Sat | Oct 31, 2020

JaRIA considers threats, opportunities in the ‘new normal’

Published:Sunday | May 17, 2020 | 8:23 AMKimberley Small/Staff Reporter

Industries across the world face uncertainty, as no one entity can absolutely declare when or if economies will revert to normal in the wake of COVID-19. The local entertainment industry suffers the same uncertainty – and to address it, the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA)on Monday invited insiders Carlette DeLeon (publicist, Headline Entertainment), Joe Bogdanovich (Downsound Records, Reggae Sumfest), Ojay ‘OJ’ Bewley (Starlight Productions), reggae artiste Kabaka Pyramid, and Ingrid Riley (siliconcaribe.com) to a virtual town hall meeting.

There was general consensus among them that projecting a return to normality is like trying to hit a moving target. But while they keep eyes peeled for that bullseye, the panellists also agreed that it is time to evaluate what the new normal in local entertainment could look like. Short answer, everything will be scaled down, and online.

“There have been opportunities and there have been some threats. I am concerned that when our new normal comes around, there will be a contraction of the industry. It’s going to be very different, and a lot smaller than it was before,” DeLeon said, identifying the threat.

The threats are already in effect. “We’ve had to refund for bookings in March, April, May, and it continues. On the financial side of it, we’ve been affected really bad,” Bewley said. Over 100 persons directly and indirectly employed by Starlight Productions have been completely out of work for the past seven weeks.

“How are we going to operate after this? Every day is a new direction,” he added.

Daddi Barnz, director at Soul Circle Music/Chronixx Music Group, who has been paying keen attention to shifts in the global music economy, has seen one possible direction, though it may not be actionable until 2021. To eventually reintroduce live music performances, promoters will have to radically scale down their approach. “Multiple nights, 100-person capacity small venues will be a norm for now, going forward,” Barnz suggested recently.

DeLeon identified the opportunities, too, in publicity and marketing. “There are opportunities for us in the industry to find new ways to express ourselves.”

FINDING NEW WAYS

And Kabaka agreed. “Everybody has to look at themselves as a brand now, and see which ways they can promote the different skill sets they have. In the music industry, we can create different digital products,” he said, before pulling on producer colleague Teflon Zinc Fence as an example.

Prior to the pandemic, Teflon began making beat-packs, allowing beat makers to purchase various musical sounds and effects for their own productions. “We don’t have to think about income in such a short-term sense. We can look at it as building momentum around ourselves,” he continued.

Tech entrepreneur Riley agreed that there will be a contraction of the entertainment industry, and suggested that the future of events will be online. She believes that the pandemic has afforded the opportunity for events and artiste brands to do three things: to get closer to their fans, to diversify their digital assets, and to own their online platforms and revenue streams.

“There is going to be separation of the mediocre and the more tuned-in, A-level talents ... and those who have the best content, the greatest connection and who actually own their digital assets will win now and beyond COVID-19. The future of events is definitely going to be online,” she said.

“Online creativity will get more exciting as time goes on. COVID-19 changed perspective and lifestyle. I think COVID-19 is freeing up the imagination of how to be relevant. Now some great work might come out of this,” Bogdanovich agreed.

kimberley.small@gleanerjm.com