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Stabroek News

Complimentary to artistes, headache to promoters
published: Sunday | July 16, 2006

Robert Russell (right), seen here with Elephant Man, says the pressure for free tickets comes mostly from friends.

Kavelle Anglin-Christie, Staff Reporter

SIMPLY BECAUSE you haven't seen show promoters armed with placards torching the stage and screaming 'we want justice' doesn't mean they don't have a problem with the infamous complimentary ticket.

Not many of us pause to think about what goes into planning a show or, quite simply, how an artiste gets away with strolling in with a throng of 20 free of cost, while you pay $,1000.

Worrel King, promoter of the Western Consciousness and Tribute to Peter Tosh concerts, says an event cannot exist without complimentary tickets, but artistes need to exercise discretion.

"My simple view is that you can't do an event without doing complimentary tickets; it will always be a part of the event. But there are different levels to issuing the complimentary tickets," he said.

"There are those people who are not being financially paid who might require the tickets who are directly or indirectly involved in the show. But other than that, the requests by some of these people or their friends can be exorbitant. For some people it's like you're doing a free show," he said.

King says artistes who charge excessive fees and then ask for a large amount of tickets are being unreasonable. He says, however, that promoters are always willing to work with artistes who will compromise.

"If normally they charge $100, 000 and are now charging $80,000 or $90,000, then the promoter might want to extend the complimentary tickets," he says.

King finds that veteran artistes are more co-operative than the upcoming acts: "The senior artistes in the business for a number of years are usually more cooperative when it comes to complimentary tickets. The new artistes, they have an entourage that's like an army. They expect that everyone in their entourage should be given tickets," said King.


According to dancehall artiste Mavado, he expects complimentary tickets for himself and few of his friends when he has a show. However, he says he does not impose a number on the promoter.

"Every time them have a show me haffi get ticket, but is not like me a say give me 'x' amount; me just a say give me some tickets," he said.

As for those artistes who ask for a lot of tickets for their entourage, "Well dat a just fi dem thing still. If a man whaa have 20 man a step wid him and ask for that amount, then fine. Me travel with all 20 people when me a travel still, because anything can happen. But more time if the ticket dem wha the promoter give me nuh enough, then me wi pay fi di extra".

It doesn't take much to figure out the loss that the promoters suffer as a result of complimentary. According to King, there is the unfortunate occasion when the event doesn't draw a satisfactory crowd, but they still have to pay the artistes as contracted.

"You will only have a few that will look into the crowd and see what is going on. So can you imagine if there are 10 artistes who require 20 tickets? Then there are 200 tickets with no potential to earn," he said.

Robert Russell, chairman of Summerfest Productions, says the artistes are usually co-operative, but it's the public or a friend who will pose a problem.

"What we suffer from is a lot of people thinking that we have a lot of tickets to give away, like friends and associates have an unending supply of tickets. If you give away all the tickets to your show then how do you pay the artistes, advertising cost, security and other expenses associated with putting on a show of that size," he asked. "Sometimes you just have to say 'no'. People may feel hurt that you don't give them, but if you do you won't be able to pay the bills."


As for the artistes, Russell says "I don't have problems with artistes. They usually ask for a limited amount of tickets for themselves and their management, but usually they are quite reasonable. We will just say, we have 'x' amount of tickets to give and they are usually okay with that. They have to realise that it takes a lot of money to finance a show of that kind."

He says the amount of tickets they give away is based on several factors. "It depends on the artiste. Some artistes have back-up singers, bands and dancers, so we don't usually have a problem. Some of the artiste's management will even buy tickets and give it away to the artiste's entourage. So usually when you see an artiste with a large entourage, their management has paid for it," he said.

Reggae singer I-Wayne says he doesn't ask for a lot of tickets because "me just want everything balance, so that the joy can share up. Me just whaa everyone feel irie".

Still, how many tickets would he feel comfortable asking for? "It depends on the agreement between the artiste and the promoter. But there are nights when people will just come link you out of the blues and dem say dem whaa forward wid you or something like that," he said.

Entertainer Tony Rebel, who is also the promoter of the 13-year-old Rebel Salute, says he now understands the difficulty a promoter faces as a result of complimentary tickets.

"I understand now that I'm a promoter. When you are an artiste, you usually have people who want to come with you, but it is not like that anymore, especially when you are putting on a show.

"You have to have complimentary tickets, but it shouldn't be excessive. Some artistes usually want 100 tickets and when you give them half of that, them still come with 100 people. Another time, you will give them 100 and the 100 people him come with, none of them have an armband and still expect to walk in. But there are artistes who are reasonable and use their discretion," he said.

Rebel says he gives away 2,000 tickets annually although he suffers a severe loss.

"But there are people in the industry that need to be there, like journalists and other promoters from overseas who will be able to help you with your show. There are also the cases when somebody might even come to you and say they can't afford the cost," he said.

There is the notion that giving away complimentary tickets will attract the patrons whom come in free, in addition to those who will tag along with them and pay, thus creating a larger crowd. Rebel says this is far from the truth.

"If you have a venue that can hold 5,000 people and you give away 3,000 complimentary tickets and you have to have 4,000 more people to break even, then you are going to keep your show at a loss," he said. "It's better that you keep your show at an affordable price. So if a show is being held for $1000, then you charge $200 and the people will find it and come ... We set a bad precedence in the entertainment industry, so we have to deal with that."


Deejay Vegas says he doesn't agree with the artistes who ask for a large amount of tickets, but claims to know the reason.

"I don't need no bag of people to come and battery the show. You have some artiste that will come there with them entourage to buss up fake light and fake clappers, so it seem that dem don't flop when dem perform," he said. "But some of the artiste dem too unreasonable. Them will charge the promoter a bag of money and then ask again for some whole heap of tickets. I say if the promoter can't take it, then find a replacement."

"We have to be careful as artistes that the foreign artistes don't come here and take away our music, so mind how you treat the promoter dem because the promoter dem nuh have it."

Vegas gave his reason for not travelling with an entourage: "Well from morning, I don't walk with a bag of people. If there is a show, I might ask for three to five tickets, but I don't use an entourage because dem will done off the whole a yuh money," he said.

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