Progress has been made in the quest for some Barbadian musicians and singers to access entertainment niche markets in North America.

This information has come from Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, who recently led a local delegation of artistes and music entrepreneurs in February to the 2014 National Association for Campus Activities??? (NACA) National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts.

According to Minister Lashley, the trip to NACA had seen positive outcomes for the practitioners in the creative sector resulting so far in 111 expressions of interest in the Barbadian artistes attending. ???This is just the beginning of plans to establish a real export pipeline, increase employment opportunities, stimulate the island???s cultural and tourism sectors and provide citizens with new education opportunities,??? he said.

Describing the experience as rewarding, he explained the NACA National Convention is a multi-day conference and exhibition, which is attended by hundreds of American colleges and universities. Delegates from these institutions visit the event to scout for entertainment, attend educational sessions and source products and services.

The convention facilitates a ???Block Booking??? platform, which allows collaborating schools to hire entertainment acts, resulting in these schools saving thousands of dollars. This mechanism and niche market have proven to be quite beneficial for the participating Barbadian artistes.
The musical delegation comprised Nexcyx, Cover Drive, Phillip 7 and the band Masala, as well as the duo with Wesu Wallace and Andre Forde, who have adopted the name 1st Klass.

President of the island???s Association of Music Entrepreneurs (AME), George Thomas; Vice President of the AME, Anies Jordan, and AME Special Projects and Tour Manager, Jennifer Young, also attended the event.?????Nexcyx and Cover Drive thrilled thousands of college buyers when they performed on the NACA Main Stage. Both bands have been able to secure performances for later this year,??? Minister Lashley said.

He added that an exclusive Barbadian lunchtime concert was held under the title, The Barbados Experience. That show featured Phillip 7 and Masala as well as 1st Klass and attracted approximately 800 delegates. Both acts delighted the crowd and also attracted major booking interest.??Adding that the NACA convention gave him the opportunity to witness Barbadian creative practitioners on an international stage, the Culture Minister reasoned: ???This observation will help my Ministry fine tune cultural programmes and look at ways to increase our island???s competitive advantage globally.???

During the trip, the Minister, along with the AME team, held high-level talks with the Executive Director of NACA, Alan Davis. Following these discussions, it was decided that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) would be drafted to strengthen cultural exchanges and export, leadership building and youth development between Barbados, along with the AME, and NACA.

???This MOU will seek to increase educational exchanges and tours between Barbadian tertiary institutions and international colleges and universities. We are also looking at internship exchanges. This year NACA will give two Barbadian students the chance to work with Disney, after that, it will facilitate yearly internships,??? Mr. Lashley said.

He added that his ministry had agreed to provide some American students with internships at the National Cultural Foundation. ???This way the interns would be a part of the coordinating teams for our annual festivals Crop Over and NIFCA,??? he explained. ??Moreover, the MOU is also expected to address cultural exchanges between Barbados and North America, providing Barbadian creative practitioners with access to an even larger market place.

Band Leader of Nexcyx, Kris Clarke, agreed that NACA is beneficial for musicians. According to him, the convention is an effective marketing tool.?????NACA just helps to spread your product further and further because young people, especially college students, are very active on social media platforms. Every time we participate [in the convention] or perform at a college, our online music sales increase. It generates the interest, and then people download the music. They also research the band so you see views on YouTube, Twitter and Instagram increase. It definitely works,??? he said.

Musical Director of Nexcyx, Andre Clarke added: ???This is our third year at NACA and the band left again with a fair amount of bookings. Contracts are still coming in??? NACA is good for musicians especially if you are looking to tap into the overseas market. It???s a good niche market to get into.???

Reiterating that NACA proved to be beneficial for the participating Barbadian musicians and singers, Minister Lashley said: ???The NACA initiative is an example of how the Government can effectively partner with private sector entrepreneurial ventures and execute successful public-private sector initiatives that can create positive outcomes for our citizenry.?????

Author: Shamkoe Pil??

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