On 23 June, VP Records published on its YouTube channel the recently unveiled video for the 2015 Trinidad Carnival hit Raze by Fay-Ann Lyons, in tandem with the release of her new EP of the same name in the online global digital music marketplace. To say the reaction to the video was positive would be a hyperbole. The audacious vision of the director, Fay-Ann Lyons herself, was rendered null by an almost hostile public describing the video as “vacuous” and “confusing” to downright “shit.” Social media judgement was instant and swift: in less than a week close to 75,000 views on YouTube elicited a more than three-to-one negative rating among voters. Ouch! Something or someone had to give.
In response, Lyons took to social media firing off ripostes that initially acknowledged the task at hand of satisfying audience expectations—“Can’t consider yourself tried if you have not been tested. Have a great day ppl. I most definitely have been.”—but then turned the jab back at her audience, her local audience—“I love how passionate some are about a vid, but totally ignore GLASTONBURY and what it means to be there, don’t worry we know why!”— By her reckoning, the insults and injuries were from Trinidad: she told the Trinidad Express, “As far as I am concerned I am happy with the video and have no time for negativity…Let my Trini people spew negativity if they choose; I am not bothered.” The snide retaliation by the artist seemed “divaesque” according to a local marketing guru.
To get a better handle on how this video worked as a marketing tool to promote the song to a new audience outside of Trinidad and Tobago, I reached out to VP Records for a comment, keen to understand the marketing plans for the EP and gauge how they would be guiding soca music in the wider American market. Brian Greenspoon, Senior Director of Marketing at VP Records and in charge of both the Bunji Garlin and Fay-Ann Lyons projects for the label answered my query on who conceptualized, financed, okayed the video for the release of the song. He thoughtfully answered thus:
The “Raze” video was delivered to VP Records as a final cut. VP did not finance the video, nor was VP aware of the treatment/concept. We were happy to participate in the promotional rollout of the video with FADER (via VP’s YouTube channel), yet still leave the creative control in the hands of the artist. That said, Fay Ann Lyons is someone who is not afraid to take chances and blaze her own path. When an artist takes chances, they always run the risk of receiving negative backlash from critics who don’t understand the artist’s intent. One thing that has been unanimous is the overwhelmingly positive response to the song. VP will continue to find new avenues to promote the Raze EP and expose Fay Ann Lyons to new audiences, be it through live events like the Central Park SummerStage appearance, or online promotion in pioneering media outlets like the FADER.
This response spoke volumes, and adds an element of truth to the rumours that have flown about on the direction the Vikings are taking with their bumped up careers after the debut of Differentology a couple years ago. The underwhelming response to Bunji’s Differentology video was similar and showcased like responses. Back in October 2013, the Alvarez couple held a news conference publicly chastising their former manager Ian Pantin and accusing him of misappropriation of funds and other misdemeanours, and ultimately taking firm control of their careers. Pantin responded blaming the split on Lyons. Misunderstanding her “intent” may be one answer to shifting allegiances from local fans. The independent direction that she has shown in her decisions on the couple’s career and performances has also had the effect of giving too many examples of unintended consequences.
As you may be aware, Lyons opted not to perform at SummerStage on Saturday last because she was unable to be fully prepared for her stage presence due to airline error with her luggage and a crush for time to make alternative plans. A US music industry insider said that this was “sad, and not professional or smart. There must always be a Plan B at this stage of your global career.” We remember the pull-out of Tobago Jazz Experience 2014 and the “out loud” commentary that ensued. Her ignoring a general rule for artists, never disappoint your fans or diminish their opinions, comes as another slap in the face of a local public.
The writing was on the wall, and it was one for the fans, zero for the artist. Her responding directly to critics in Trinidad somehow ignored the fact that her marketing efforts now and those of VP Records were no longer on Trinidad but the US market. Trinidad had the tune for over 6 months and it was a hit on the live circuit, and assuredly radio airplay and fête airplay guaranteed performance fees and substantial royalty payment revenue streams. VP Records acknowledged that they took a risk with marketing material not of their making. Again, industry sources familiar with the company noted that because VP Records did not have to pay for the video, they would be willing to use the video: “Bad videos are better than no videos.”
By the weekend after the launch, Fay-Ann Lyons made a volte-face and figured “if you can’t beat them, join them” was a better a strategy, so she announced on her official page belatedly considering what was happening on social media almost from the beginning: “Submit ur best spoof of RAZE & you can win big. Keep it FUN and KID FRIENDLY… Let’s go!” Next week awaits, when we’ll see if this is a winning strategy…or not.
- A version of this article appears in the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian newspapers published as, “Fay-Ann unfazed”.
© 2015, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.