Jamaica’s Music Industry Calls For Reopening & Modernization During COVID

Buju Banton PM Andrew Holness

To many persons, the entertainment sector of Jamaica is still caught in the COVID-19 noose placed around nonessential sectors. However, at least one newly formed group feels that the right talks will help usher in a faster transition to a new normal.

The collective body which includes promoters and organizer, theatre operators, artistes, sound system and disc jockeys, caterers, bar and nightclub owners and other key members of the industry continue to have talks with key institutions of the industry, including parish councils, the Jamaica Association of Composers Authors and Publishers (JACAP), and the Jamaica Music Society (JAMMS).

During a meeting held last month, the group organizer and lead for the popular Soca Forever and Strictly 2K, Ibrahim Konteh, mentioned the importance of having such a collective. “We felt as if we needed to be proactive and take a unified step towards finding solutions,” Ibrahim said. “So instead of us waiting on the Ministry of Entertainment to tell us the new protocols, we met for three hours and put suggestions forward and hopefully they will be considered when the official protocols are published.”

In the recently held meeting, Konteh revealed one interesting demand put forward by the group concerning fees usually faced when promoting an event. These include licensing and advertisement fees imposed by parish councils and groups such as JACAP and JAMMS.

“Outside of the kind of fees that come to mind when the everyday person thinks about events and entertainment, there are some fees that we have to pay before we put up the first advertising board,” he said.

He added, “It’s clear to everyone that nothing is the same today as it was before covid-19, and for entertainment and events we realise that is acutely true for our industry. At every angle we are downsizing as part of a plan to responsibly reopen, but that means that our economies of scale have changed as well.”

The group argued that a change in the mindset of clients along with regulations still implemented to help keep COVID-19 numbers low might indeed see bring about lower than normal turnout to places of entertainment. In light of this, they have seen where the waiving of the fees could prove very helpful to counter the unfavorable market climate.

“We are looking for pragmatic solutions and ideas that need little to no bureaucratic support and are easy to implement. This is something our local government leaders and the peripheral organizations can do, right now, to help us be in a better place to reopen safely and economically,” Konteh said.

Event promoters are usually asked to pay between $5,000 to $15,000 for a place of amusement licenses from parish council offices. There are also additional costs for erecting promotional materials such as billboard signs, posters, and banners.

Armed with t-shirts, banners, cards, and their voices branded No Entertainment, No Vote, members of the entertainment sector, particularly the music fraternity, descended on Emancipation Park to protest the lack of attention the entertainment sector has been getting.

Music executive and son of legendary selector Pink Panther; Pantason expressed the significance of the entertainment industry to the island’s cash cow, tourism. “So me no want the Politician dem feel like is dem make tourist come ya,” he said, “we de pon the grung a put in the work make the people dem a come a the country.”

In an earlier meeting, Kamal Bankay relayed the importance of the industry to Jamaica.

“The economic value of the cultural industries, employment within industries, and proposed phased reopening protocols were all showcased,” he said. “We stand ready to work closely with the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport; Ministry of Tourism; Ministry of National Security; Ministry of Health; Ministry of Local Government; and the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, and Fisheries, who all oversee and regulate various parts of the cultural, entertainment, and sports industries.”

Will you be in attendance at any major event if the government releases the restrictions on public gatherings?