Monday, May 01, 2006

Artists Plea: Make We Eat In We Own Country!


There is a man from Belize who believes in the power of artists to organize, and by doing so, to take control of their own destiny. At the time of this writing, Joe Guerrero is in La Ceiba, Honduras, talking to artists and officials about the importance of developing copyright laws and a music licensing scheme that bring in revenue in countries like Belize, Honduras and Guatemala. Guerrero founded Belize Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers on the belief that "there is money to be made for Belizeans through licensing," particularly for Garifuna artists whose communities remain on the economic fringes in developing Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Some artists, like Honduras' parandero Aurelio Martinez and punta rock/Latin band called Banda Blanca, have begun to make major inroads in the recording industry. But these select artists are still sruggling daily, a representation of the larger economic problem.

The bogus deals cut by Universal Records spinoffs for the big-name artists who somehow manage to claw their way to the top are only part of the dilemma. This article published by Guerrero in the Belize Amandala speaks to the uphill reality artists face every day in their own country. Joe Guerrero has recently founded an organization called BSCAP that is Belize's version of ASCAP or BMI.

Is Joe Guerrero just a dreamer? In 2004, I met a man in Jamaica fighting the same battle as Guerrero. Stevie Golding is President of Jamaica's recording rights society, JACAP, an organization that has faced its own struggles. Golding founded JACAP a recording rights society several years ago and is working every day to educate artists and the public about the administrative, technical and legal nuances of making money in the music business. Although reality has a long way to go before it catches up, the initiative of these men is remarkable.

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