be a higher degree of cooperation driven by the Caribbean Soca community, the copyright organisations, Governments and assistance from UWI and fans. However, I cannot see that happening given the various failed attempts at any type of Caribbean unity. That is the starting point.

Dec 21, 2014
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Realize.
by: Dave John

As a musician and Trinidadian living in the US. I do think we need to remember the music of the soil is a Culture more than it is an indusrty.

Peace.

Dec 22, 2014
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It's Almost Dead
by: JayT

Artist and music isn't the problem.
When you have radio stations and dj's only concerned about the very few stated as top artist the others don't stand a chance to survive.
There are many good songs every year, yet we only hear from 8-10 artist on a regular plus the mindset that it must only be around carnival alone music must be released.
Unless you run with a certain click you're dead as a new artist.
No dj will genuinely make a new song a hit because it's a follow fashion business with most of them.
I live in NY where artist have to get the recognition in Trinidad in order to survive in the US where soca is played 12 months and where it's only worth bringing up a handful of the big artist for the same reason.
As a promoter most of these artist overprice themselves, not knowing that the overseas market is tired with the same song that's running from the time it's released for carnival to when they can be hired overseas.
If more artist get airplay while keeping the prices reasonable to the market where promoters are interested, they will surely stand a better chance of survival.
Not when their price is more than what the expenses add up to.
Currently my approach is, "do I need an artist to make a show when the possibility is that I will lose money" the answer is "hell no". Everyone has to rethink the plan for it to work otherwise even fans worldwide will soon get tired of the same big name artist.
Meanwhile, let's enjoy the new doors being opened byvMachel, Bunji, Fayann, Kes, Kerwin, Lyrical etc until it's either completely dead or rejuvenated.

Dec 22, 2014
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working for a living
by: socafish

One is going to have to sing for one's supper in the future. No more relying on recordings for income, artists will have perform for a living, working daily like the rest of us. Recordings will serve as marketing devices for concerts.

Dec 22, 2014
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working for a living
by: socafish

One is going to have to sing for one's supper in the future. No more relying on recordings for income, artists will have perform for a living, working daily like the rest of us. Recordings will serve as marketing devices for concerts.

Dec 22, 2014
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The Honest truth
by: Dento

I love Caribbean music but an artist have to feed his or her family. This is not news to me since
Soca music has never crossed over to main stream America and I don't know why.
In the Caribbean we support all different types of music but American DJ's just don't promote Soca
Calypso, Zouk, Bouyon or any other Caribbean beats.
It will be a sad day when soca die but I can see it happening.


Dec 23, 2014
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Great contributions on the soca music industry
by: Mantius Cazaubon (Soca Freak)

Glen Greaves, Dave John, JayT, Socafish and Dento, you made some great contributions here. I think there is a lot of wealth/food for thought in your comments. I'm happy to see us have a discussion around this music because it is not all about "party, jump, wine and drink rum". There is a certain level of consciousness behind everything.

If any of the bigger artists, the leaders in the soca industry are reading, we'd love to hear your thoughts as well. Talk is good. Talk inspires thought and action.

Dec 29, 2014
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Dead Soca Music Industry???????
by: Anonymous

Dead Music Industry??????? Your title would attempt to suggest that there was something called a SOCA MUSIC INDUSTRY which some how meet its untimely death at the hand of the internet, but that would be false. There is not such thing as a soca industry IMO! There is a Carnival Industry of which soca music is a by product and dependent on.

the absence of a "Soca Industry", with record labels/record stores, is the exclusive reason why artist struggle to squeeze out a meager financial existence in the genre. There is no record label to absorb recording cost, to manage distribution of music whether locally, regionally or internationally, marketing and assist in artist development, hence and artist is responsible for all of the aforementioned items.

The internet, unlike with other genre, is a God send for soca music because unlike other genre (reggae, hip hop, r&b) where artist music is available for purchase from record stores, the internet is the only source to hear/get soca music. The only way to acquire music, particularly with the smaller island, is if you know someone from there or you get it on the internet. So to blame the internet for the labors of soca music is and injustice.




Dec 30, 2014
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New Business Model ?
by: Rhythmwize

I subscribe to Spotify and find it invaluable and extremely convenient as well as a really enjoyable product for listening and researching and exploring music of all kinds, and its getting more content(including soca) and better features on a consistent basis. Hopefully, in the future its gonna be able to pay the artists more for their music but right now its still a work in progress and from what I've read they(Spotify) are not making a profit and are still losing money.

Right now the Spotify streaming music service provides a lot more then just an mp3 and I can imagine that possible new features and utilities are almost unlimited. Like, if they had a feature where all the soca from every island and from the very new to all of the old were readily available and organized I would gladly pay an additional $10 to $20 a month for that. I think something like this could be successful as the new business model for the music industry, but only time will tell.

Jan 14, 2015
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our music is not dead! lets invoke life
by: bobbyredd

i feel as an artist myself i love my culture my music and we as caribean people have a responsibility to protect our music and that is by putting our fans on blass and let them know how important it is to spend a couple dollars from time to time to support our music because most artist spend more than that on gas just going to the studio to bring you good music and some of the bigger artist like bungi and machel need to stress how important it is to monitize the music, they have to be our voice we must stand strong because devided we fall and making sure the smaller artist are getting heard doesnt hurt it makes our base stronger because they have supporters though small but strenght are in numbers ! everything starts with one... bobbyredd!

Aug 09, 2015
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Soca artist wasting their time
by: Anonymbobbyreddous

It's unfortunate , because our music is so beautiful and it's imbedded so deep within our culture that if we do t find a solution we are only hurting the very thing that those great calypso super stars before us that did their part to keep our culture alive , there's always a solution we have to find a way to come together n support our artist even if it's programs that can be created to give the up n coming serious artist a platform to to present n create a sense of pride in our beautiful music that u cannot put a price on , let's find a way for our young artist the next machel or even greater don't let them get lost to our failure to give them a platform to be successful n be able to eat!

Oct 29, 2015
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create international market
by: Anonymous

A soca artist that could rise meteorically like Bob Marley did with reggae, could launch it international.
As non-West Indian white PA boy, it took a several months winter journey to gradually hook me on soca. It takes a while to get the jump-up feel rhythm, accent off the beat - the opposite of rock. I suggest that soca music videos would be more aurally accessible (do international market versions) if a)they are LYRICS videos in PLAIN ENGLISH rather than West Indian spellings b)include text lyrics in description c)define the Caribbean slang words/phrases. Some instructional videos on dance/movement for soca rhythms too. Non-WEst Indians are simply bewildered by the rhythm, but once taught, they will love it. All you West Indians, show the tourists the correct jumpup rhythm motion that you learned as toddlers.

Oct 31, 2015
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another convert!
by: john leonhardt

Wow! Someone else got it!! At this rate it could become at National movement!!! All jest aside, what baffles me is that soca hasn't had it's true introduction here in the U.S. Again, Belafonte could have been the standard-bearer for calypso, Buster Poindexter (aka) David Johannson, had a shot with Arrow's Hot,Hot,Hot. But wait, there's more. When I recently read about a dj, yes a dj pulling in millions of dollars I am stunned. Then cut to the image: a masive crowd of young people waving their arms in a club,undulating and appearing to be enjoying themselves to what to me sounds like industrial edm. Is there a message? Subjectivlely and subliminally? Again, I offer that calypso, kaiso and soca have deep roots, there's something to be learned, there's deeper thought involved. Most people don't really listen to carefully crafted lyrics, it's too much work. Again, it's wasted on the mindless. What we need is a Renaissance to wrest the sleeping sheep who march to the blind piper. I'm getting too deep for myself, preaching to the choir. Thanks Mantius.

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