BitDepth 609 - January 08 hopes to bridge a crucial gap in local music distribution.
The beat in your box, legally

Jean Michel Gibert at his office overlooking the Queen's Park Savannah. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

Jean Michel Gibert is one of the best-kept secrets in Trinidad and Tobago's music industry. After many years here, he still talks with a thick French accent that becomes progressively less comprehensible as he becomes excited. When it comes to talking about the music of this island, he's likely to get pretty worked up, gesticulating vigorously and growing ever harder to understand.
Most of the time, though, he's pretty quiet, hanging out at the back of the room, listening with a little smile and letting his longtime business partners, Lorraine O'Connor (Managing Director) and Rosemary Hezekiah (Creative Director) take the frontlines.

That was the formula they used when they grew Rituals Music from a small one room operation into a music production and distribution business that was one of the pivotal points of the revival of rapso music in the 1990's.
"Ah, The Yard." Gibert recalls. "That was a beautiful experience. We produced and promoted music abroad and all that, but financially, it became a bit difficult."
The trio may have shut the doors on the public face of the Rituals operation, but they never left the music business, and now they are back with, which Gibert describes as "the natural sequel to Rituals."

Trinidad Music on the world stage, take two.
The team had been selling CDs at an outlet in Piarco and online at Trinidad Music, so direct downloads seemed to be the next logical step.
The site, developed by Mondomix, went up for testing in late July and with no advertising at all, attracted 3,000 visitors a month until the formal launch in mid-December.
The online store currently offers 5,000 songs from 500 albums by a range of artists, including Machel Montano, David Rudder, Sparrow, Paul Keens-Douglas and Sanch Electronics. Each song costs US$0.99, and the PayPal transaction engine honours local credit cards for the first time.

I bought three tracks from the store, Good Mornin' by 3 Canal, Lady Shiela by Rudder and Tanti Merle Drapes by Keens-Douglas. Sampling the work was straightforward, and you get a generous 40 second clip of each track, almost three times the industry standard of 15 seconds.
Payment through PayPal requires sign up with the service, and you'll become a part of that business' occasional e-mailings and far more frequent various e-mail scams that try to prey on its users, so double check PayPal e-mails with special care after you buy.
There are no album only restrictions at and songs are encoded as unprotected MP3s at bit rates ranging between 160 and 192kbps. All songs have adequate metadata, but it was a bit spotty in the three test songs I downloaded. The Paul in PKD's name acquired an extra "e" and the 3 Canal song had no embedded album artwork.

More work in uploading than downloading
"If there's anything that we understimated," Gibert said, "it's just how much work it is to prepare and upload the music. It takes hours to encode, check each track and upload it."
Protecting the music using encryption was discussed, but the notion was quickly scrapped.
"Our consumer makes an effort not to go to pirate websites or to hit downtown to get a pirate CD, so we felt that we needed to make sure that they were happy with their purchases," Gibert said.
COTT, the bank and Paypal get their cut first off each song's price and the remainder is split 60-40 between the artist and
Gibert is well aware of how far the project still has to go, but many of the niceties and frills of a music download site are being postponed for later phases of the development of

For now, building the catalog is the first priority. Adding video, artist-fan social spaces and other community enhancements are scheduled for phase two of the project, but there are already exclusives on the website. The Mastermind Project didn't even bother to produce CDs, says Gibert, opting instead to post their current work directly and exclusively on the download site.
"There has been very good response from our sponsors, COTT, the BDC and the artistes. I've never done as many interviews as I have for this project before. We will go step by step. We think it is a good tool, and we believe that it is the future of music."
"We are for Trinidad and Tobago, we are for the Caribbean and we are for the Caribbean diaspora."
For more information from this interview and contact information, go
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