How Can the Blue Ocean Strategy Elevate the Soca Industry? (Part 2)
This is a follow up to our MUSIC MONDAY post, highlighting the interview of Bunji Garlin on Hot 97 FM. Mr Garlin raised some solid points on areas that are negatively impacting the soca industry. Here is 2BKaribbean’s attempt at offering some solutions from the perspective of a marketing professional, radio personality and avid soca supporter.
THE MISSED OPPORTUNITY
Up to maybe 2 years ago I would have agreed with Mr. Garlin wholeheartedly. But as of late, I have a different perspective. You see the argument of Trinbagonians not supporting their own has been around from at least the time I could understand words, over three decades ago. And yet, every year, I see soca artistes struggling to break through the clutter of the soca market with marginal success, struggle to get booked at the diaspora Carnivals throughout the year so they can ‘eat a food,’ and struggle to manipulate the sounds of their music to be more digestible internationally so that they can open more opportunities for income stream. But you see it seems like the artistes are taking the same approach to an age old problem, banging the same doors and seeing little to no movement. What do they call that again…doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?
Oh yes, that’s it-Insanity!
Although I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Garlin’s point about using more universal themes for music and of leaders in the industry taking the bull by the horns to build. I think the limited interview time didn’t allow him the opportunity to explore the low hanging fruit that can address some of these issues.
THE UNTAPPED MARKET
According to www.migrationpolicy.com, ‘in 2014, approximately 4 million immigrants from the Caribbean resided in the United States, accounting for 9 percent of the nation’s 42.4 million immigrants. More than 90 percent of Caribbean immigrants came from five countries: Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Haiti, and Trinidad and Tobago.’ Migrationpolicy.com
Those numbers suggest that there is a huge untapped market waiting to be explored. And its not that I think that soca artistes are not aware of it, its that I think that the strategy to engage this market can be executed more effectively.
BLUE OCEAN STRATEGY
The ‘strategy’ being that of Blue Ocean; one was made popular by the book of the same name written by W. Chan Kim. It focuses on the
‘ the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost to open up a new market space and create new demand.’
The Caribbean diaspora living in the United States, Europe and other places are the new market space referred to above. The goal to expand the market base for the soca industry would include nurturing what I call ‘diaspora supporters‘.
The group of ‘diaspora supporters’ is a readily available market that is easy to penetrate, requires minimal capital investment to differentiate and it’s a group that can open up a whole new revenue source for soca artistes on mainstream distribution channels.
We are the soca supporters that long for any taste of our islands and the comfort and familiarity it represents. We crave the music of our islands and do not need it to be doctored to sound more palatable for crossover markets. We want raw soca music that takes us back to memories of being with friends and family. Most of us have the disposable income and desire to purchase music on iTunes and other distribution channels because we have been assimilated into the US system of purchasing music. And most importantly, we eagerly want to support any movement that elevates the profile of soca music. But, more times than not, we are ignored as a viable and penetratable market. How would the market change if soca artistes actively identified and then actively pursued diaspora supporters via online and social media channels as their main income source instead of fighting radio stations for rotation? Create the demand elsewhere, and the rest will fall online.
ENGAGE DIASPORA ADVOCATES
As an extension of the general diaspora target, there is a subset that I will label ‘diaspora advocates’. As Mr. Garlin admits in his interview, more and more Caribbean people are being placed in influential positions in the music industry that can help propel the soca movement forward. We are ready and willing to work on the cause. And we do not always come packaged in flashy, ‘look at me and all I can do for you’ wrapping. We are the people working in the trenches, playing music at our desks so that people can ask more about it. We sometimes present ourselves as tiny voices, reaching out to influencers and creating opportunities for exposure where there would otherwise be none.
I reflect on my own experience working for one of the largest radio stations in Atlanta. When I started the gig, I was so excited for the opportunity to expose my culture to the world. After all, our parent company boasts penetration into almost 82% of black households in the U.S. and on a bad day the listening audience for any of our radio shows is one (1) million people. The opportunity there for creating demand for soca is huge.
I remember being so tired of my co-workers dismissing soca music and saying that it all sounded the same so I reached into my network trying to secure interview with various soca artistes. I wanted to prove to my co-workers how influential soca artistes were within the Caribbean musical landscape. But, every single time the lack of follow through on interviews from most was disappointing to say the least. The more I advocated for artiste interviews that never came through, the easier it became for the management team to dismiss the need for them, the more damage I did to my credibility and own personal brand and after a while the less enthusiastic I became to continue to pursue more interviews.
I compare that experience, to that reaching out to my network of reggae artistes. From the new, up and coming artistes to the most respected and recognized brands with numerous awards to their name -the response would be the same. ‘When and where is the interview? Where should I send my music?,’ And within 48 hours the new music would be sitting in my inbox.
It was a not so gentle reminder of how much work we still have to do to elevate the profile of soca.
HELP US TO HELP YOU
I am hopeful and excited by the interview because Mr. Garlin clearly acknowledged and recognized the need to build the soca industry from the inside out. He recognized the need to nurture our existing core audience, and get their overwhelming support so that others can start paying attention. And as a leader in the space, this mentality can only lead to greater things. I believe that if we implement the Blue Ocean Strategy and engage diaspora advocates and supporters, we would be that much closer to propelling the soca industry to its much deserved success. There are a few minor things that can immediately be implemented by the key players and influencers that can have a huge impact, for example;
- Leave a lasting impression: The movement is bigger than one individual artiste or brand and as such the behavior of one impacts all. Make sure the impression you leave with your advocates and their networks is one that can create opportunities for those coming behind you.
- Present your music in a professional and attention grabbing way. In this world of excessive information and short attention spans, you have about ten (10) seconds to get anyone’s attention. Make that time count and let your target feel the need to learn more.
- Embrace opportunities for publicity and exposure. Widen your distribution channels and circulate music widely. Register your music with ASCAP and its equivalents, find out who are your advocates in the diaspora and make sure they have your music.
- Follow through on opportunities. Don’t take it for granted that a lost opportunity will somehow find a way to pursue you. Take the bull by the horns and go after it so that they know you are interested .
- Build Relationships: Your advocates are out there hungry to support and show love. Engage them on more than just a superficial level.
The time is now. The world is paying attention to the Caribbean influence and by extension our music. The soca movement is poised for success if we, as a collective, play our cards right. I can only hope the follow through is there.