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How the Caribbean’s Creative Industry is Changing

IMAGE SOURCE: CARIFESTA XIV Opening Ceremony - The Spirit Of Wild Oceans

With Carifesta in full swing, it might be helpful to imagine all the things that we can learn from the arts and creative industries in the Caribbean. Like every other industry, technology and innovation is transforming the way that people work, create, and share the things that they make. Of course, the Caribbean is no exception to this trend. There are a lot of things that people can learn from what’s happening in the arts in recent years, and perhaps apply to their own fields.

  1. We’re archiving more of our art. We take for granted the idea that making creative content is enough. Especially when it comes to experiential artforms like musical performances and plays, it’s important to create posterity for the work of individual artists and artforms as a whole. It’s even more true for artforms like Spoken Word, that are gaining popularity specifically because of its accessibility, where performers are sharing more of their original work on the internet. It’s also true for emerging channels who are documenting and featuring the work of others, like The Lightbox. Of course, we wouldn’t be Media InSite if we didn’t talk about data, at least a little bit. Which is where archiving and documenting our creative work comes in. We finally have more data on how people receive the work of Caribbean creators, in order to make more of what people like and strengthen work that we think deserves more recognition.

  2. Mixing the traditional with the contemporary. Let’s face it; young people don’t listen to calypso. But they probably are listening to Jimmy October’s ‘New Calypso’, a genre that mixes hip hop and R&B with a more traditional Caribbean sound. The same can be seen from other artists with Caribbean roots, like Ibeyi’s use of Santeria chants to create all-new music. Not only does it create a conversation about artistic traditions that many may not have access to, but taps into a rich artistic history that gives creators more tools to make interesting things. This in particular is a lesson that content marketers in particular can learn from – what might you learn or do differently if you went back to the past and tried to reinvent something that many in your field of interest have fallen out of love with or don’t see anymore?

  3. Rethinking audiences, transforming consumers. Lots of Caribbean visual art was almost primarily for the public space. Artists like LeRoy Clarke and Deborah Anzinger have focused mostly on exhibition spaces to display their art. But, like all over the world, artists are discovering that there are more ways to share, and different ways for people to buy into your work. While platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo don’t work as well for Caribbean artists, many creators are using crowdfunding as a meaningful tool to create audiences and support their work. Caribbean writers like Tobias Buckell are using Patreon to create and share more of their writing, while visual artists like Shanice Smith have made their art as accessible as possible to help fuel even more creation. Some, like Ronald Williams, are using simple and unique measures to create unique and challenging work even without Patreon.

The ability to disrupt what people think as consumers, sponsors and audiences has given countless Caribbean creators the ability to make a living with their art, develop a more global reach, and even experiment with the things they want to make. And it’s perhaps that reinvention that is the most important lesson for people in other fields. If we all challenged ourselves to think outside the box in terms of who could be an audience or consumer of our work, we can not only vastly increase our reach, but create interesting art.

If we all thought about the work that we do, especially as people working in marketing, in interesting ways, there’s a chance for us to have a breakthrough in our reach and connection to our audiences in the same way that Caribbean artists are with their creative work. If you happen to be going to any of Carifesta’s events this year, we hope that you discover new ways to expand your own marketing work!

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