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A look at the Vincentian Music Industry and its Comparative Advantage

by Richard McLeish 18.AUG.06

Part I of V
INTRODUCTION: Culture as a means of trade.

In the current world environment, small island states like St. Vincent and the Grenadines with little more than human resources, have no choice but to adapt to the old adage, “necessity is the mother on invention”.

That said, there has been a recent move to market our island destinations as places with more than sea and sand, places with a unique culture. The islands of the Caribbean have been selling their cultures by default through the entertainment, cuisine and relationships, sampled by visitors as part of their tourism package, but today, culture tourism is seen as a defining attraction in the marketing of the destinations.{{more}}

This can be borne out by the sharp increase in the Caribbean of Festival Tourism as a means of attracting visitors. The traditional Carnivals have been augmented by Jazz, Blues, Creole Music, Pan, Reggae, Gospel, Drama, and Sports festivals as a means of offering more than sea and sand in the destination marketing of various countries.

To date, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has on its tourism calendar of activities (1):

January Blues Festival
February Primary Schools
Performing Arts Festival
April Gospel Festival
June/July Carnival
August Breadfruit Festival
September Dance Festival
November Drama Festival
December Nine Mornings

These festivals now form the major impetus to the marketing of St. Vincent & the Grenadines as a unique destination with more to offer than the traditional sea and sand. It is these festivals, supported, spearheaded, or organized by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture that have added cohesiveness to the emerging Vincentian Cultural Industry.

Dr. Keith Nurse in his paper, The Cultural Industries and Sustainable Development in Small Island Developing States (2004), is of the view that the cultural industries sector is an area of the global economy where Small Island Developing States enjoy some comparative advantage in production and where there is a window of opportunity given the rise of the digital economy and the increasing commercialization of the arts. Dr. Nurse argues that cultural industries may offer more sustainable development options since they draw on the creativity and enterprise of local artists and communities. He also states that the cultural industries play a dual role in that it is an economic sector with growth potential and an arena for identity formation.

Dr. Nurse defines cultural industries as “the role of cultural entrepreneurs and arts enterprises, for-profit as well as not-for-profit in the production, distribution and consumption of film, television, books, music, theatre, dance, visual arts, masquerade, multimedia, animation and so on. The cultural industries sector is not just a commercial arena, it is an aesthetic and social space where spiritual values, psychic meaning and bodily pleasures are displayed, enacted and represented”.

He further links this industry to the Global Economy as a measure of performance by stating: “In economic terms the cultural industries sector is one of the fastest growing sectors of the world economy. Best estimates value the sector at 7 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product and forecast are put at 10 per cent growth per annum. This growth is accounted for by rapid techno-economic change in products, distribution & marketing (e.g. e-books, iTunes, Amazon.com); the increasing commercialization of intellectual property, particularly copyright; the shift towards a post-industrial economy where personal, recreational and audio-visual services have expanded as a share of the economy; the strong cross-promotional linkages with sectors like tourism (e.g. festival tourism); and the convergence of media, the increasing concentration of large firms and the expansive growth of the digital economy (e.g. the Internet and ecommerce) that allows for easier production, distribution, consumption as well as infringement (e.g. piracy, file swapping) of cultural products, services and intellectual property”.

Dr. Nurse characterizes the impact of cultural industries as: “In most developed market economies the cultural industries account for 3-5% of GDP and have generated consistent and stable growth during the recession plagued 1990’s as exemplified in a rising share of employment and exports. Similar trends are observed in some large developing countries such as India, Mexico and Brazil that have strong capabilities in the audio-visual sector and large home and diasporic markets. This is an aspect of the new global economy that SIDS can participate in with relatively low levels of investment.”

It is within this context that we shall discuss one aspect of the Vincentian cultural industry, the Music Industry, which in itself is a driving force for the Festival Tourism model that is now providing critical mass to state’s tourism product and subsequent growth in GDP. The discussion will center on an analysis of the industry and offer solutions for the players within the industry to maximize opportunities for growth and development.

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