I’ve come across many people in many Konpa circles complaining about event promoters asking way too much for cover charges, which by all estimates range anywhere between $30 and $45. But what these people fail to realize is that these promoters for the most part set their charges according to their operating costs. So asking them to lower their cover charges would be to ask them to minimize their costs, which, in my humble opinion, is where the bulk of the challenge lies.
The objective of this piece is not to go around blaming sectors in the market; it is, rather, to present a comprehensive analysis of the situation and offer alternatives of solution. Also, since I am more aware of the reality in the Northeast market, my focus will be more on the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Boston markets.
In any free market environment, competition is the thermostat that regulates price fluctuations. In other words, when the market playing field is leveled for all the players, competition is basically the element that determines prices for products and services. And the successful entrepreneurs are those with the perfect grip on cost accounting and cost management for cost control and containment, for cost is the parameter that determines market outcomes.
It is not a secret that the recession is negatively impacting the lifestyles of most people in the economy. As a result, less people than usual can afford going out partying. While less people are turning out for party calls, the costs of putting a live out-of-area band -such as Nu Look, T-Vice, Djakout Mizik, DISIP or Zenglen -on stage at any convenient venue in the Northeast are skyrocketing. The promoters, unfortunately, are being made convenient scapegoats and blamed and slashed left and right as though they are overcharging their patrons.
The promoters or event organizers are in business to make money, if there is money to be made that is. With costs as high as they are, with any one of these aforementioned bands on the ticket, to break-even (we are not even talking about making a profit), these party organizers will have no choice but to raise their cover charges as high as 50 to 75 percent. Whenever we are talking about costs, the patrons/consumers/partygoers are always the ones to absorb the pressure of market uncertainties and price gouging. In other words, the high costs are always passed on to them. Something has got to be done to control costs, which, in turn, will make it possible to protect the pockets of the partygoers.
Let’s not fool ourselves, folks. The bands are not going to lower their fees for service just because they are asked to or people are complaining. It does not work that way in a free market environment. They need to be forced or constrained to do so. It is understandable for some of these popular out-of-area Konpa bands in the business to be asking anything from $6,000 to $8,000 as fee for service. It is about the economic reality of supply and demand. Because the demand for their services is going to the roof, they find it normal, and understandably so, to charge the promoters anything they want. And these event organizers accept the charges because they know they will be passing the burden on to the patrons. I am proposing a commonsense approach to fix this problem.
- The notion of having regular events with two or three bands on the ticket must be put to rest. It is not cost-effective, and it is definitely not beneficial to the attending patrons. Let’s say, for instance, a promoter decides to organize a party with Disip and T-Vice in New York or New Jersey. I intentionally select these two bands because they headquarter in Florida, not anywhere near our geographical area –New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Boston. The costs of putting such a party together could be in the range of $20,000 to $25,000. And let’s assume that the venue’s occupancy level is 600 people. That party organizer would have to charge at least $40 just to breakeven, just to make the invested capital; we are not even talking about making a profit. Anything below $40 would be running on a deficit. So that party organizer would have to overstretch his/her cover charge, should he/she want to make a profit. The patrons would be the ones to feel the heat the most, not the promoter and certainly not the bands. And the reason for that is because the costs are being passed on to them.
- The focus must be on investing in the local bands, meaning more efforts need to be made to stage the local bands –Carimi, Zin, System Band, etc. Call me market protectionist however you want; I strongly believe that the Northeast territory belongs to the bands in the area. Therefore, it does not make any sense for these bands from outside our territory to be in the area every weekend entertaining the people while some of our local bands are being neglected for the most part. No wonder the upcoming bands in the area are struggling to stay alive; they are not being encouraged to challenge themselves. I am not saying the out-of-area bands must not be touring the Northeast. That is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that we need to give priority to the local bands, should we want to lower costs and alleviate the burden being passed on to our patrons. Zenglen, Nu Look, T-Vice, Djakout Mizik, Disip, Harmonick, Kreyol La, Gabel, 5 Etwal, etc… are not playing a level of Konpa which Carimi, Zin, System Band, etc… are not playing. To think that the out-of-area bands are better suited to entertain the people in our geographical turf is a myth that needs to be challenged.
- Business sponsorship is another way a promoter can lower costs to alleviate the burden on the patrons. If you are going to have a party, it would make a lot of sense to go out there and find businesses to sponsor the event. Both the entertainment company and the sponsoring businesses will benefit from it. I don’t really know what the issue is, but it seems as though the concept of business sponsorship is not quite registered in the minds of our business owners. Again, if you are looking for sponsorships, why limiting yourself to only the Haitian-owned businesses? The Haitian community does not only do business with Haitian-owned business institutions. We do with businesses in the other communities. So why not going after these enterprises for sponsorships?
It is inconceivable and economically preposterous for any promoter to think that the recessive economy is not negatively impacting the ways the people live their lives. People are becoming more and more penny-conscious, yet you have promoters wanting to rob them of their hard-earned money. The time is right for a different approach to be put to test.
If the promoters are really intelligent as I believe they are, they will invest in the local bands to lower costs and alleviate the unbearable economic weight breaking the people’s backs. It is not that the regional bands don’t have what it takes musically speaking to give the same results as these out-of-area bands.
Charging the people $40 to come watch two out-of-area bands on a ticket (for instance, T-Vice and Nu Look or Zenglen and Disip) performing is not needed, not when the same amount of people could have turned out with only either one of the two bands on the ticket. With that, the patrons could get a break on the cover charge of as high as 50%. That to me would be economically compassionate and the right thing to do.