‘This profession has no pension’
Steel Pulse’s David Hinds encourages entertainers to focus on building brands, legacy
One of the most respected reggae bands in the world, Steel Pulse, is reimagining how it does business as the music takes on new faces and new bands displace traditional hitmakers, staking their claim on the genre.
The United Kingdom-based band, which was the main act at last weekend’s American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ) Hummingbird Gala in Manhattan, New York, has a new album out that was derailed by COVID-19. They have been on consistent tours throughout Europe, the UK, and the United States, but admit that their pension is now critical.
“We can go on forever, but that’s not what I want. I want to have the digital formatting of what we do [and push] more to the public, as far as record labelling, and record sales are,” said band leader David Hinds, who has played or sung on the 12 albums released by them since 1975.
Making reference to the late King of Reggae Bob Marley’s album Legend, which was toppled by the Californian band Stick Figure after 140 weeks on top of the Billboard Reggae Albums charts, Hinds said it’s all about units. “It’s all about [the] merchandise. It’s all about exercising your brand, and that’s where I want to go right now.”
Hinds, whose band is currently touring with the reggae band Rebelution, said this is what Jamaican artistes at home and abroad have failed to do over the years. And this is what has caused the music to be out of their hands.
“We never recognise that we need [to] treat that thing not only as a person performing on stage, but treat the music as a thing, as a brand, and sell that brand. So that’s what I want to get into, because that’s where it’s at.”
Having gone on tour with Rebelution and witnessed how it wasn’t about housing between 5,000 and 10,000 people each night, but about selling their brand, Hinds’ eyes have been opened even wider.
He said Rebelution had truckloads of T-shirts, CDs, memorabilia, etc, which is what it is all about. He cautioned that it was not time to be waiting on handouts from promoters.
“It’s more than that. Money has to be made while we’re sleeping. And that’s what we fail to do as an industry. So that’s what I intend to embrace, and that would be our legacy because as it now stands, this profession has no pension,” he argued.
According to him, somebody has to tap the artistes on their shoulder and say, “Put some money aside.” But it does not work like that in their industry, and that is why years later, many musicians are looking for their meals in a trash can.
Hinds went on to express concerns about the musicians who have passed away recently, and having people taking up collections on their behalf just so they can be buried.
He also referred to Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett. Family Man, who played with The Wailers, and was an important part of that band, but recently his daughter was forced to find funding via GoFundMe to finance his treatment.
As Steel Pulse takes its future to the next level, Hinds says they are not short of work. In fact, they are extremely busy. Their next stops include Costa Rica, Brazil, and dates in the USA, but that is not what the band wants.
Last Friday night, as the band presented its showmanship and dexterity, which was obvious from the horn players and lead keyboardist Selwyn Brown, the group, known to groove and command an audience over the years, did an excellent cross section of music for 35 minutes.
Receiving the stamp of approval from an audience, hungry for entertainment and camaraderie was easy, but Steel Pulse came to please, and did just that.
Having done more touring than albums, Steel Pulse is not attached to a record label, but Hinds revealed that five days ago they appointed a new manager to look after their affairs. He said their last album, Mass Manipulation, was recorded on their own, all over the world, in places such as Martinique, Birmingham, England, California and Jamaica.
“As we were going out to make an indentation in the market, COVID came and crushed the album launch, so we are revamping because it still feels brand new to a lot of people.”
One of the songs from the album, Don’t Shoot, was part of the performance, said Brown, who has been with the band since its inception. But when they did Rally Round, the dancing patrons paid close attention.