Live music venues disappearing

Performers missing from tourism product

A long serving member of the Cayman Music and Entertainment Association is calling out organisations with music and dancing licences for not doing enough to accommodate live performances. 

CMEA Immediate Past President Jean-Eric Smith said it is the time for more to be done by venues in what he called one of the best settings for entertainment in the Caribbean – the Cayman Islands. 

“A lot of places have the pomp but do not have the infrastructure to back it up in terms of adequate power sources, lighting,” Mr. Smith said.  

He said that of all the venues in the Cayman Islands, the Mango Tree is one of the few that has proper accommodations. 

“Mango Tree is one of the more accommodating venues in Grand Cayman, as they are prepared and equipped in terms of facilitating live performances when it comes to lighting, sound and stage covering,” he said. “They are actually also one of the oldest venues on the island.” 

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Mr. Smith said Caribbean-style entertainment has always been an important part of the offerings at Mango Tree.  

He added that there had never been an incident of violence there to his knowledge, and explained why he thought it was difficult to get a cross section of people to attend events at the Mango Tree. 

“The only reason I can see for what you might deem as a negative connotation toward the venue by some is that it is seen as local,” Mr. Smith said. 

He said other establishments that have notable accommodations, relating to what is known as the “Restaurant Trilogy” – a bar, dancing and a restaurant – are Deckers and Macabuca. 

Mr. Smith singled out venues such as Tiki Beach and Royal Palms for not having adequate accommodations for live performances and noted that, in his opinion, these places were not properly outfitted with a proper inhouse system for uniformity of sound. 

Tiki Beach general manager Otmar Weber explained what the position is at that venue as it relates to live music. 

“At the moment, management is not really thinking about live entertainment,” he said. “However, that might change later on. I don’t think the owners are prepared to spend too much on it currently, as it would require advertising, as well as the cost of the band. Also, on weekends we usually have weddings and functions booked. Essentially, we would have to turn away that business for the live entertainment. Friday and Saturday, the time when we do weddings, will take the hit.” 

Other venues such as Royal Palms, which was one of the premier locations to enjoy live music locally, have scaled down live offerings. The owners there have gone for a more cosmopolitan theme that caters to a disco tech/DJ ambiance. As a result, the stage that once featured various live music has been removed. 

Other issues plaguing live music in the Cayman Islands, which is a major part of the Islands’ tourism product, include the prevalence of complaints regarding the issue of noise.  

Robert Loverd, a member of the council of management of the Harbour Heights Condos, is one of the individuals who has made representations to government entities about what he refers to as “chaos on the beach”. In particular, he has been an opponent of music concerts and festivals that take place on the beach and has suggested a decibel reading of 75 for outdoor venues. 

However, Mr. Loverd does agree that there is a limited amount of space in Grand Cayman and people will have to compromise to achieve growth. He said he appreciated the need for commerce in a location that is one of the most beautiful and safest in the world, but lamented that youngsters at Harbour Heights are trying to sleep. 

Meanwhile, there are few locations for concerts on the beach in Grand Cayman, other than Public Beach.  

“Ultimately, these people have chosen to live next to a public beach and they are now expecting the public to curtail their activity because they showed up,” Mr. Smith said. “If there are rules they will be followed but they have to be reasonable and fair to all. There is a balance to strike. Maybe there can be a compromise that stipulates a quota of two events per month or some kind of understanding such as that, as the issue is not cut and dry but slightly more nuanced and requires a creative solution.” 


LocalMotion members board Cayman Airways for Cuba. – PHOTO: DENNIE WARREN JR
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  1. Mr. Jean- Eric Smith needs to understand that these are hard times and we are not in Las Vegas. The economic situation of the planet is in a mess, so take what you can get. Most that own a restaurant, bar or nightclub are business people and you don’t stay in business if you don’t control your spending. Just look at our Government for example. Often hiring a solo act or DJ is good enough and just may keep the establishments’ bank account out of the red. During hard times the first to usually go are the musicians- that’s just the way it is. If a venue does not have the adequate power sources, lighting then buy a 3.00 light bulb, stick it in the socket and start the music. As for who has the Restaurant Trilogy bar, dancing and a restaurant, Mr Smith overlooked The Wharf, Morritts Tortuga, The Reef Resort, The Ritz, Havana Club , The Marriott ,South Coast Bar, KaiBo and more . These venues regularly hire local entertainers who play popular or Caribbean style music for tourists and locals. They also provide outlets for power, enough lighting to read the music and a dance floor for dancing. Hi tech multi-coloured spot lights will not make the music sound any better.

  2. There are not many live music concerts because the Cayman Islands music association holds promotors for ransom. A fee has to be paid to the association, work permits, and a local band must perform and be paid.
    Residents and musicians alike lose out because of this approach. Local musicians would learn a lot from visiting musicians to bad they don’t come.
    The other reason is that few band promote the venues that they play at. Bonafide does an excellent job doing so. The others just come, play and want the check.It takes more than that these days folks.

  3. Brickhouse, Abacus, all the hotels, TI, Calicos, Green Parrot, Margaritaville, O Bar… XQs just bought a piano and trying to start a night, jam nights @ Calicos/Lone Star/Aqua Beach.. there’s many more.

    A big problem with the music scene here is that for years the CMEA has acted as an enforcer for immigration. Venues, expats and Caymanians alike have been scared off/demotivated by this, it caused a lack of vibrancy and the whole scene has suffered. Now Notch wonders aloud why this is happening, EH??

  4. I read an article like this and I begin to seethe.
    As someone who believes in live music; the importance of music in culture and schools; the medium that develops tourism and spend and the ability for local and expatriate people to come together under one umbrella, I cannot help but register to this site and respond.

    Other commentators have touched on one aspect of all this. The sheer cost of holding live music now. With one or two companies having the monopoly over venues on equipment and back line it just isn’t in the budget to spend over 1,000 before talent to hold an event (Thats a small event).

    Then you have the liquor sponsor hopefully helping you out with some funds towards for you to sell their product exclusively. So, now you sell discounted drinks for 4 lets say. Cost of beer and liquor on the island has rocketed with the new duty levels imposed by the CIG. So, the promoter is hitting a 50% cost on discounted goods sold.

    Then the talent, oh the talent. Mr. Smith attempts to charge over 1,000 for him to turn up and play. 1,000!!! I have heard – but cannot confirm – he has asked for more. I am not too sure where Mr. Smith gets off being quoted in the media calling out venues that aren’t adequate enough to hold live music / and or promote him as ‘talent’. There was one instance where Mr. Smith just turned up and expected to play without agreement as the headliner were overseas talent. Lets go forth and make live music in the Cayman Islands what it once was.

    I agree with other commentators that expats and locals alike should play alongside each other. I understand the development of Caymanian talent. Surely, we should start in schools and then let them play alongside expatriate musicians that may have more of a World experience. I myself, have come along many who have actually made my jaw drop and we should be embracing them.

    How do we do this? Well, we disband the Cayman Islands Music Association, which by the way is not officially recognized by the Government, but somehow receive fees and have the Veto vote of whether any musician can come to the Cayman Islands and play or any non Caymanian musician based in the Cayman Islands can have a work permit for such a thing.

    Promoters would be able to afford the assets needed in their properties if events didn’t cost 3,000 to put on before a dollar has ben given back in food and beverage spend. Thats a lot of 4 beers. I hope Mr. Smith realizes what I did here – if the cloud has cleared. I just made his inadequate properties, adequate.

    People just want to play. Promoters want to pay, but with economic turmoil they have finally cottoned on to the fact that they aren’t making money on the blood, sweat and tears that has been put in to make 300 profit.

  5. the venues are there. its the fact that they would rather not deal with CMEA and the sense of entitlement some of us local musicians have. we MUST embrace EVERYONE who can contribute and make this scene vibrant and fair. CMEA should exist, but they should first and foremost be a body that regulates rates and rules. where did those ideas go?

  6. Never has there been a regulatory authority that has shot itself in the foot more times than CMEA. I remember when the group Charlie Goes Electric was trying to apply for licenses to play gigs on a regular basis and forces within the Association saw to it that the group would not play anywhere on island unless at charity events. CGE still played for their loyal fans (for free) because they loved music THAT much. CMEA leadership has no idea what love of music is. If they did, they would embrace ALL the talent on the island and pool together to reignite the spark that still exists in many a server, an accountant, a lawyer, a messenger, a receptionist and a CEO. Individuals whose talents have been suppressed by the exclusive little club of (mediocre at best) musicians that make up the CMEA. Everybody loses in the end.