The grouping of local bandleaders and promoters is charging that the recent election campaign put a massive dent on the upcoming Crop Over season.
The Barbados Association of Masqueraders (BAM) said the timing of the election forced them to play catch-up because it encroached upon time which would have been used for marketing and sales.
BAM President Chetwyn Stewart told Barbados TODAY that during the campaign, which ended with the May 24 general election in which the Barbados Labour Party swept the polls, the Crop Over circuit, which normally would have been vibrant around that time, was at a virtual standstill.
Stewart, whose Grand Kadooment band, Power X4, pulled out of the event last year due to financial constraints, explained that this year the popular band would once again be absent from the streets because of the late start.
“We didn’t reach our target this year because while elections were going nothing was happening. Everything was at a standstill. Sponsorship for bands was very hard to come by because all of the businesses were waiting and watching to see what was going to be the outcome of the election. I know this was the story for a lot of other bands,” Stewart said.
The BAM president also revealed that even though the controversial National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), which increased by 400 per cent last July 1, will be removed on July 1 this year, the repeal may not be in time to affect prices of costumes.
“The truth is that people in the entertainment business make their plans long in advance and it means that they would have brought in items since the beginning of the year. So it means that they would have already paid the NSRL and that would mean that persons cannot really expect that costume prices to go down for this Crop Over,” he said, while adding that this may not necessarily damper this year’s Crop Over atmosphere, as revellers were still eager to release some stress before Government’s austerity measures begin to bite.
Bandleaders bitterly complained last year that the NSRL was an albatross around their necks, as the controversial levy, which rose from two per cent to ten per cent, resulted in depressed costume sales.
At least four main bands withdrew from Grand Kadooment last year, citing financial constraints. This year frontline costumes for the more popular bands cost as high as US$1,000, while backline costumes are being sold for US$500.
Stewart explained that whether or not all of these factors translate into a poorly patronized Crop Over season would depend on the marketing creativity of bandleaders and promoters.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean that we are going to have a poor Crop Over season because people need a release. The reality is that people are going to have to make choices to suit their pockets. People will come out, jump and party but they need the packages that they can afford. Last year you had more tourists than locals jumping for Grand Kadooment, while many locals gravitated to the more affordable Foreday Morning jam. So, people are willing to come out and party and it is going to come down to the package you are offering the people. You might need more of the all-inclusive events or enhance the costume packages,” he contended.