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Challenges Facing Songwriting and Music Production in Trinidad and Tobago

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Music is one of the key identifying characteristics of Trinidad and Tobago culture. Whether it be the driving rhythms of its indigenous Soca, Chutney and Steelband sounds, to the sobering commentary of the Calypso genre, local music continues to play an integral role in national development. As a pre-requisite to the local music industry being able to flourish and attain its maximum potential on the global music landscape, the quality of inputs that drive its value chain has to be significantly improved. In the case of the music sector, these inputs are the songs and recordings that aim to meet user demands. Deficiencies in the songwriting and production sectors of the music value chain can be pinpointed in three main areas: quality of input (songs and productions), converting songs into recordings and Monetization and collection of revenue.

Quality Issues 

In both the songwriting and production arenas, the quality of songs and productions usually play a role in determining how their creators advance in the industry. In Trinidad and Tobago many songwriters have learned the craft on their own, some have participated in one-off private workshops but there remains the need for local programmes that provide training in songwriting. This is also true on the production end where many are learning the craft in their home studios. There is therefore need for capacity development in this area so that the overall song offerings originating from the country can be of international standard.

Cashing In

In addition to quality constraints, local songwriters also need help in converting songs into products. Possible tactics for achieving this includes: the creation of recordings from songs, pairing songwriters with singers and also songwriter deals. For this problem to be addressed there needs to be greater emphasis placed on music publishing. Many songwriters attempt to sing their own songs even if they are not a good fit for the particular composition. There needs to be more focus placed on finding multiple uses for songs that can generate revenue.

 Along similar lines, revenue generation is a product of music monetization initiatives and in order for both songwriters and producers to benefit there needs to be effective collection of revenue as well as, innovative models for the financing of productions. Many local songwriters forgo revenue by not becoming members of collecting societies. Producers on the other hand have no local agency for collecting their producer royalties even though they have been protected and entitled to royalties under the amended Copyright Act (2008).  

Moving Ahead: The Case for Innovative Models

Conversely, as a means of propelling both songwriters and producers forward there needs to be an introduction of new models for the financing of both songs and productions. It has been the case where producers are simply charging a fixed fee for their work. Many times this is out of the reach of the local aspiring act. There needs to be greater partnerships between both groups. A possible instance of a alliance could be a local producer that provides free upfront production to an artist and songwriter in exchange for a percentage of the copyright on the master recording. Similar to this songwriters can pool their songs and seek out financing through the securitization of their copyrights. Through this method songs can be used as collateral for loans which can be used to produced recordings and promote albums.

 

While there are problems plaguing the songwriting and production sectors of the local music industry, focusing on improving the quality of the creators' craft, finding ways to convert songs into recordings and developing new initiatives for the monetization of outputs and the collection of resulting revenue can serve to enhance the current operation of the industry while promoting sustainable growth and development.