August 13, 2019
Local Entertainers’ Horror Stories will Continue

An incident in Canada last weekend between a popular local artiste and a promoter there should drive home the point, now more than ever, that our local entertainers should take a more business like approach to their performances.

In 2017, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) provided funds to the SVG Association of Music Professionals (SVGAMP) for the promotion of live music and to bring entertainers up to speed on several matters, including the importance of having contracts and rider agreements.

Of the over 400 members of SVGAMP, fewer than half participated in the workshops and most do not insist on legally binding contracts when asked to perform at shows and parties. As a result, many of them are being taken advantage of, as verbal contracts made between them and promoters, most of the time without the input of a manager, are often broken, with the entertainer suffering in the process.

Contracts should cover areas such as meals, how many persons can accompany an entertainer, airline tickets (and baggage fees), level of hotel accommodation, transportation, payment structure (for example, half money up front and the remainder after the performance) and the exact amount to be paid among other things.

Our entertainers’ horror stories are many. Some local promoters hire artistes for their shows and after they have performed, the promoters refuse to pay them or pay them much less than the agreed fee, giving the excuse that “the show buss”. In other instances, entertainers travel overseas and are responsible for their own accommodation, food and transportation, and they still are not paid the agreed performance fee.

One of the latest incidents saw a promoter in North America verbally abusing one of this nation’s cultural ambassadors; the entertainer having to pay his own airfare to return home after he turned up at the airport and was told that his return ticket had not been paid for.

And although concerned persons have been emphasizing the importance of artistes having contracts and written agreements, ironically the entertainers themselves are among those who are most resistant to taking action to protect themselves and their businesses.

Recently an artiste whose photograph and name were used to promote an event that he was not a part of was told that he should look into making sure this doesn’t happen again. His response? “Yeah that’s true I will do it soon”. Truth be told, soon is not soon enough.

Entertainers need to take their livelihoods, brands and intellectual property more seriously.

How often do we hear of local artistes and foreign artistes performing in the same show with the foreign act taking home huge fees while the local performer is not given his or her full due.

On one occasion, a Jamaican disc jockey received payment through Western Union to perform at a show here in SVG. He did not turn up, but later the same year, he arrived in SVG to do a show for another promoter. When the first promoter and his lawyer approached the DJ, he was stopped by the local police although the DJ admitted to taking the money.

Similar situations have played out in places like Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) but with a different outcome; the entertainer was arrested and made to repay the promoter. The difference in outcome is indicative of where we are when it comes to the entertainment business in St Vincent and the Grenadines.