Let the music play on

 The flyers were printed ads ran on the radio and tickets were sold, but  fans to a recent “Cocoa Tea” concert were left wanting as the artist did not even come on stage, let alone sing a note.

Show Promoter Kayan Mattutie said the artiste did not show because only half of the artist’s deposit could be paid. They had banked on making money at the door on the night but only 200 people turned out on the night and they needed 2000 people to break even.

Several other events that have ended up not taking place or failing to deliver on what was promoted have caused great disappointment amongst concert goers, leading many to wonder about the foundation of the industry.

Promoters and entertainment buffs alike have long known that putting a concert/show together can be a physically and emotionally draining experience but there is also the allure that it can be quite profitable.

Work permits
So why is it so problematic and costly to put on concerts in Cayman?

Immigration is an area where much of the confusion can transpire and in Cayman this can mean that a promoter has not taken the time to educate themselves about what is required or failed to do enough planning.

For promoters this means that if you are bringing a foreign act, you will need to hire at least one local band to open the show and the act must be paid.

The Department works in tandem with the Cayman Islands Music and Entertainment Association when granting permits for artists coming to perform for one night, as well as those who may be employed full time.

Criteria governing these previous categories are basically the same. However, when hiring a full time musician as an employee, companies must take care to provide evidence of “due diligence” in exhausting all efforts to find a suitable Caymanian to fill the post.

This can be done by placing at least two advertisements in a circulated publication in addition to conducting interviews and keeping records to substantiate your findings.

Once this is done, the prospective employee will need to furnish a criminal record.

If the initial permit is for three months, no medical is required and the cost of the permit is $385.00.

For permits that span more than six months, a medical is required and the price is $685.00.

The cost of a one year permit for a musician is $1,585.

If the act is coming for a one-off performance, the rules are the same. However, there is no need to prove that there may be capable Caymanians to do the job, as the act is the basis of the show and therefore is irreplaceable.

The usual three month fee would apply to such an artist and each person in their entourage, as well as a $100 fee to be paid to the Cayman Islands Music and Entertainment Association for the artist and each person accompanying him/her.

According to President of CMEA Jean Eric Smith, “The hundred dollars paid to the Association is for the background checks we do on each person.

“At the end of the day, the Immigration Department holds the final say but they will look more favourably on an application that we endorse.”

In fact there have been instances of permit grants for musicians without letters of endorsement.

There is currently no handbook or leaflet from the CMEA on its official requirements for endorsement letters.

Lack of venues
Lack of venues is another problem. This is because most venues available are larger settings that require quite a high fee to rent.

Promoter Chris Morante said he would like to see a medium sized venue that could facilitate a show that drew a medium crowd.

“The cost of hiring the venues we have in Cayman is too much and when you couple that with at least $5000 for a Pro Audio System it is difficult to be effective as a promoter,” said Chris.

He added that a venue that could accommodate 800-1000 people would be ideal.

“The old “Rum Heads” night club was perfect,” he explained.

The promoter suggested that these venues would likely have their own PA system and things word “work out” for promoters and sponsors.

Mr. Smith spoke about his feelings regarding concert promotion, saying that the main problem with having shows in the Cayman Islands nowadays was sponsorship. “In Cayman, when you hook-up with one radio station to promote the show, the other radio station does not want to give you the full push.

“In a community this small, it’s so competitive that it becomes anti-progressive, negative even.”

He said as a result, promoters were being forced to take more of a risk, which in turn led to concert goers paying the ultimate price.

“This could mean higher costs for tickets or actually getting to the show only to find out one or more artist is not playing because of some lack or inability that started earlier in the chain,” said Mr. Smith.

He elaborated: “what you might have is a local distributor sponsoring a show for $500 and asking the promoter to plaster a particular brand of beer everywhere as part of the deal.”

What ends up happening then, according to Mr. Smith, is that same distributor will usually turn around and send the brewer a communiqué outlining their efforts and subsequently receive a massive consignment from the company; essentially making money off the backs of the promoters they have helped –  often times to the tune of $500.

Many in the music fraternity say that until the business community recognises the importance of a partnership with arts and entertainment, there can be no real vibrant growth for either.

They say the model in the rest of the Caribbean should stand as a testament to what can be accomplished when business and entertainment come together.

The Solution
The solution to the issue seems to be one of communication and cooperation between promoters, venues, sponsors and the powers that be.

Many think it is intrinsically flawed and a conflict of interest to have a Music Association endorsing shows, while at the same time having their own events.

Industry insiders in Cayman say they don’t understand the practicality of having a board of what can be seen as competitors, making decisions about other people’s undertakings.

They say it should be a neutral board of people that have the privilege of informing the process of vetting persons for approval from the Immigration Department for anything.

Perhaps what may need to happen is a round table discussion, which looks at the benefits of a robust entertainment industry that can serve as another pillar of the economy, as tourism and the finance sector have.

According to Mr. Morant, venue operators and entrepreneurs should start looking at a venues that can facilitate a medium size show and offer sound production as part of the package.

Competition is good if it promotes growth in the right direction and not animosity.

However, there is no substitute for sincere unity and togetherness.

President of the CMEA Jean Eric Smith said he felt like the Association was being taken for granted in some instances but added that he was determined to see all persons in entertainment come under the umbrella of the Association so that more inclusive discussions could be held.

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