Don't despair

Don't despair

Creatives urged to produce content for virtual market

BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior reporter
johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, November 22, 2020

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Despite the gloomy picture often painted about the possible returns for entertainment events streamed online, at least one promoter is offering an alternative vision of the viability of such products.

Michael Dawson, principal of Whirlwind International Entertainment and Jamaica Online TV, is encouraging his fellow creatives to go ahead and produce these products, noting that there is definitely a market for Jamaican culture on the international markets and it can be profitable.

Dawson is the driving force behind the upcoming Oliver Samuels Thanksgiving Special, which will be streamed on a pay-per-view basis this coming weekend.

“I realy want to encourage producers against being dispondent. I think some persons saying there is no money to be made in this area sends the wrong message. The secret lies in having a good product that is well packaged, that is presented to the marketplace. It can happen. For decades Jamaican entertainers have been showcasing their talent to the world and it has been well received, now that we are in a pandemic and there are restrictions, why do we think we can't sell the same product to audiences all over the world.”

Dawson told the Jamaica Observer that with a week to go before the Oliver Samuels special goes online, he and his team were already pleased with the response they have received from the market in terms of ticket sales.

“Perhaps we are in a unique position. But I still don't think it is different from many of our musical artistes. Oliver is very popular. For a number of years he has been taking his comedy on the road to various markets in the United States, Canada and the UK. So what we have done is worked with those same promoters who would have put on the live shows and have them, partner with us to market and sell the virtual presentations and it has worked.”

Earlier this year Dawson and his Jamaica Online TV team hosted a special featuring comedianne Andrea “Delcita” Wright. They experienced a small hiccup as the international service provider became cautious when he saw persons logging on from across the globe and shut down the site as a precaution, as the level of traffic was not anticipated.

“Jamaicans tend to be last minute. So when they started purchasing tickets and joining the stream, the service provider who we partnered with thought they were hackers and moved to protect the site by shutting it down. There were persons logging on from eastern Europe, Africa, Dubai and all over the US. This shows how much there is a market for our culture. They never anticipated such a diversity in our audience and shut it down,” Dawson explained.

For him, this is a prime example of what can happen with other similar products out of Jamaica.

“The shift has already happened. It bothers me that some persons in the industry are already throwing up their hands and giving up. Whether or not we want to believe it, this situation will be with us for some time to come. This is where we will be, at least for some time. Even if restrictions are eased, how many patrons will be comfortable to go out and watch a performance in a room with a large audience?”

“The local creative community needs to jump on the revolution. We don't have to wait on the backing of a major platform like Netflix. There are similar Internet-based platforms available with cheaper packages. Everybody using the same credit card access and tapping into the same market. Let's not be left behind.”

Dawson noted that despite financial difficulties being experienced by some due to job losses and pay cuts as a result of the pandemic, a well produced and packaged virtual entertainment package is still a great option for people who are stuck at home and unable to go out for live entertainment.

“When you look at the situation, there is a lockdown in England, the US is facing a second wave of increased COVID cases, for the holidays people will be stuck at home. Spending US$29 for an event that the entire household can watch is a much better deal compared to the fact that tickets to the live event may have cost US$55 per person. I encourage persons not to sell themselves short and underprice the tickets. There is a feeling that if it is cheap then it is not good. Do it right and they will pay for it,” he advised.

In July of this year Reggae Sumfest was the first major event to go virtual. Reggae Sunplash, which was scheduled to return to the market this year after a 14-year haiatus, has also annouced plans for a virtual presentation set for this Friday and Saturday. Rebel Salute, which is set for January 2021, has not yet announced its plans. The organisers of that festival note that they are taking a wait-and-see approach. For the first time in 78 years there will be no National Pantomime. Instead the producers will be streaming a virtual special production on Boxing Day, December 26, which is the traditional opening date for the popular theatre showcase.


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