More entertainment events fold, others seek fresh approach
Among the numerous events held in the Corporate Area are a number of weekly parties, including Uptown Mondays at Savannah Plaza in St Andrew; Sexy Tuesdays, held at the Mango Ranch on West Kings House Road; Weddy Weddy Wednesdays on Burlington Avenue; and Whappings Thursdays, off Hagley Park Road, which cater to the growing entertainment needs of patrons.
Interestingly, many of these events do not charge a cover. However, Weddy Weddy and Uptown Mondays have had to include a cover charge to offset production costs. Currently, there is a $500 cover to party at Weddy Weddy, while Uptown Mondays charges $300.
Other events, which have gone the no-charge route, often find themselves having to bring an end to the series because of financial strain, the most recent being the Blue Essence Lounge in Kings Plaza.
After five years of providing live music, the curtains finally closed on the event due to the imposition of a strata plan by the management of the location. Before that, artistes like Tarrus Riley, Bongo Herman, Di Blueprint Band, and Freddie McGregor all graced the stage there and thrilled fans with their music.
Other events, such as those offered by Puls8, located on Trafalgar Road in New Kingston, continue to stand the test of time. But how sustainable are these types of events, especially during these challenging economic times?
According to Kingsley Cooper, head of Pulse Limited, product deals are important in the absence of a cover charge. He also added that to get the level of business required, pricing must be attractive to consumers.
"In the absence of a cover charge, margins (generated from food and beverage sales) are especially tight, so cost management and a generally tight operation are key. When all is said and done, it is about profitability and cash flow. So if costs can be covered and a profit made, then the business is sustainable, especially as these businesses are cash businesses. If well supported, they generate good cash flow. However, these are tough economic times, so price is important," he warned.
Puls8 also offers attractive incentives, such as drink specials, in order to attract patrons.
"Our drink specials are also offered with the support of our suppliers. It should be noted, however, that to get business these days, even clubs with cover charges are admitting a high percentage of patrons free, using (guest) lists and other mechanisms. Patrons need to be motivated to support any establishment in these times," Cooper told The Sunday Gleaner.
Structured as a club (open on some nights) and catering to individuals in the middle to lower upper end of the income market, Puls8 has been able to continuously cater to the needs of their patrons without them having to break the bank. With the added live-performance element, Cooper noted that they were able to amortise these costs against overall revenue. Some of the artistes who have performed include Sizzla Kalonji, Aidonia, Chi Ching Ching, Tanya Stephens, and most recently, Bounty Killer, were chosen based on popular appeal and relevance, according to Cooper.
"The live performances simply enhance the experience of our patrons and provide another reason for them to visit us. Naturally, this comes with a cost, but we amortise these costs against overall revenues. As indicated, even clubs with cover charges are admitting a high percentage of guests free in order to get business. Our model is based on volume. Once we hit a certain target, we are good. Others may collect at the gate but may not attract the level of support needed to meet their obligations."
In recent years, The Jamaica Music Society (JAMMS) and the Jamaica Association of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (JACAP) have stepped up their drive to insist that promoters of music events pay copyright fees.
Based on the size of the event, promoters should pay the applicable licence fee to get a copyright permit for public performance of sound recordings. If a copyright permit is not obtained, performance of music in public is unauthorised and constitutes an infringement of the provisions of the Copyright Act (1993).
This may have contributed to the demise of several weekly parties across the Corporate Area. In May of this year, Jamaica was named by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) as one of the rogue countries that will remain on a Special 301 Watch List because of its inadequate payment of public-performance royalties.
This, however, does not appear to be an issue for Puls8 as Cooper says they comply with the regular rights agencies.
Located in the popular New Kingston area, Puls8 has held firm despite the closure of several clubs and hot spots in the area such as the Asylum nightclub and The Building and Pure/Plush. Questioned as to whether he believes that Puls8 has benefited from these closures, Cooper said it was hard to say.
"MVP, which is more dancehall (has held steady). Pepperseed, which is retro, has grown exponentially. Latin Night is also growing. Really can't be sure," said Cooper.