There isn’t a Carnival on the horizon for soca music but perhaps the online market may provide a much needed avenue for a renaissance of the genre.
This is the belief of YouTube channel Julianspromos
The channel, which features almost exclusively soca music, hit one million subscribers, on October 13.
To put that in perspective, Machel Montano, widely considered the biggest international soca star currently has 393,000 subscribers. Kes the Band, 115,000 with Nailah Blackman tallying 70,000 subscribers.
“It’s good for us. It feels really good,” said Julian Hackett, the owner of the page, who believes that this period presents a unique opportunity for soca as much of the surge in subscribers had come during this pandemic, with many showing further interest.
“They’re engaging a lot more which is good because when it comes to online music, the scene has changed a lot. The focus isn’t really about the views. It’s about people engaging, liking the videos, comments and different things like that. So a lot of the newer subscribers they’re engaging a lot so that helps to get more traction, which is a great thing ,” he said
But worryingly, the release of music has declined.
“After Trinidad Carnival we’ll see maybe, let’s say 3,000 releases during the summer months. This year we saw probably 15-20 that was about it,” he said, noting that this post Crop Over period would also introduce a series of new releases.
“We were seeing maybe 20 new songs a week now. We’re seeing maybe three or four,” he said.
This has been frustrating, because Hackett believes the pandemic has presented the genre the perfect opportunity to get out of its’ seasonal structure.
“Soca music has a unique structure. Whether people like to admit it or not, it’s seasonal. The listeners are seasonal, most the artists are seasonal, the traffic is seasonal, the finances are seasonal and the releases are seasonal. We’ve been able to time this pattern perfectly over the ten years I’ve been doing this. Because of this seasonal set up, artists aren’t able to build a large following online individually,” said Hackett, “Even the largest artists in soca could be much larger outside of a seasonal structure.”
Hackett said in his discussions with artistes, there has been scepticism to put out new music as artistes fear the music would be lost without Carnival season, which also has been the traditional pay day for these acts.
“Artistes are going through financial difficulties some are hesitant to release because they don’t want their music to go to waste. My suggestion for artists will be that they can’t hold music. They have to really get it out there because even if there was Carnival the chances of your song really taking off, are still the same, especially the younger artistes,” he said, “We really want to try to get the music out of a seasonal set up because we really want the music to release all the time not just every few months. So we’re really trying to encourage artists to continue to put music in because you really, really need to music to still be released.”
But the channel has also proven that the money can come in through the online platform as well.
“We have some of the most views playlists out there, some of which average over ten million views a year. All these views generated, translate to as revenue earned on Our YouTube channel, which is paid directly the content owners and their digital distributors. Our channel generated around $500,000us for artists yearly, all of which are paid directly to content owners directly though YouTube, not through us,” said Hackett.
Some artistes have recognised the opportunity and have continued putting out music, or in some cases re-ignited interest in some lesser recognised songs by releasing music videos, Hackett noted.
One artiste who has taken this opportunity is Nessa Preppy, who has released numerous songs since Carnival’s end, as well as shooting music videos for two of her 2020 soca releases “Splash” with Patrice Roberts and “Pull Up, both garnering more success since the visuals dropped. Splash’s music video has crossed 12 million views on Julianspromos, whilst sparking a Tik Tok challenge which has seen international pop star Jason Derulo and Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski posting their versions.
“It is my intention to release music regardless of the uncertainty about Carnival 2021. I’ve not stopped working on music,” said Nessa Preppy, who has also taken the opportunity to release music outside of the genre.
Last week she released “Doh Wah Love” on the channel, a song which mixes several genres.
“The reality is that the entertainment industry has been severely affected during the pandemic and many of us are trying to work through the obstacles presented. For me, music is my distraction so I have been busy and focused.
“It is important that fans understand it’s a tough time for independent artistes to stay creative. The thing is, although I am recognised as a soca artiste I have from inception been singing various genres. I am presently working on my soon to be released album which features a fusion of various genres such as soca, R&B, dancehall and hip hop,” she said.
The YouTube channel has also done its part in pushing the release of music for soca artistes, this week they released the second collaborative effort with AdvoKit productions with the Tender Touch riddim which features Patrice Roberts, Nailah Blackman, Olatunji, Hey Choppi and Melly Rose and Skales.