Beginning his recording career with I Will Buy You a Rainbow in 1967, Max Romeo was making a living from music decades before computers became the primary means of recording, distributing, storing and playing back songs. The man, whose classics include War Inna Babylon and Let the Power Fall On I, and who also released a definitive collection in 2009 has seen the changes which CDs and Internet outlets such as YouTube and iTunes have brought about to the business of music – and he is not impressed. So much so that he is advocating a widescale return to the format which prevailed during his earlier years of recording – vinyl.
Max Romeo, famous for hits, including Wet Dream and Chase The Devil, said, “CDs mash up the industry. It is too easily produced and accessed. You can rerun CD in your bedroom and a man sell it on the road for $100. With vinyl, you have to go through a process. It’s not something that you can reproduce in your home, it requires a pressing plant.” In addition, he pointed to the longevity of the medium. LAST LONGER “Vinyl is more valuable, they last longer. It’s a forever kind of thing, as long as you store it properly. CDs easy fi scratch and, when they are scratched, they can’t be played. When a vinyl is scratched, you can use little water and remove the scratch,” Romeo told The Gleaner.
In Jamaica, it seemed vinyl was usurped by the CD almost overnight. A critical turning point was the release of the first CD singles in Jamaica in the late 1990s, when Bounty Killer’s Look and Beenie Man’s Haters and Fools were among the songs distributed on the Bug Rhythm. But there is the matter of playing the records as, with the decrease in the manufacture and sale of vinyl, turntables have also taken a nosedive. However, some stores now stock a more modern type of turntable which has USB connectivity. Romeo knows that his preferred format will need a player. “They need to put back more record players in stores. Some people still have vinyl, but they can’t get the turntable to purchase. I’m sure the artistes would definitely be open to this process,” he said.
He also connected the process of making music and its value. “Not many persons are interested in investing in music anymore, and that is because of the level of production. People put any likkle ting out pon the radio,” Romeo said. “It’s not something that can be easily done, but it can be done. Vinyls are the way to go,” he reiterated. With the challenging economic times a major factor in how artistes choose to disseminate their music, many upload their songs to free sites such as YouTube, hoping that it will translate into performance bookings. Max Romeo does not believe this is necessarily so. “If you don’t have a good product to back up your promotion then you won’t go very far,” he said. “People are putting out inferior products. It’s not long-lasting. It’s not valuable. The production is inferior. Also, many artistes are paying for exposure. Payola is happening, but they don’t have a valuable product to promote.”