The St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) and the islands local bands met last week to continue their new drive to foster closer ties. It was the fourth such meeting since the close of Carnival 2015.
The SCDF, in an effort to increase the recognition and participation of local bands in Carnival, has committed to doing its utmost to realize this goal with the cooperation of the bands. The SCDF recognizes that increasing support for the bands will not happen overnight and a mindset change in both Carnival supporters/sponsors and the bands is crucial.
As such, the SCDF has identified very simple actions that could be undertaken to meet the aforementioned goals.
The SCDF currently has two pre-Carnival jump-ups: The Around Town Jump-Up and The Causeway Jump-Up. The foundation understands that it is costly for bands to come out on the road for jump-up and has been partially subsidizing costs with contributions of US $1,500 to participating bands of these jump-ups.
With the cooperation of corporate sponsorship, the foundation has informed the bands that it will increase its contribution to each band in the pre-Carnival jump-ups to US $2,500, with a cap of 4 bands. SCDF will determine which bands it will be compensating for playing for the jump-ups, while giving different bands the opportunity to play.
“It is unrealistic to expect SCDF to cover all the costs of every band we would like on the road for the pre jump-ups. The bands are also expected to do their part in securing sponsorship for the road. It is vital that troupe leaders and sponsors get the opportunity to see and hear the band when deciding on music for their troupe or commercial endeavor,” Carnival Director Mike Granger said.
Parades & Jouvert
Though bands are responsible for booking their own engagements for the parades, the SCDF will facilitate getting the contact information of the bands to the various troupe leaders. It was explained that the SCDF cannot dictate to troupe leaders that they have to use a band or DJ, so the bands were explained that they have to negotiate early with troupe leaders who also set their budgets early.
Additionally, foreign bands are allowed in the parades under certain conditions. If a troupe leader requires more than one band, one of those bands must be a local band. A troupe leader with just one band will not be allowed to contract a foreign band, that one band must be a local band unless all willing and prepared local bands have been contracted.
As for Jouvert, only local bands will be allowed in Jouvert. The only way the SCDF will act contrary to this policy is if the local bands indicate in writing that they have no issue with a particular foreign band/bands participating in Jouvert. Other than that, the SCDF’s position here is very clear and enjoys unanimous support from all local bands.
To provide additional exposure to the bands and their music, SCDF will endeavor to host at least two off season events featuring local bands: St. Maarten’s Day and during the Christmas season. Bands will be contracted and promoted for each of these events. Additionally, during Carnival, SCDF will also be contracting local bands to perform during its events and international show promoters will be further encouraged to book local bands for opening acts on their respective nights.
The SCDF will host a Band Clash every year which gives the bands even more exposure leading up to Carnival. The clash has been included on the Carnival 2016 schedule, slated to be held on April 10 on the TelEm parking lot across of Carnival Village. The Band Clash will form part of the Band of the Year Title. All rules and regulations pertaining to the Band Clash will be outlined to bands no later than December. Bands will have to register for the Band Clash/Band of the Year titles.
One of the weaknesses identified by the SCDF is the lack of effective marketing executed by the bands. Some bands actually host events in the Carnival off-season but do very little to promote such. Also, it was stressed to the bands that their music is their best selling points and this should be worked on from early.
In terms of the bands marketing themselves, SCDF, with the cooperation of the bands, will host a marketing workshop to give the bands ideas on how to market themselves as bands and present a professional image locally and regionally, in particular via social media. SCDF has also invested in photo studio equipment to, among other things, assist the bands with creating professional media kits to distribute to sponsors, troupe leaders ect.
The SCDF is expecting the bands to adhere to the following:
-Bands should have at least one song for the following Carnival season ready for airplay by November 1 every year.
-Bands should deliver their mastered versions of their songs to the radio stations on time. This means no later than January.
-Bands should do their utmost to improve the professional image of the band. Professional photo shoots, media kits, proper contact information, updated social media pages, Soundcloud accounts with your music etc all contribute to getting gigs and being recognized by sponsors ect.
-On their own, bands should host events (small play-outs) year round, not simply settle for being Carnival season bands. “The more people hear about you, the more they want to hire you. These events are forms of marketing yourselves.”
“There are a number of issues that the bands will solely be responsible for as we attempt to raise the profile of our local bands. Band management must understand that the SCDF cannot and should not be expected to do this alone. We will start small, but if we are committed to these steps on an annual basis, we are confident we will see a change in mindset of our people towards or bands. It won’t happen over night or even in two years. But our bands must understand that in the end, no matter how much the SCDF does, it still boils down to them and their product. If the bands fail to pull their weight in this new effort, they will do themselves more harm than good,” Granger said.