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I mentioned earlier that it's almost impossible these days to have a big tune if there aren’t at least a few other cuts on the same riddim. But there are rare examples of the opposite; Busy Signals Step Out is one. But, significantly, the tune was around for a long time (since 2004 according to its producer Gavin Blair) and not until late 2005 did it become a hit and continued to live all through 2006. This was a huge breakthrough for Busy, but the Gavin Blair did not actively record any more artists on it.
I bet that anytime during this 2 year journey, a batch of 10 -15 cuts would have made the riddim itself huge. This was never the intention, so it never happen, and I think to a large extent that was one of the factors that made Busy’s tune so big.
However, once it was a hit for Busy, Bounty and Kartel also voiced it. This was not on the producers request, but on their own initiative. Obviously Kartel and Bounty (..’s management teams) though this would be big and made sure their artists was on it. But the producer didn't release any more tunes on it and the riddim never buss as a juggling ting. Which probably was a good thing for Busy.
I bet you haven't even heard the Bounty/Kartel versions. I sampled the Bounty tune for this loop, although the is not up to the standard of the Kartel and Busy versions…
….so don’t the hesitate to click the instrumental version on the left and you’ll se how strong this riddim really is.
By coincidence I came in contact with the producer Gavin Blair (more:www.myspace.com/equiknoxxmusic
which told me a little on how the version came about and so on.
Interestingly he said what a lost of people say today, in his words “Yea the quality is definitely not there right now or at least the music is not as good as it was ten years ago, the artistes sound too one track minded (not much variation in their lyrics or delivery) and the producers and composers seem too mechanical, the music sounded much more free moving a decade ago it sounds pretty stiff now, hopefully I and others can change this trend.”
It’s funny because everybody is saying this, but if remember correctly (and I do :) ) people said the same thing 10 years ago… 20 years ago…. etc. The fact is that 95% is always crap, but 10 years later you only remember the good 5 %.
I took the opportunity to ask Gavin Blair a little about the business side of the dancehall industry. Thought might you would be interested.
First off I was interested in understanding a little about how you get top artists to voice a riddim and how the deal is constructed money wise. Turns out to get a riddim voiced by a popular artiste depends on one of two things or both, it depends on your popularity as a producer (not necessarily a good producer but just to be a popular person that considers one self to be a producer) and secondly the amount of money in your pocket that the artistes request before recording. So, like when voicing a dub there is an upfront fee.
In addition there is an arrangement depending on sales. The arrangement varies. Some artistes might sell over all there rights for a one time buck, but in the case of the one time payment it is the composer that is usually “screwed” in that situation, as the producer will prefer to take the composers credits than the artistes own. N.B - the producer is not always the composer.
Secondly I was interested in how to actually set up a recording. Gavins answer was that if you’re popular either or you can pay an attractive sum up front it’s never impossible to get someone to record.
I also asked a little around licensing, since Step Out has been licensed to both VP and Greeensleves, and released a number of times. “Well licensing arrangements with major companies weather exclusive or non-exclusive may vary depending on the artiste that you have recorded, so in other words the bigger the artistes the bigger the money. But there is always suppose to be some royalty arrangement with the producer and the company. The term used for that kind of royalty is “points” which are basically a percentage of sales from the album.”
Another topic was lyrics. Artists such as Kartel, Bounty, Sizzla release waste amount of tunes. Where do the lyrics for all those tunes come from? They don't come up with all this themselves? Or do they? Gavin’s answer was in essence that that a lot of artistes have ghost writers. These are sometimes artists themselves, and writing lyrics for others is a way to get an initial break in the business. On the other hand, there are artists that don’t even write, lyrics are their talent and if they love the riddim they freestyle and it’s as good as written.
I also (of course) asked about sales volumes and earnings, and got answers like “Well, I am not sure”, “I can imagine the sales are pretty nice”, “I would have to check soundscan” etc… Do you ever se any of these figures around? :) Isn’t it peculiar that no one is eager to brag about sales in a business where a lot of people have made a living out of bragging!!! Perhaps because that can be verified, contrary to the size of de anaconda and quality of the weed….:) he, he… anyway…
In the end what I got out of this is Gavin admitting “..there is a lot of money in music, how to get your hands on it is another thing , lol, I have seen good days though. Give Jah thanks”.