Address by Hon. Philip J. Pierre to the Regional Workshop on the Music Industry in the OECS, Bay Gardens Hotel, St. Lucia on July 26, 2001
A few weeks ago I tuned to a programme on CNN and I heard that the new President of Mexico had just declared an area in Mexico larger than St. Lucia as an industrial development zone. Factories and processing plants would be built for investors and the average wage rate for workers would be one hundred US Dollars (US$100) per month.
Last weekend an investor from Sri Lanka told me that he was attempting to outsource or relocate his operations where he employed sixty-five thousand (65,000) workers in twenty-eight (28) factories at a wage rate of Fifty US Dollars (US$50) per month to Vietnam where the wage rate was Twenty-two US Dollars (US$22) per month.
I am sure you are wondering what is this politician saying – what relevance is that to a Study on the Music Industry. To my mind the relevance is based on the role that music can play in the repositioning and diversification of the economies of St. Lucia and the region. The Music Industry may be an avenue to engage the talents of our young people in the OECS. Music has the unique feature in that it can be enjoyable, expose talent and serve as an income generator. It may also be less competitive than other sectors since there is always room for innovation and uniqueness because of the dynamism of this artform.
It is feasible therefore for us in St. Lucia to compose a blend of music that can embrace our folk or traditional music with modern or contemporary music in a unique melody previously unheard.
These possibilities exist as demonstrated by the music of Bob Marley and the Mighty Sparrow. The OECS must make use of the available resources. This workshop is a step in the right direction and I applaud the Caribbean Export Development Agency for recognizing that music can infact be an export earner.
Music is an industry capable of not only generating millions of dollars in foreign exchange but creating employment opportunities directly and indirectly. A glance at the Black Entertainment Network will show what is possible. Albeit sometimes not what some sections of our society find appropriate. The fact is possibilities exist and we have to find means of exploring them.
There are several success stories as far as music and musicians are concerned in the OECS. St. Lucia for its part has a rich tradition of success in all forms of music. In Folk music Dame Sesenne leads the pack and Boo Hinkson, Luther Francois, Ignatius Tyson and many others have achieved world wide recognition.
The question is why have we not benefited more from the talents of these people. Some of these reasons have been noted in the Study by Dr. Keith Nurse and Mr. Vaughn Renwick. These relate to piracy, weak institutional base, fragmentation among artists, small size, an insufficient knowledge on intellectual property and copyright laws. I am sure that the workshop will make recommendations to deal with these issues during your deliberations and discussions on the strategic development plans for the Caribbean Music Industry.
The two examples cited earlier in Sir Lanka and Mexico bring us to the reality of the limitations in choices that we in the OECS have as far as traditional industrial development is concerned. It is inconceivable to entertain the thought of any OECS national working for twenty-two US Dollars (US$22) per month. That is the reality of the situation in the Global Economy.
The music industry can provide an example of the opportunities available from globalization. Music is a universal language with a relatively low transaction cost considering freight and shipping. We need to agree on the way forward in a scientific, strategic and realistic way that will benefit the people that matter i.e: the artists.
Government’s role is to create the enabling environment from which the music industry will operate. Decision makers must give equal treatment to investments in music as given to other industries. Music must be elevated to a strategic export industry.
Authorities must pay the highest tribute to successful musicians as demonstrated in St. Lucia recently by the award of a national medal to one of our legendary calypsonians and Dame Sessane. Musical talent must not only be viewed as entertainment but as intellectual exportable property.
In St. Lucia the Copyright Act of 1995 protects the intellectual property owners and their rights are administered by the Hewanorra Musical Society. These organizations must display the highest level of accountability and transparency since they have the important task of protecting the work of musicians.
Compliance with the provisions of the Act is necessary for the benefits contemplated to be realized – this means that the public must be educated on its provisions. While it is the duty of musicians and their organizations to make the information available the public must be willing to co-operate with the requirements under the Act.
Mr. Chairman I want to suggest that musicians and their affiliates forge closer strategic ties both in the composition and recording of music. It is not a far-fetched idea for OECS business people to consider investment in a state of the art recording studio with the capacity to serve the needs of the region.
I wish participants of the workshop well and applaud the clarity and brevity and soundness of the study prepared by Dr Keith Nurse and Mr. Vaughn Renwick. The OECS Export Development Unit and Mr. Colin Bully must be complimented for the strategic intervention in the music industry at this time in our economic development. My colleague the Minister of Culture being a calypsonian and musician in his own right would be pleased to be involved in this workshop. His dedication to culture has been penned and put in calypso form and rendered in his own voice.
It is with a sense of expectation that I formally declare this workshop open and wish the participants a fruitful stay in our beautiful island.
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