COTT Creators Seminar hits the right notes to a diminishing audience¹

cott creator sympCOTT states that it represents over 1400 members, yet a Creative Symposium to benefit its members along with persons interested in becoming members, creators and the general public failed to fill the 145-seat Yara Auditorium at the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business (ALJ-GSB) on September 10. For an organisation primed to take a leadership role among umbrella organisations in the new creative economy of Trinidad and Tobago, this was a deficiency that should not stymie the important moves it is making to improve the lot of the music creative sector.

For this 2014 edition of what has become an annual affair, the last one being held in November 2013, COTT along with the ALJ-GSB, served to advance the expertise of local music entrepreneurs and creative professionals of high repute to those gathered. ALJ-GSB Business director, Jo Anne Boodoosingh noted the commonality of function with COTT as education facilitator, opting to partner with the copyright membership organisation within an environment of learning.

This year’s panellists were young local music trailblazers whose acumen was impressive: live music promoter and entrepreneur Jeanelle Frontin, recently coming off the ESCAPE music series finale with Freetown Collective, Kern Elliot, developer of start-up local music showcasing app CHUNE, “Differentology” producer and publisher, Keron “Sheriff Mumbles” Thompson and Grammy winning songwriter and “Trini-to-the-bone,” Angela Hunte.

COTT panel
COTT Creators Seminar 2014 panel, l-r: Keron “Sheriff” Thompson, Angela Hunte, Josh Rudder, Kern Elliott, Jeanelle Frontin

Critical and pointed advice from Frontin on the organisational structure of successful creative enterprises and how to maximise the potential therein segued nicely into Elliot’s presentation on marketing local music via technology. His success as a developer of the app hinged on him understanding his role within the business development cycle of his product. He said that as a music fan more so than a marketing expert, he was aware of the key role that building relationships have in developing digital music strategy. These two speakers, both with post graduate degrees in their respective fields—project management and IT respectively—illustrated aptly the role and importance of higher education in the music business here.

The balance between business and creative elements in the music industry sector was set with the last two speakers, “Sheriff” Thompson speaking on the producer’s perspective vis-à-vis Bunji Garlin’s runaway hit “Differentology” and Angela Hunte who spoke on the role of the songwriter in the music industry. Thompson noted to the audience that if he had the formula for a “hit”, he would be in the studio rather than at a seminar, but advised those gathered that a hit is a by-product of a great song. Singer-songwriter-producer Hunte knows what a great song is and has the 2011 Best Rap Song Grammy to prove it for Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ anthemic “Empire State of Mind.”

Hunte’s adage that the songwriter is “the first person in the room and the last person to leave” reinforced the idea that great song writing is holistic and should never be taken for granted. “A song is a piece of you. You must treat your property like it is gold!” The copyright benefits of a great song are great. “Empire State of Mind” has sold over 5 million copies in the US.

A theme that can be taken from this year’s Creative Seminar is that opportunities can and will come from superlative work from the get-go, whether in promotion, technical innovation, song writing or producing. “Differentology” singer, Bunji Garlin, who did not appear although carded to speak on the artist perspective, is proof positive of that. A wider uptake of the imparted knowledge and inspiration would augur well for the local music industry.

  1. An edited version of this article appears in the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian published as “Cott creators seminar hits right notes”

© 2014, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

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