Stewart: Bands need to change to avoid extinction
Unless Grand Kadooment bands evolve with the changing needs of Corporate Barbados, they may well find themselves going the way of the dinosaurs due to lack of sponsorship.
This is the firm belief of Power x 4 organizer Chetwyn Stewart, who told Barbados TODAY that as a result of the turmoil associated with obtaining sponsorship, his usually massive band would soon be reduced to just family and friends for the 2016 Kadooment Day parade.
“We are only going on the road with family and friends because we going through a transition and my daughter is taking over next year. Sponsorship is not like in the years gone by when we were getting the type of sponsorship to keep our backlines under $600. At the moment sponsorship is ridiculously low so we are going to move in a different direction where the band is going to have to pay for itself,” Stweart said.
Even though the sponsorship drain was admittedly an unexpected blow this year, the longstanding band owner and promoter expressed no ill feelings towards corporate Barbados but rather argued that the new approach was par for the entertainment course.
“We used to raise $100,000 but now you can’t even raise $15,000. With this money we used to be able to keep the backline under $600 but if you check now all the backlines are now over $1,000. We were not ready for that this year so we are now going into this transition period,” he explained.
He added: “I totally understand where the sponsors are going. The festival has evolved, there are a lot more all-inclusive fetes and the sponsors want to be relevant and be involved in all of them. A sponsor could give an all-inclusive event $5,000 and move 18 cases of product, where as if they give me $25,000 I am still asking for product for my patrons. So you can’t blame the sponsors because it is just where it is moving.
“If you look at carnivals all over the world, the bands have moved to incorporating some of these all-inclusive fetes in their package and Barbadians have to follow the same pattern. We have to understand that the sponsors want to spread out their budget over the festival so if bands want to continue getting a lion’s share of the sponsorship they have to facilitate this.”
Award-winning designer and bandleader Betty West had a similar lament. She is celebrating her 25th year in the annual Kadooment Day masquerade and said sourcing material locally and securing sponsorship were also her major bugbear. This year, she noted, was most challenging.
“This year was worse than ever. There was lack of sponsorship to bring the band, and you need that money to start off and produce the band.
“And then there is also the problem of materials. It’s only Abed’s supplying everybody so when you go back, the material is not there and, as a result, I have to send someone to Trinidad. That’s very stressful,” West stated.
On the bright side, though, West expressed satisfaction with how sales had gone so far for her band this year. This success has come mainly as a result of overseas clients returning because of their enjoyable 2015 experience.
“Last year, I had about 60 non-locals in my band who thoroughly enjoyed themselves. As a result, they are coming back and bringing people. So half of my band this year is made up of people coming from abroad.”
One of the obvious strategies another bandleader, Gwyneth Squires, has been utilizing to remain relevant is the reduction of prices to her clients. She expressed satisfaction with the sales specifically targeting the Kiddies section of the masquerade.
“Some people don’t have money but as they were playing [mas] with me for a long time, I just give them a little deduction,” Squires said.