Upon the death of an author or songwriter, the copyright laws afford protection of creations for a limited time – 50 years after death or in some countries 75. The Estates of Elvis Presley, Bob Marley, and Michael Jackson have all exploited this limited time with Michael Jackson’s Estate amassing nearly a billion dollars within one year of his death. While these three King’s (King of Rock & Roll, King of Reggae and King of Pop) music remained alive and became increasingly popular after their death, it seems as if the executors of the estate for Arrow King of Soca are determined to do to his music what cancer did to him.
Alphonsus “Arrow” Cassell was big and his music is international. Hailing from the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat, Arrow paved the way for numerous soca artists in the region. He also put Montserrat on the map as he was always happy to inform his audience that he was from the less than 40 square mile island.
Arrow rose to prominence when he recorded the internationally acclaimed “Hot, Hot, Hot” in 1982 which became the anthem of soca. Even after his death in 2010, his music continued to receive international recognition. A remake of his global hit single was recognized at an awards ceremony in the United States earlier this year. The cover version of “Hot Hot Hot” which was recorded in 2013 by reggaeton artistes Don Omar was honored at the annual Latin Music Awards organized by The American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP). The remake version, which is titled “Feeling Hot”, was singled out as one of the top urban singles songs in ASCAPS’s Latin repertoire in 2013 after peaking at No.22 on the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart.
Prior to his death the hit “Hot Hot Hot” and Arrow received other accolades. He was the first Soca Artiste to ever perform at the Reggae Sunsplash in both England and Jamaica and to have sold over 4 million records. Prior to Don Omar’s version, the song, which has sold over 10,000,000 copies worldwide was covered by numerous artists including Buster Poindexter (whose version peaked at #45 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts).
The potential for revenue in the entertainment business is amazing. In particular, music has the potential to take us out of our financial stupor and become a sustaining factor in our economy. As an entertainer Arrow knew this and took the necessary steps to secure revenues from his creation. He established a music publishing company, in the ‘70’s, at a time when other artists were oblivious to its importance. In addition, he engaged the services of a sub-publishing company in the United States. As a result, his music was re-recorded by numerous artists in every genre you could imagine. Hence, in his lifetime Arrow collected millions in royalties. Why then aren’t the executors doing a similar thing after his death? And do they have forever to do so?
Copyright Acts of each country gives to creators of artistic, musical and literary works a bundle of rights. These rights are exclusive to the owner. These are the rights that you alone are permitted to exercise. However, these rights are not granted forever. They are granted for a limited time.
You may ask the question: “Can an artist really make money after death?” It has been seen that after an artist dies there’s an immediate increase in sales because demand for their albums increases drastically. Immediately, after her death, Amy Winehouse’s albums shot to the first and third spots on both the U.S. and U.K. iTunes sales charts. In addition, her 2006 album “Back to Black” has stayed in the top 25 bestsellers. Nonetheless, Arrow is no ordinary artiste. He was a Monarch – the King of Soca. So let’s briefly examine the three Kings. King of Rock & Roll – Elvis Presley, King of Pop – Michael Jackson and King of Reggae – Bob Marley.
The late Elvis Presley probably topped the charts with an estimated 2.5 billion copies of albums sold to date worldwide. Right after he died his estate went into full swing in securing record and merchandising deals generating millions in revenue each year (bear in mind that Elvis died August 16, 1977). In 2010, Elvis made 55 million dollars. Michael Jackson left this world in June 2009 and has sold over 13 million albums since his death. According to Neilson Soundscan’s data, he sold a combined total of 3.9 million which is less than 30% of his sales since his death. The King of Reggae Robert Nesta Marley is yet another monarch who enjoyed success posthumously. Between 1991 and 2010 Marley sold over twenty-five million records. This even though he was, by 1991, deceased for 10 years.
It’s been 4 years since Arrow’s death and I am yet to see a box set or special commemorative collection of Arrow’s music. With each passing year, it’s as if the King of Soca Arrow dies yet again. So to the persons responsible for keeping Arrow alive by producing such box sets and who seem to be killing him time and time again, I make one request: Please STOP!
Top photo: Album cover for Arrow’s 1988: Knock Dem Dead!