BitDepth 612 - January 29

Calypsonian Crazy takes his first steps in online sales.
The Crazy road to online sales

Calypsonian Crazy holds his new CD. Photography by Mark Lyndersay.

For the two decades that I've known Edwin Ayoung, better known to you as the calypsonian Crazy, he's never been an artiste to accept the difficulties of his chosen profession without a fight.
I have a clear memory of Ayoung jumping up onto music trucks ten years ago on a Carnival Tuesday offering to sing his song as each band crossed the stage. He saw a musical "mafia" directing the results of the road march competition and put himself in place to subvert what he saw as a fundamental unfairness.

So for Ayoung to be giving a news story about the wanton piracy of his 2008 hit "Phone Card" and sounding like a beaten man came as a bit of a surprise.
The calypsonian had found himself caught in the ongoing bind of the calypsonian at Carnival, spending thousands to record a song and then finding it on the streets being sold from pirate wagons before making a cent.

In Ayoung's case, he spent $175,000 to produce a full CD and the product, with 17 songs, didn't arrive in the country until January 19, leaving people with a craving for the catchy but risque song no choice but to buy it on a pirate CD compilation.
The situation made it all the way to a BBC business report by Robert Plummer and it all seemed a bit, well, crazy to me.

Talking Crazy
So I called Ayoung and asked him why he hadn't made it available online for sale.
"You think that is a good idea?" Ayoung said in that manic staccato he uses when he's excited. "You think I should do that? Who to call boy?"
That kick started a wild cycle of conversations and mad driving back and forth as TrinidadTunes' Rosemary Hezekiah and Ayoung did business on the phone while trying to meet.

"Crazy is great," said Hezekiah, "he's fantastic, but he's all over the place. I'm heading to meet him at Crosby's in St James, and he calls to tell be that he's outside Veni Mange."
"It was a whole adventure just to meet up with him and in the end, my assistant had to jump out of my car, run three cars ahead to his car and give him the contract."
"I have to say, he took the contract home to read it and signed it the next day. He's not as crazy as people think."

Hezekiah spoke to Crazy about the service in December, but it didn't really click for the calypsonian until after our conversation when he talked it over with Mario Russell of Downtown Outlaws, who distribute his CDs.
"Mario say is a good idea," Ayoung said. "Is the future of music and that's where everything going. I want to give them the tunes I write first, and then we'll see about the catalog later. If you want to know how it going, call me later in the year."

Where is the music?
In some ways, Crazy's reaction to the idea of online distribution of the music is symptomatic of the whole local industry. There's a powerful disconnect for artistes accustomed to thinking about their product as a plastic case with a recorded disc inside.
But in a short season like this year's, the CD is a punishment for local artists. The lethargic process of recording, pressing and printing has long been subverted by music thieves who can do it all faster and at a cost that fits right in with the scrappy covers and handwritten titles on their custom compiled illegal products.

The website has less than 20 of the songs that are firing up Carnival parties this year. Rikki Jai is there alongside Roy Cape All Stars and Nadia Batson. David Rudder has offered the four songs he has composed for the season for download only, he'll consider a CD later on. Machel Montano released "Wining Season" as a single on the service and in the last week, Patrice Roberts and Bunji Garlin have signed up.
"I keep saying it again and again," said Hezekiah, "artists have nothing to lose and everything to gain."

According to Hezekiah, more artists are calling to sign up and everyday, there's new music on the service. But it's telling that in the middle of a heated and all too brief Carnival season, the biggest seller at at this writing is David Rudder's first Gilded Collection; a greatest hits compilation that's 15 years old.
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