Robert Livingston, the former manager of Dancehall icons Shaggy and Super Cat, shared his take on what he recognizes as the missing elements that prevent much of Jamaican music today from becoming huge commercial hits. .
Speaking in an interview with Anthony Miller on Television Jamaica’s The Entertainment Report, Livingston said that on the technical side, a disconnect between melodies and hooks is the crux of the matter.
“I would say for myself as a marketing manager, I think sometimes we miss some good hooks that everyone can relate to – and then the melody mix,” said Livingston, who is a producer and songwriter.
“You know we have great tunes, but sometimes we miss the hook, or sometimes we miss something that can build that bridge,” added the Big Yard boss.
When asked if he was surprised at the lack of “Jamaican names” on the esteemed Billboard Hot 100 charts, Livingston said he found it surprising.
“It’s surprising because I think there are some great songs that might have worked out well, if they had had the push and someone (action oriented manager) behind,” he said. .
When Miller asked Livingston why, in business terms, “it seems that Dancehall and Reggae are kind of stuck right now and not reaching the heights that they have the potential to reach,” Livingston said. , among other things, that many artists are in a state of complacency.
“I think we get complacent with the fans that we have, the support that we have and we jump on it because that’s what we see; that’s what we hear – some of us, ”he explained.
“If you don’t go out there and see what’s out there, sometimes people don’t want to take the risk financially, musically. They think, ‘oh if I start making songs to get out into the wider market, I might fail’… so sometimes they make a choice, that: ‘you know what, I prefer to hit in Jamaica as an Artist of dancehall, doing my shows in the Caribbean, getting my energy moving… but I can’t give up something I’m sure for something I’m not sure, ”he added.
On the artist organization side, he pointed out that there appears to be a dearth of knowledgeable and experienced artist investors / managers, who will not only invest, market and develop the artist, but provide a structure for sound management.
“Sometimes you even have ambition, but who are the investors? Who is the manager? It’s a tough sell, ”he told Miller, who then suggested that people of this caliber were“ a dying breed ”.
Livingston said that sometimes artists do not understand that they have to share the income with the people who bear the cost of their management and investment, seek deals and propel their careers, and often mistakenly refer to them as “greedy.” when they were trying to ensure a return on their investments.
“And then the industry itself turns off a lot of these people, turn the volume down and blow them away, because they think the business is ungrateful, the investment is insecure, even the record company sometimes thinks that a lot of artists are disloyal…, ”he said.
Seemingly still affected by his broken relationship with Dancehall heavyweights Shaggy and Super Cat whose careers he honed in the 1990s, Livingston said loyalty was also an issue.
“You have a bad reputation for what you do. You get a bad rap for getting paid or trying to stand up for what you should get. It is very disheartening. It’s not something you really like. And then you make a big star and the big star and you don’t talk or you do something really good and people give you credit for it and then you find that you are fighting to get your respect, ”he said. he reflected.
“When you make a song, the percentage that is added to that song before it reaches the hands of consumers, you will be surprised… What if people like me that they sometimes call business man – and who have the ability to break down a talent, Sometimes we have to get paid… This is how the business works from day one. It’s not like any other business, ”he explained.
He added: “But I personally think the new generation has its own agenda. They are really focused on owning their own stuff, so it could stay in that picture for a long time. Because they want it all.
In 2011, Livingston and Shaggy ended what has been dubbed one of the most successful partnerships in Reggae / Dancehall history. He signed Shaggy in 1993, months after record producer Sting International introduced the two. At the time, Livingston had just split from Super Cat and said he wasn’t very interested in signing anyone else.
However, during the partnership between the two over the years that followed, they released a host of hits including Oh Caroline and Boomastic. They got the platinum record with the release of Shaggy’s Hot shot album that presented the mega hits It was not me and angel, which has become number one in the world.
In 2019, Livingston told The Gleaner in an interview, that after finally agreeing to sign Shaggy, he told the ex-Marine he “wanted a 60-40 deal, because I was the one who would make the investment, “adding that it was a reasonable deal because” many managers at the time signed 50-50 agreements. “
According to The Gleaner, after two decades of hard work, which saw the artist selling diamonds and winning numerous international awards, “The relationship ended on the same note as Super Cat. Separation”.
“It hurt my heart to see that I build two acts of monsters and that they do not speak to me”, lamented Livingston at the time.