Playing The Global Music Industry With Technologically Advanced Cultural Products
Friday, 22 July 2011 00:38



Culture is an intrinsic component of the soul of any society and related artefacts must be used as critical elements of trade between countries.


The need for Trinidad and Tobago to diversify its economy by reducing dependency on energy has been well enunciated. Unique niches must be created that would ensure competitiveness and sustainability in the international arena. This need is even more imperative with the impending catastrophic downturn resulting from the recent global financial crisis.

There must be an urgent paradigm shift from manufacturing to services, with emphasis placed on innovation, entrepreneurship and maximum use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT). This initiative has to be supported by appropriate legislation to protect and monitor intellectual property rights. Additionally, there should be easy access to venture capital.

The financial future of Trinidad and Tobago, and by extension the entire Caribbean, depends on harnessing, promoting and marketing culture.

It follows, therefore, that we should be aggressively seeking ways of forming strategic business alliances in an effort to establish sustainable markets for our cultural heritage, especially music.

Calypso, chutney, mambo, meringue, parang, reggae, rumba, salsa, shango, soca, son and zouk are indigenous, intoxicating Caribbean rhythms. Yet only one of these, reggae, has managed to carve its own category in the prestigious Grammy Awards. All others have been lumped into the ubiquitous group known as world music, simply because of inadequate mainstream market penetration and the requisite volume of sales. This anomaly needs to be quickly addressed and rectified.

As we chart the way forward, there is need to place emphasis on initiatives that would build awareness for, and ensure universal acceptance of our diverse culture. Our mission, therefore, should be to unearth, develop, nurture and harness entrepreneurial talent, which would eventually become the infrastructure for creation of a sustainable music industry.

Situation Analysis

The global music industry has been substantially subsumed into the diverse portfolios of entertainment conglomerates EMI, Sony, Universal, and Warner. These are collectively
and appropriately named The Big Four. Simultaneously, fledgling independent labels are struggling for survival in a hostile and fiercely competitive environment rampant with piracy. However, entertainment continues to be the fastest growing, most lucrative worldwide economic sector.

Developing countries should therefore seize the opportunity to enhance and market new cultural products for financial benefit. There is also an obvious need to simultaneously form strategic alliances with one or more of the above groups of companies. Culture has enormous commercial potential since raw material is always available in abundance. Therefore, finished products and services have unlimited potential for earning foreign exchange.

A Strategic Plan for Sustainability

In order to realise this goal, a five-point strategic plan has been conceptualised. Its main elements are summarized, as follows:

The Copyright Music Organization of Trinidad and Tobago needs to be strengthened. This would ensure that royalties due to composers, publishers, arrangers, producers and performers are collected and disseminated on a timely basis. It is especially important, since an increasing number of World Carnivals rely heavily on our music for their own recognition and success. Furthermore, much of our foreign revenue is uncollected because it is not economically feasible for sister organisations to collect on behalf of COTT.

Our local music industry needs to pay more attention to the quality of its repertoire. Emphasis must be placed on the manufacture of innovative products that would create a visceral impact on the international marketplace. Unfortunately, piracy has become almost a necessary evil in our society, resulting in producers and artistes being afraid to invest time or money in recordings of any substance. There is no quick fix to this problem. One solution is to develop a clientele that would insist on purchasing the genuine article. This takes time.

Unity is strength. The entire repertoire of the music industry of Trinidad and Tobago should, therefore, be marketed under one Umbrella Company (jointly owned by the private and public sectors). An integral part of this exercise would be the exhuming, resurrection and dissemination of our back catalogue, which is inarguably, more palatable and palpable than our current fare.

The industry needs to identify a number of ancillary services to become foreign exchange earners. Archive Restoration, Mastering, Publishing, Song Writing, Steelpan Crafting, Animation and Graphic Design are some of the areas in which entrepreneurial skills need to be developed. These will support the main activity, which is recording and production of material for commercial exploitation.

Trinidad and Tobago’s music industry needs to become and remain globally competitive. Continuing music-literacy education, training and apprenticeship programmes; strengthening the enabling environment, provision of fiscal incentives and easy access to working capital are some examples of strategies, which ought to be identified and implemented so as to achieve this objective. National technical and financial support should be given to innovative ICTderived cultural products developed by local entrepreneurs. These will be integral to viable implementation and long-term success of this plan.

New ICT-derived Cultural Products
PETE the Panstick® is a sophisticated entry-level curriculum in the form of an interactive teaching/learning DVD. It is the first phase of an integrated approach to developing and nurturing a structured music industry. PETE will be initially marketed directly to recognized legal entities such as Ministries of Education and International Schools at the primary level. The animated character, PETE is bilingual (English and Spanish) and delivers his content through an interface that introduces students to the Steelpan via a series of chapters, namely instrument, arrangers, quiz, history music and games. The product is very easy to navigate and designed to be left in the hands of unsupervised children. Besides imparting a rudimentary knowledge of music, PETE will ensure that young children hone their motor skills and learn to use ICT from an early age.

The Pan in Education Business Model is the first of a series of unique,innovative, feature-packed, costeffective, timeless cultural products, conceptualised by citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. The prime objective is to create a cadre of Caribbean innovators
and entrepreneurs capable of playing successfully in the global marketplace.

Over the past five years, a curriculum has been conceptualised that would achieve the above objective. It has been divided into two main components, namely Music Literacy and Entrepreneurial Development. This curriculum is now supported by a National Occupational Standard (NOS), entitled Music Producer, developed in conjunction with The National Training Agency and a lead body of industry professionals.

The NOS contains forty four units covering the areas of Audio Engineering, Music, Business, Technical Writing, Marketing &Public Relations and two generic units on safety and entrepreneurship. The standard has been endorsed by all CARICOM countries and will therefore form an integral part of the syllabus of the Caribbean Examinations Council.


Both curriculum and NOS arecontained on disc 2 of the upgraded CD entitled Pan in Education, produced by Sanch Electronix, originally released in 2005.

The Percussive Harmonic Instrument (P.H.I.) is a MIDI-based electronic instrument that merges the powerful facility of MIDI with an intuitive form inspired by the world’s most significant new acoustic instrument, the Steelpan. The most striking feature of the popular tenor Steelpan is the note arrangement of almost three octaves on one single playing surface.

This physical note arrangement, called the circles of 4th and 5th, exists only in traditional acoustic Steelpans and is strongly rooted in music theory, which makes for a natural form for anyone teaching, learning, composing and performing music. The circles of 4th and 5th are also available on the P.H.I. – the MIDI-based extension of the traditional Steelpan instrument. Thus, the P.H.I. will now allow musicians to explore their creativity in an even more fluid medium.

The scope of the P.H.I. is immense as it allows users to interface with the powerful capabilities of MIDI. Some key facilities include:

  • Easy access to a theoretically infinite range of voices (sounds) during performances, well beyond those capable with the traditional acoustic instrument
  • Greater flexibility in creating, editing and arranging musical orchestrations through use of readily accessible technology; recording and archiving, allowing quick and easy notation of music as it is performed; easy manipulation, recording and archiving of complex compositions for large bands and smaller ensembles
  • Easy reconfiguration of the P.H.I. to accommodate performances that use multiple ranges or custom note arrangements on the playing surface
  • Access to multiple instrument ranges on the same surface

“Simply connect a P.H.I. to an existing MIDI network and the musician is ready to perform”.

Patents for P.H.I. are pending and have been filed by Government on behalf of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. The technology to manufacture the instrument has been leased to Panadigm Ltd, a company formed by the Steelpan Development Centre of The University of the West Indies.

By way of a memorandum of understanding, an initiative known asThe PETE, PIE, P.H.I. Panadigm© has been signed between Sanch Electronix and Panadigm Ltd. It will ensure optimisation of the opportunities that will accrue from collective global marketing and distribution of these exciting new cultural products.


For further information, please check

Simeon L. Sandiford
Guest contributor
Simeon Sandiford is the Managing Director of
Sanch Electronix


ELLIMAC Production ® (EMP) Limited
Commonwealth Secretariat
Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean
Microsoft Trinidad and Tobago
The Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA)
Tourism Development Company Limited