Sponsorship remains uncertain
Sponsorship woes are not new to Sting, and the 2015 staging is following a familiar pattern of uncertainty. Three months before the event, Supreme Promotions' Isaiah Laing, Heavy D, and DiMario McDowell tell The Sunday Gleaner that there are no sponsorship arrangements.
"Nobody is on board right now," Laing said. Previous high-profile sponsors within the last decade have included white rum brand Rumfire, Guinness, LIME, Downsound Records, and Magnum.
Laing puts the lack of external cash injection into Sting in the general context of funding dancehall at its purest. "Everybody neglect dancehall. The hardcore dancehall get neglected all the time. Last year we had Magnum and the year before. They are not on board this year as far as I know," Laing said.
However, he said, "There are some proposals out there (which Supreme Promotions has submitted). We waiting."
While staging the concert out of their own pockets is not impossible, Laing said it would be "very difficult". However, he is determined that there will be a Sting on Boxing Day. "Once I am alive, the show is going to keep. Something is going to be over there (at Jamworld)."
Coming up with cash for Sting without corporate sponsorship, Laing said, "We been doing it many years, but I don't know what this year looks like because times really getting tougher. We go nuff year without sponsorship, but we rather nuh go without it," Heavy D added. "But we go nuff year without it because a just so it go."
They point out that there is always a level of sponsorship, but there is need for a major sponsor. There is media sponsorship, for example, which still requires spending as the advertisements are offered at a reduced cost, but "cash is king", McDowell reminds.
"You want somebody who a give you money straight - and good money too," Heavy D said.
Still, McDowell is confident that "it is gonna happen", and Laing says "it is early days".
There are memories of only two years ago when Sting was on a sponsorship high with support from the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) - a period that did not last long. Heavy D gave what happened at Sting 2013 as an example of unequal sponsor treatment of hardcore dancehall.
"Make me show you the odds we have against we as hardcore dancehall. Sizzla come pon Sting. Tourist Board sponsor us one time. Sizzla come on board and say whe him a say. We ban Sizzla, and dem say dem nah sponsor we again, but dem sponsor Dream Weekend with Sizzla, an him go back dung deh an cuss an do all sorta ting, an nobody nuh say nutten, and dem still sponsor it back without any argument," Heavy D said.
The Sunday Gleaner asks the Supreme team if there are any regrets about banning Sizzla, and there is a simultaneous "Why?" and "No!". The Sunday Gleaner asks if they would consider having him on the event again and there is a simultaneous "No!".
And Laing adds, "Not if him not going to change him dirty ways." The consensus is that the deejay caused a significant loss of sponsorship, including the most recent main sponsor, Magnum. "Him deliberately cuss off di sponsor dem, say we nuh fi have no sponsor. An him do it two time. An we talk to him and a say, 'Bway! Yuh cyaa kill di sponsorship.' An di man no business all who waan sponsor, an him jus' cuss di sponsor dem. And di man dem say, 'Yow! Yuh cyaa come ... .' Him a di only artiste me see come pon stage a cuss sponsor," Heavy D said.
"If we never ban him dat year, Magnum wouldn't even come back the second year, and we wouldn't get the money from them either."
"We know our obligation, that we must adhere to certain things, because we agree with sponsors that we will ensure certain things do not happen," Laing emphasised, noting that all the performers had been advised. "The man (Sizzla) look at me personally on the stage and say, 'Laing! Yuh say mi no fi bun out dis, but bun dis an' bun dat.' A disrespect the man disrespect me. After me and you sit down and we say don't do certain things and you agree?"
They note, though, that outside of that, they have no problems with Sizzla.
"The business of music cannot go without sponsorship," Heavy D said, Laing pointing to high artiste fees as one of the reasons why costs have skyrocketed well beyond gate receipts. Another is the level of production that goes into the event.
"Don't cuss the sponsor, cuss me," Laing said.
"Over the years, in the early days it (sponsor) was Shandy. That's why we have to give thanks to Mr Mahfood. Me have to give thanks to him - Wisynco, Mr Mahfood, the Daddy. Him always take us by the arm and say, 'Come, we a do this'. Every year him come on board in the stadium when we were in there. William (the current Wisynco head) was a little boy then," Laing said.
"A Sting buss Shandy," Laing said, laughing, going back to 1990 and 1991.