Tameka Gordon, Business Reporter
Jamaicans love to party and they are fed a steady entertainment diet of street dances, nightclubs, stage shows, theatre, contests, fashion shows and musical performances - all suggesting a sizeable market of economic value.
But much of the activity is informal. And data on much of the formal activity is unreported.
The economic value of the sector, therefore, remains largely unknown.
The Ministry of Tourism & Entertainment (MTE) is attempting to change that through its pursuit of a mandate to raise the level of awareness and appreciation of Jamaican culture as an entertainment product.
"We don't know the value of entertainment," says State Minister Damion Crawford in discussions with the Financial Business.
"How much money entertainment generates nobody knows," he said.
But it is substantial going just by the turnover reported by three entertainment companies, all of which are listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange - club operator KLE Group Limited, model agency Pulse Investments Limited and cinema company Palace Amusement. Together they reported revenue of J$1.4 billion in 2012.
MTE disclosed plans in Parliament at the top of the legislative year for an entertainment registry and event-rating guide to formalise and better regulate the sector.
The ministry, since January, began capturing data on the spend of party promoters who request an extension to the legal cut-off times for their events, which Crawford acknowledges is a fragment of the market.
"There is a set of persons that ask for extensions; those were the only people that we are capable of getting (data on)," Crawford said.
Party promoters who request extensions are required by MTE to state the amounts being spent to stage these events.
Data obtained from the entertainment division of the ministry shows that between January and August, small promoters and community-based events in eight parishes spent J$143.8 million on 196 events and provided temporary employment to some 4,296 persons.
"It can't be said that that is the value of entertainment because that is only direct spend by the promoter," said Crawford.
"We don't know how much liquor was sold, we don't know how much (it cost) to put on the show - there is nobody to tell that," he said, while likening the informality of the entertainment industry to that of the craft sector.
Event rating initiative
Statin does not report separately on the entertainment sector in its survey of jobs.
The entertainment registry proposed by Crawford aims to create an "inclusive and effective information hub" to "legitimise the entertainment industry for greater economic benefit".
The event-rating initiative will provide entertainment practitioners and consumers with guidelines on the types of content suitable for different audiences.
"Recreation is seldom seen as a business and, therefore, seldom is it studied and treated like a business," the state minister said.
Just over 22,000 applications to host dances were received by the police last year, the largest block of which, 6,700, came from Kingston and St Andrew; followed by Clarendon with 2,499; St Elizabeth, 2,480; and Westmoreland, 1,591. St James saw the lowest number of applications, 482.
Approvals were granted for around 19,000 applications.
By the state minister's calculations, "67 per cent of the 22,000 events did not advertise or rent venues", leading him to conclude that this percentage represents street dances.
Director of entertainment at MTE, Gillian McDaniel, is trying to counter the perception that formalising the sector is simply for the purposes of taxation.
"It's not a system to tax them," McDaniel stressed, noting that the implementation of the event-rating and entertainment registry is intended to streamline the licensing and permitting process in a bid to bolster the business of entertainment.
"Whether or not the information will give us a full picture, I would say we will still have some gaps and we just have to work through the gaps over time," said McDaniel.
Party promoters are required to have places of amusement licences allocated through the parish councils and permits from the police to stage one-off events.
A licence for a water party to be held at a residence hosting at least 300 persons, for instance, would cost J$2,500 according to the Clarendon Parish Council "provided the event is not held in the holidays", since holidays attract a higher cost.
The Economic and Social Survey Jamaica reported J$84.6 million in revenue from the number of permits granted for 2012.
Well-placed sources within the industry say a large number of party promoters are not captured in this data as they do not apply for the requisite permits.
Data on the fashion industry is also not currently captured by the MTE.