The show must go on


The show must go on

Clyde McKenzie

Sunday, March 22, 2020

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'THE show must go on' is a mantra of defiance which is reputed to have its origins in the circus, where it was felt that a mishap involving animals or performers should not be sufficient reason to bring the spectacle to a halt.

British rock group, Queen recorded a single (using the same phrase in its title) when faced with the grim prospect of losing its front man, Freddy Mercury, to AIDS.

Chairman of the Entertainment Advisory Board, Howard McIntosh, drew reference to the famous phrase as he sought to emphasise the resilience of the entertainment industry which is facing one of its most challenging periods in modern times, crediting one of his board members (Martin Lewis) for invoking the sentiment at a recent meeting.

The fact is that live performance has dried up.

This is particularly devastating to the music industry as tours and concerts now constitute the most lucrative income stream for artistes in almost all the popular genres across the world. This is a relatively new development as tours were once used to support record sales and were not expected to make money.

Artistes were usually provided with tour support — financial assistance from their record labels — to offset losses which would normally be incurred on the road. The advent of online music distribution brought a sharp decline in revenues from the sales of records. Live shows became the growth engine of the music business.

McIntosh is understandably concerned with the fallout from the failure of artistes to tour and the inability of promoters to stage live events. He notes the importance of shows as a source of income not only for artistes and musicians but for those who provide professional support including light, sound, stage, food, janitorial services, audio-visual equipment and the host of persons employed to these entities.

As one who has played various roles in the entertainment business, including those of promoter (Sting) and sound system owner (Bodyguard), McIntosh is acutely aware of the informal ecosystem of vendors, hairdressers, dressmakers, and other service providers who support themselves and their families from the revenue they generate from the staging of such events.

He said that his comments are not confined to the music industry as theatre and other forms of entertainment, which depend on a live audience, have been negatively affected by the imperative to establish social distance. He advised that the economic downturn which will result from the decline in business transactions, will be significant and explained that the most urgent task was to find alternative means to keep players in the entertainment industry working and earning.

McIntosh stressed that the pandemic has laid bare a number of infrastructural deficiencies in the entertainment industry in general, and the music business in particular. He spoke of the immediate need to seed a fund which would be dedicated to providing support to players in the entertainment industry who are affected by their inability to generate income due to circumstances similar to that which currently prevails.

McIntosh took a rather expansive view of entertainment citing the suspension of the Red Stripe Premier League, the cancellation of Boys' and Girls' Champs and the Kingston City Marathon as having a significant impact on the leisure economy.

He is, however, confident that there are numerous opportunities which will result from the current challenges pointing out that this will no longer “be business as usual”. He believes that the innovators among us will find new ways of engaging their customers and generating profits.

He explained that those in the entertainment sector will now need to look at ways of putting aside some of the funds they earn in good times and place them in a pool which is invested so that it can provide additional sources of income and relief .

McIntosh stressed the importance of the formalisation of business practices in the entertainment sector. He stated that the only way that those who earn their living from the entertainment sector will be able to secure assistance in adverse circumstances is through affiliation.

According to McIntosh, “the system cannot assist you if it does not know of your existence.” Organisations representing various service providers (including soup and peanut vendors) are necessary to provide advocacy on behalf of their members and channel benefits to them.

McIntosh is of the view that the conditions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have forced us to evaluate how we have been doing business. He contends that he is confident that the entertainment sector will emerge stronger from these times as the players have now had a real opportunity to determine which factors are essential for the provision of their services.

He pointed to performances from artistes being delivered live from remote locations online as one of the business models which will emerge from the ashes. This model he explains could perhaps be used in some limited circumstances for theatrical performances .

History is replete with industries adopting business models which were deemed unprofitable under one particular condition but which emerged as the profit pool in a different circumstance. Cinemas converted to cineplexes in order to meet the changing viewing patterns of the audience.

“Different sectors of the entertainment industry will respond positively to the current circumstances,” McIntosh added. He advised that what is important is to look for the opportunities which are making themselves available through these unfortunate developments.

McIntosh repeatedly returned to the issue of providing relief for those who were negatively affected by the current developments and pointed out that with the benefit of experience we should not allow ourselves to be caught off guard in the future.

He praised Culture Minister Olivia Grange for working tirelessly behind the scenes to handle the fallout from this major blow to the entertainment industries and thanked members of the Entertainment Advisory Board for rising to the occasion.

McIntosh urged members of the entertainment fraternity to adhere to all guidelines for their own safety and that of others and ensure at all times they abide by the law.


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