Tanya Lawson On Streams, The Future Of Dancehall And How Audiomack Is Helping

A report by Gladstone Taylor for Dancehall Magazine.

Audiomack is moving music forward in Jamaica, we spoke to Tanya Lawson about how.

There have been discussions within the Jamaican music space recently, about the validity of a genre like Dancehall that has less potential for sale in the marketplace. Popcaan’s recent Fixtape also came under scrutiny for not selling on par with other popular music in the American music industry. But is it fair to continue to judge our artists by standards that no longer serve the same purpose within the global music industries?

The music is shifting and that’s evident from streaming platforms like Tidal and Deezer bringing their service to the Caribbean, other DSPs like Apple Music and Spotify are bound to follow in the wake. But Audiomack however, has become the only platform not only active but thrives primarily on streams, instead of subscriptions. With the intention to establish roots here, we spoke to Audiomack Caribbean’s very own Tanya Lawson to find out more about the streaming giant.

With more than a few decades of experiences within the music industry, Tanya shared some key insights about how Jamaican music may be evolving to accommodate that global shift, and how Audiomack intends to help.

Jamaica has created several influential genres, in the words of one Sean Paul, our music is ahead of its time. This is a music mecca which is a partly well-kept secret. It’s one of those things where, if you know you know and oftentimes when we influence major acts and brands internationally there’s little to no acknowledgment of the culture, so why has Audiomack decided to engage Jamaica given its precarious position?

Let’s say this, our slogan is moving music forward. We didn’t say, moving Hip Hop forward– we said music. Audiomack is in Australia, Europe, Africa, Antarctica. So we’re not picking or choosing what genre we want to put on based on what we make money from. We’re a music streaming and audio distribution platform that allows artists to upload their music. So, we’re about moving music forward; we’re not specifying what genre we care or don’t care about. Of course, because we’re based in America Hip Hop is going to be a huge base.

Which is fair, Hip Hop is popular music now.

Yes but Hip Hop is the child of Reggae music. when you go on Audiomack you’ll see, Audiomack Latin or Audiomack EDM, pop, you’ll see all that in there.

We love music, reword hence why I’m doing what I’m doing in the Caribbean and my other counterparts doing their various things for other regions. But just to make it clear, we’re not into Reggae to make money off it. We just love music. Certain types of hip hop and other genres, you can’t make money from but we love music. All of our staff–I’ll tell you that right now, we’re built off the love of music. So we’re not here to try and exploit the genre, we actually want to bring it to the forefront. If anything we’re trying to bring audiences together, so we want our listeners in Africa to know what our listeners in Jamaica are listening to and vice versa.

It’s great to know that Audiomack is building based on the model of the open market on the internet as opposed to just being an all American music platform.

We can’t do that. The one thing about how things are set up now is that the internet allows all of us to be on the same page. So what goes on right now where Audiomack is based, in the city, you guys would know because post it. It’s instant. It’s not like before with our parents in the 80s when something happened you had to wait until someone sent you a picture, it’s not like that anymore. Now we’re all together, but the geography is different that’s all.

I think that’s where most of the markets are going, not just music and the more companies realize this the more development can happen. Dancehall might not sell as much—

I’ll stop you there and say this, because it’s important. When you say sell, you’re still talking early 2000s, so yea right now sales for apple music for those who chose it. Right now even Apple is subscription-based, so you don’t purchase the music. You get a subscription and you listen the hell out of those songs because you like it, and that’s where we are right now.

You can’t say that anymore that ‘Oh, Dancehall is not doing well because of the sales.’ We have to understand where we are now, appreciate it, and stop thinking where we were fifteen to twenty years ago and just position yourself. Once you position yourself on the net, you’ll get the love. Everybody loves Jamaica not just because of vacation, everybody loves the culture. It influences the world.

Well that goes into another Question I had about Audiomack becoming a place for mixtapes. Popcaan recently put out the mixtape Fixtape, which as we know mixtapes are more of a labor of love because of how hard it is to monetize and actually clear certain copyright material. But a genre like Dancehall that’s very much a kind of patchwork of different sounds, the mixtape also embodies it’s rawest form—

But remember how he did it though. It was two; one he did for the label and another what I consider to be one he did for the streets. So that was not monetized, that’s something he can’t make money off of clearance wise. (take out)  The project streamed and was very popular and still shows popularity. how he dropped that project was different So that was different and I think that’s what a lot of people need to pay attention to.

Look beyond the money. Yes we all love money but, sometimes you gotta build your career and let it gain traction first, then you’ll be able to get your money’s worth. I think what happens a lot of the time is lack of knowledge. Because them not knowing–people fear what they don’t understand and then they put that fear into other people. So some people will look at platforms like audiomack or spotify and apple music and they shun them,not understanding like it’s time to make way for the new era. Embrace it

Who is even buying albums these days?

Nobody and it’s funny I went to my parents house this weekend to get their album art. My parents got like some dope, like some lil ol’ 45s. I want that; I want it for art I’m not gonna sit there and put that on whenever I wanna listen to it. So I think it’s again, fear. Just like when the internet just came out, or when you get a new phone; you’re scared. You’re scared because you don’t know. So I think when a lot of the artists get outside of the fear, they’ll be good. Sometimes it means getting some new people who know what’s going on now, a part of your team. When you get them a part of your team, they’re able to say ‘hey did you do this, or did you do that?’ Sometimes all that makes a difference.

Let me give an example. Last year we did something in Jamaica with Intence, when he just started to bubble on our platform. We were able to sit down and look at his potential and see that he would be big. That’s an artists where we could literally see his growth and know that right now he’s outta here. Intense is outta here. He’s got the streams so people can’t say it can’t happen. It can happen. I’m looking at Intence. Chronic LawJada Kingdom, they’re killing it on Audiomack. So it can happen.

As someone who really understands music, what are some of the more key things you feel are missing from the Jamaican music industry that would greatly aid it’s expansion into a more self-sufficient market?

Number one is understanding. Understanding what’s going on right now. It’s changed, whether you want to acknowledge it or not, streaming is the way to go. There are artists that sign up– I’ll give you an example, Gold Gad signed up to Audiomack, Skillibengsigned up. A lot of the younger artists who are prominent right now in dancehall. The new generation that’s coming up, they already know what to do with their music.

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