Life after the coronavirusSaturday, April 04, 2020
By Clyde McKenzie
In my last Jamaica Observer column, I highlighted some of the points raised in a conversation I had with Howard “Big Mac” McIntosh, chairman of the Entertainment Advisory Board, regarding the impact of the outbreak of COVID-19 on the entertainment sector.
One of the points raised was the need to have a dedicated fund to provide relief for players in the local entertainment sector during an economic downturn similar to the one currently being experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic .
Subsequent to the publication of the article, I was a guest on Smile Jamaica and was asked to comment on the state of the music industry in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. I once again raised the issue of the special welfare fund for entertainment workers.
I received a wave of reactions to my recommendation. My sister Sharene, who is close to the music industry and who has spent a lifetime addressing similar issues in other sectors of the society, endorsed the suggestion noting that there needs to be a safety net for people in the local gig economy, who move from one project to the next without the benefit of job security.
There were others ( bona fide members of the music industry) who, while acknowledging that the idea of a fund is a good one, were not very sanguine about the feasibility of such a venture. According to these observers, members of the local music fraternity are short term in their outlook and are not disposed to such collective arrangements.
I told the naysayers that I had no reason to be pessimistic, noting that there was not much by way of empirical evidence from which to predict how the local music industry would respond to my recommendation as its members had never been faced with a crisis of the scale and severity of the one we are now witnessing.
How this funding modality is configured and managed will be critical to how it will be supported. What is important is that the funds which are secured from members of the entertainment fraternity be invested in a mix of ventures (some of which should definitely be industry related).
The earnings from the investment would be apportioned amongst the contributors. This investment vehicle would serve as an alternative source of revenue for members of the fraternity and could come in handy, especially in bad times.
I was also asked by the hosts of Smile Jamaica (Dwayne Extol and Simone Clarke Cooper) whether the nature of entertainment will change in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. I expressed the view that entertainment will not be business as usual after the dust is settled.
I pointed to the fledging world of virtual festivals and real time streaming of performances by artistes around the world. I made reference to the virtual parties staged by local entertainment entrepreneurs, which according to most accounts, have been hugely successful.
I believe the future will see a hybrid of the traditional and the virtual. This might mean that deejays and artistes might not only stream their performances to personal gadgets such as smartphones and tablets, but might also beam their feeds into multiple show venues (while still playing to a live audience) thus having multiple income streams.
Since the interview, I have been wondering how events such as weddings and funerals (which often encompass forms of entertainment) will fare in the future? Will participants in a funeral or wedding perform virtually? How do we accord dignified funerals to our loved ones with the current restrictions on public assembly?
It should be noted that future public responses to the relaxation of the restrictions on public assembly could take two likely forms. It is possible that the members of the public might develop a fear for large gatherings, and might be reluctant to assemble in places such as restaurants and cinemas when current restrictions are relaxed.
* Clyde McKenzie is a media and communication consultant. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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