BEFORE there was YouTube or Instagram, and even before Google had cemented itself as the place to find any and everything, Julian Hackett wanted the world to know about soca.
Hackett’s story gives a historical snapshot of part of the development of technology and soca.
Julianspromos has been providing soca artistes with a space to showcase their music for almost ten years. Julianspromos’ YouTube channel recently passed one million subscribers worldwide and celebrated with the release of the Tender Touch Riddim done with Advokit Productions. The riddim features songs from Patrice Roberts, Nailah Blackman, Hey Choppi, Olatunji, Melly Rose and Nigerian rapper, singer and songwriter Skales.
The three-member team comprises of Hackett, Sheniele “Vivaa” Dodson and Chandelle “Chandy” DeRiggs.
Hackett’s fascination with soca began when he went to Brooklyn carnivals with his Barbadian parents.
“I would hear every other genre daily but when Carnival time came around here in New York, I knew that was going to be my one and only time to hear the music. And it kind of became frustrating that that was the only time I could hear the music,” he told Newsday.
The now 33-year-old Hackett got into soca in 2003 and would often visit websites
trinijunglejuice.com to find the latest soca hits. If the songs were not available there, he’d have to find it on a CD (a compact disc once used to store and play digital audio recordings).
He spent months building soca collections and gathering songs.
“I was so good at finding music, I would find new songs. Back then there was no Instagram, no streaming, no social media. Even YouTube back then was non-existent until 2005. So when I would get songs there was really no way to showcase it to anybody and artistes would upload their songs on their personal pages like MySpace and things like that.” There are hundreds of artistes in the Caribbean and it would have been almost impossible to go to hundreds of pages to find songs, he said.
So when he found the songs, Hackett would try to put them all in one place and that is where it started.
He used the now defunct social media website, Imeem, to post and promote soca. He met Vivaa through Imeem and they began working at
islandmix.com in 2009, and they began going to events and interviewing artistes.
“We used Islandmix brand name to look professional so we could have the access backstage and speak to artistes,” he said.
The love of doing this grew and so it eventually developed into Julianspromos in 2011.
Today, “Julianspromos is known to many as the official source for soca music online, generating over 1.2 billion total views worldwide from 140 countries, with 4.2 billion impressions and over 1,300 official releases a year. Julianspromos is recognised worldwide as the go-to platform for hearing most of the latest soca all in one place,” a release said.
Initially, when Hackett started it was a hobby but every year he wanted to “grow when it came to doing more for the music.”
As the music industry changed, he adjusted as well.
“Just promoting on YouTube is not enough to really promote music. It is something anybody can do but there is a way that you have to do it to really make it work. So that’s how I started to grow into other ventures.
“I started getting into the multimedia part because people like visuals. That was good but it kind of became overwhelming because we are a really small team. It is me and two other people, but I was doing my own editing, my own shooting. Basically, everything kind of revolved around me and it took away from promoting the music a lot.
“When we were promoting the music we were showcasing the music but it still wasn’t a solid structure where people would send us songs and it was a case where they would send it to us and we would just rush it up. We would not even listen to it most of the time because it was just so fast-paced.
“I had to slow all of that down to take it more into a business-oriented direction to really try to build,” he said.
He was not always into music and this was not something he saw himself doing, initially.
The music’s seasonal structure helped him get more into the music as he would only hear it one time a year.
He eventually got into music creation as well, working on his first riddim with Kit Israel of AdvoKit Productions in 2017 on the Folklore Riddim. This was followed up in 2018 with the Twin Flame riddim and now the Tender Touch Riddim.
He credits Israel with teaching him a lot of what he knows about the music business.
“Me and producer, Advokit productions, Kit, worked on previous projects over the years. The first one was the Folklore Riddim which did really well. And the second one was the Twin Flame Riddim. We’ve always had a good combination when it came to working together.
“We decided to do this a third time. He brought the riddim to my attention about July. We first started playing with the riddim, Patrice Roberts was the first song I heard on it before it became what it is right now,” he said.
The riddim is a combination of soca and Afrobeat.
He understands that there is no manual on how to do soca and how to present it.
“You have to be in it to actually know the structure of how to present things. Over the years of learning how things work. The timing. Especially when it comes to how the listeners listen to music. How people absorb the music. What kind of bpms work better than others. After absorbing all of that, that is when I kind of became more open to ideas for getting deeper into the music.
“Into production, digital distribution as well as even artiste management sometimes.”
Soca is right up there with the world’s best but Hackett believes that seasonal nature of the music needs to change, as well as how people support it.
“Listening to the music for three months and then tuning out does a lot of damage to music. Because songs will do really, really well, initially streaming wise, where you will see songs get 200,000 sometimes a million views in a month. That’s good. But after Carnival finishes all of those views kind of just dwindles away. It stays stuck where it is. For the music to really, really be recognised as something serious they really need that support all year round. Not just from the artistes but from listeners, radio, everybody,” he said.
Although the covid19 pandemic’s altering of society has been largely negative, Hackett believes it has presented the soca industry with an opportunity to change its mould and release music year-long.
“They record a lot of music but they do not release it over the course of a year. They throw it all out at once and then they have nothing to offer for the next nine to ten months.
“With no Carnival it is really going to force artistes and producers to adjust the way they really present the music and to really focus on songs that can really catch people…”
Hackett hopes his riddim will show people that Carnival isn’t needed to release big projects.
“In releasing this riddim we are hoping it entices people to get their projects out there because there is a lot of music that has been recorded but people are hesitant to release it.”
He is also asking artistes not to take a break from soca.
“In speaking with a lot of the artistes as well as producers, a lot have the idea that soca is dead or dying because there is no Carnival. Music is what you make of it so if you treat it as something seasonal that is all it is going to be. You have to treat it as something more so I would encourage everyone to continue to focus on music and continue to build their own following.”