By reggaewerxpr, Mar 13 2017 09:29PM
Interview by Jennifer Cheshire
Today I'm speaking with Shinado Chusney, CEO of Reggae Release, a company that handles artist management, digital music/video assets distribution and publicity and promotions strategy. On February 25th 2017, Reggae Release hosted their first annual reggae festival in Jamaica, the Jam Live Music Festival, a project I became involved with in a promotional capacity. I was interested to find out how the festival came about, the outcome and what lessons were learned in the process.
Jennifer: Tell me a little bit about your background.
Shinado: I've been involved in music for quite a number of years. I was a producer. I produced music in Jamaica and UK and I worked as a radio DJ in Canada; Winnipeg, Canada, for a short time. I came back to Jamaica, did some more producing and formed Reggae Release.
Jennifer: When did you get the idea for the festival?
Shinado: The intention of the festival was, number one, our company is about reggae music and bringing a platform for upcoming artists, especially upcoming artists, a platform where it's not easily accessible, in Jamaica. As you might know, there's not a lot of major festivals in Jamaica that cater to upcoming artists. We wanted to create a platform, plus we wanted to use that platform to be a vehicle for social change, whereby we can use music to impact society. We decided to find a charity to partner with so that we could raise awareness and raise funds for that particular charity. We partnered with the Diabetes Association of Jamaica to put on Jam Live Music Fest, which will be a year to year festival, so this year was the inaugural fest. The festival, however, didn't just cater to the upcoming artists, it was for upcoming artists and established artists because we wanted to create a balance whereby, you know, artists share a platform and share experience and bring a quality musical treat for anyone who came out to the festival. We wanted to create a balance and I think we achieved that balance. It was a joint venture between Reggae Release and the Diabetes Association of Jamaica.
Jennifer: Did you have a budget set aside for the festival or did you rely on pre-sale tickets?
Shinado: There was no budget. We had no budget because the time to put the festival together was a bit limited this year. For the next festival we will have more time to organize a bit better. So, we had no budget. We had a few sponsors came on board so, through ticket sales and sponsors, we were able to put it together.
Jennifer: Did you approach the artists for the show or did they approach you, as I was myself approached by a couple of artists wanting to get in on it?
Shinado: In terms of getting artists... based on the nature of our business, we are always in contact with artists and work with a lot of artists. Because of that fact, it was a simple case of reaching out to the ones we work with, and to artists we don't work with, and invite them to be part of the cause. Invite them to come and use music as a vehicle for social change. Most of the people we reached out to came on board because it was a good initiative. We also invited vendors,it was mainly food vendors that came but also some artists had their merchandise tables.
Jennifer: Did you have a team or did you do most of the organizing yourself?
Shinado: As for the organization of the festival, well we had a team comprised of staff from Reggae Release, staff from D.A.J and we also had volunteers from St. Patrick Rangers, which is a youth led organization here in Jamaica and a few other volunteers. So we had a team to basically maneuver and put things in place for the festival.
Jennifer: Did you make a profit or lose money on the venture.
Shinado: Well this year we didn't make a profit but we didn't incur any losses, so it was fairly even. The festival went smoothly. We could have had a bigger crowd if we had more machinery behind promotions so definitely for the coming next year festival, we will be going into planning very early and focusing a lot on promotion and getting the word out and getting as many people as possible.
Jennifer: What did you learn from this festival that will help you with future festivals?
Shinado: Well the main thing we learned from this year, from staging the festival this year, is early organization, that's really the key. When you have enough time where you're prepared early, things run a bit more smoothly, especially in terms of getting the promotional machinery going. So if you plan early and execute early, it will be a more successful event. but without a doubt it will be a year to year festival. It will be a Black History Month, Reggae Month event, every February of each year. All in all, by our estimation, it was a good event. The artists that participated shared that same stance about it, said it was a good event. There are always areas to improve, there's always areas to tighten up but we must thank the sponsors and everybody that shared time and energy to make it a reality. Hopefully we want it to grow from year to year and become an international festival but as you know it must start from somewhere.
I would like to recognize some very important people who helped make the festival a success: Nicole Bell of Reggae Release, Mrs. Lurine Less of the Diabetes Association of Jamaica, Mrs Pauline Blake of the Diabetes Association of Jamaica and Kemal McDonald of Remnant Praise. Without the vital help of these people the festival may not have taken place.