Dancehall Artistes & Money – Who has it? Who doesn’t?
When these dancehall artistes brag and boast about how much money they have and how rich they are, should we believe them? Well, some of them present a pretty good case with all their flashiness, but are they truly wealthy? Young people who watch their music videos and listen to their lyrics really think so, and many inner city youths who grow up poor see the dancehall and entertainment industry as a means to an end. Little do many of them know the frightening truth, that many dancehall artistes are BROKE. Many have, and will die POOR.
The all-important question is, “Why?”
Dancehall is a phenomenal genre, people love it but dancehall artistes do not make money from album sales. When a hip-hop or pop artiste for example will sell one million units in the US, a dancehall artiste will sell between 50,000 to 100,000 copies (and I’m being generous here). This is not to say that some Reggae/Dancehall artistes aren’t wealthy. Dancehall USA recently listed Shaggy, Jimmy Cliff, Sean Paul, Ziggy Marley, Sean Kingston, Jnr Gong, Maxi Priest, Buju Banton, Beenie Man and Bounty Killer as the ten richest living dancehall artistes. You will note that many of these artistes started in the 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s “suh dem have supm name royalties”.
Truth is, when a producer makes a ‘riddim’ the artistes don’t make money from that because the rights to that music belong to the producer; that is how they make money. I recently spoke to Vybz Kartel, who told me that is the reason the music relationship between himself and Stephen “Di Genius” McGregor didn’t work. Stephen wanted full rights for their collaborations but Kartel wasn’t having it, although in the music world that’s fair business.
Vybz Kartel is one who has studied the entertainment industry he knows that where music is concerned as much as he is an entertainer, the music just ain’t selling like it used to. Hence, for him dancehall was a stepping stone to get to the real money. Afterall, he can’t be a deejay forever and he knows this. He has modelled the hip-hop and pop-star lifestyle of owning business and products. P. Diddy now has the third largest minority business in the form of Bad Boy Entertainment as well as shares in CIROC Vodka, Vybz Kartel has Adijaheim Records and Street Vybz Rum. Jay Z has the 40/40 Club, Vybz Kartel has The Building. The Gaza head honcho will also be starting his own line of shoes called Addi’s and his dermatology anti-acne and anti-blemish soap (NOT the cake soap).
Lecturer at the University of the West Indies and author of the text Dancehall: From Slaveship to Ghetto, Dr. Sonjah Niaah stated that, “this is the aspect of Vybz Kartel’s life I am impressed with and the aspect I think that constitutes the best example to emulate. He has reminded us of building empires by building one around products that enjoy synergy with his lifestyle as an artiste.” Dr. Niaah went on to note that many artistes die in poverty, “but this aspect of Kartel’s life ensures that if money earned is invested, it can continue to earn enough for him to have a substantial retirement package.”
Vybz Kartel dubbed himself the dancehall hero, and as controversial as that statement is, it may not be far from the truth. As Dr. Niaah states, there is an important aspect of his life that is worth mirroring if these 21st century artistes want to have a pretty decent retirement package. Either that or you’ll find yourself still living in an apartment with your mother at age 40 or have your vehicles repossessed because of unpaid taxes. [Editor’s Note: Boss, a waan yu low Elly enuh!]
1980’s Dancehall Artiste, Tenor Saw