There has been a higher than 20 per cent drop in the number of bands participating in this year’s Foreday Morning Jam, the street party that is a highlight of the Crop Over festival.
Corporate Communications Officer with the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) Simone Codrington told Barbados TODAY 37 bands have registered to participate in this year’s event, of which 33 are small bands, with the remainder being large bands.
This is ten fewer than the 47 that took part in last year’s event, which is being overseen by Randy Eastmond, a consultant with the NCF.
Eastmond said he was unable to give reasons for the decline in numbers, “but bandleaders are running a business and they determine whether they can operate based on prevailing market conditions”.
However, he said that in meetings with the bandleaders, some expressed concern about the current business environment and the possibility of other events clashing with the major activity.
News of the decline comes in the wake of complaints by one bandleader that a leading beer company here had left it high and dry by pulling out of a sponsorship deal at the last minute.
The bandleader, who requested anonymity, also suggested that other small bands were suffering a similar fate, which affected their participation in the Foreday Morning activities.
However, Eastmond said that “to the best of my knowledge the NCF has not received any formal complaints regarding bands running into problems with sponsors”.
At the same time, the potential sponsor denied having reached an agreement with the band.
According to the promoter, the beer distributor had entered into an arrangement since February to provide free drinks, financial support, radio promotions, and support at other events during the Crop Over season.
“He came to the first lime we held and brought two cases of drinks as per the agreement, but he never posted any images of the event on social media as he said he would. I had also sent him some images of a truck promoting the brand that we had designed, and he said he liked the idea and agreed to pay half the cost associated with that, but then we heard nothing after that,” the promoter lamented.
She claimed nothing was heard from brand manager for more than four months despite her efforts, until mid-June when she received an email stating: “Despite this initial tentative agreement, due to budgetary constraints we will not be able to proceed with this . . . .I am still interested in providing drinks specials and free product should you decide that you still would like to use [our product].”
She said it became clear that the drinks distributor was abandoning smaller promoters for bigger bands.
“All the bands they have agreed to sponsor are bigger bands based overseas, and to my mind they are doing the smaller promoters a disservice. They seem to be working with us in the early stages, and then when the bigger bands come along, they cast us aside and run with the [bigger bands],” she charged.
However, the distributor has denied reaching a sponsorship agreement with the band, insisting that what they had was a “tentative” deal.
“I would have met [this promoter] in February, shortly after I joined this company. We discussed a number of matters and I sent her a tentative agreement via email, but we never confirmed anything between then and now,” said the brand manager, who also requested anonymity, and who said his correspondence to the bandleader was clear.
“Before we commit to sponsoring any band, I have to go to my superiors to get their permission. I am currently going through the contract, because we do not sponsor anyone without a written contract; it protects us and protects them. So far this year we are working with eight bands,” he said.