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Too many beggars! - Free ticket demands among trio of Startime burdens

Published:Thursday | April 5, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke/Gleaner Writer
Michael Barnett
Marcia Griffiths and Bob Andy performing at a previous Startime show.

Michael Barnett pin-points three reasons why the 31-year-old Startime concert series is coming to a close in Jamaica on Saturday, May 5, with one last blast at the Mas Camp.

Two of the issues - drying up of cash sponsorship and a dwindling pool of performers from which to put together a compelling line-up - are beyond the audience members' control.

However, the third is directly connected to some of those who attend the live vintage music experience, which started as a monthly event at the Oceana Hotel on Kingston's waterfront, and the issue has dogged Startime throughout its life. Barnett dubs it the "complimentary ticket syndrome.

"Many people want to come to the show free," Barnett told The Gleaner. "I don't know if it is [that] they do not realise there is an investment. It is just like a man who goes out and buys groceries and sets up a shop; he will not turn around and give them away free. The demands affect personal relationships, as Barnett said, "Sometimes people are upset with you if they do not get a free ticket. It can cause an environment of animosity, even among your friends. The best thing that they can do to keep this industry viable is to buy a ticket."




Barnett makes a distinction between the complimentary tickets allocated to sponsors, media and "people who have made a tangible contribution, and those who simply want free entry to the event". And although his event is directly affected because of staging Startime, Barnett acknowledges that it is a widespread issue which "has become part of the culture. I don't think it is going to end.

"It is 31 years I have been doing this and it is the same."




What has changed is the level of cash sponsorship, Barnett making a distinction between companies putting money into the concert series and offering sponsorship through discounts.

"To put on a concert of the magnitude of Startime, it requires a certain amount of cash outlay. As an entrepreneur, you can't put it on from your cash," he said.

It is also connected with perceptions of Startime's audience composition.

Barnett said, "Once, companies were willing to give you cash. It is no longer like that. Most of the companies are going after the 18 to 25-year-old market. Startime is for a mature audience, although a lot of younger people come. They like the clean lyrics, no violence, and so on. A lot of young people support it."

As for putting together a crowd-pulling line-up, Barnett said, "The market is getting smaller. You don't want to keep repeating the same artistes regularly. The challenge is to put together a line-up that will be attractive enough to pull people, so you can make a profit on your investment."