THE SILLY ARGUMENT WE HEAR IN KONPA

Last night on my radio talk show BRIKOURI on RADYO KONTAK FM 87.9 or http://www.radyokontak.com broadcast out of New Jersey every Sunday night at 10, some of my callers were making the most ridiculous argument I have ever heard in my life.

They were arguing that GAZZMAN COULEUR of DISIP does not know how to sing. When I asked them when does someone know how to sing, they could not answer in a way to make sense to me.

I have been hearing for years this silly and despicable argument from many of our Konpa music fans; last night I decided to take a bold stand to challenge it.

If GAZZMAN did not know how to sing, do you really think a man as picky as MAESTRO ARLY would have kept him around for over a decade in NU LOOK? And with him in the lineup, that band had dominated our Konpa music for years. If he did not know how to sing, do you possibly think a man as demanding and selective as MAESTRO RICHIE of ZENGLEN would have had him sing the songs “Ou Se” and “Adrienne?” If he did not know how to sing, do you think SHEDLEY ABRAHAM, one of the best drummers and producers we have in our Konpa music, would have had him sing the hit song “Sexy Love” on his latest Djaz La album? Of course, that would have not happened.

While the American Music Industry is looking at how commercial and “hot” an artist is, we Haitians are stuck on making the silliest argument of whether or not that person can sing. As a matter of fact, let’s go to Jamaica and take the Dancehall artist Elephant Man, for instance. I guess if he were a Konpa artist, some of us Haitians would have seen him as someone who does not “know how to sing.” I am literally laughing out loud and shaking my head in disbelief.

When I asked these callers when does someone know how to sing to them, they said it is when the person can reach the high notes. Huh!!! I asked them what would be said of someone with a soprano or alto vocal tune trying to do base vocals and cannot? Would they see that person as someone who does not know how to sing? They were rumbling. And when I realized that they were wasting my time, I hanged up the phone and picked up the next callers.

Let’s take JACOB DESVARIEUX of the Martinique-based Zouk band KASSAV, for instance. KASSAV has become what we know of it today mainly because of his contributions with the uniqueness of his unusual vocal tune. If that man were a Konpa artist, these Haitians in their silliness would have told you with a straight face that he does not know how to sing. This is so ridiculous to say the least. I am not trying to put my people down, but some of us have been making some of the most insane, silly and ludicrous arguments. Seriously, we need to stop.

Let me close by saying this: some of the myths and misconceptions we have in our circles must be eradicated. That’s the only way we can progress as a nation. I understand you can choose not to be a fan of a specific artist, but you must respect the person’s natural abilities and aptitudes.

Everybody can sing so long as they have a voice. That is why there are vocal coaches in the business to work with them. Can you believe a man as great as MICHAEL JACKSON, one of the greatest entertainers to have lived our world, had vocal coaches constantly around working with him until the last day of his musical journey? I guess some of us Haitians would say that “knowing how to sing” entails not needing anyone to coach you on how to take and keep a vocal note.

Someone’s vocal tune can be more liked or admired than others, but that does not give that person leverage over the rest of them in the league. So please quit this silly argument of knowing and not knowing how to sing. It is all a myth you would probably find only in Konpa.

KONPA MUSIC COULD BE THE IMPETUS FOR AN ECONOMIC RENAISSANCE IN HAITI

All these large scale Konpa events -Konpa on Broadway, LNDJ, Konpafest, etc… with potential economic development -need to take place at home, in Haiti. Our Haitian economy is in a desperate need for a money transfusion to keep it alive.

If the promoters of these events refuse to make the transition, which will inject into the economy all these dollars being spent, we need to boycott them by holding in Haiti a similar event on the same day -in front of each and every single one of them.

I do believe that now is the time for us do start selling a new image of Haiti to the world; it is our responsibility, not that of the foreigners, to make it Happen. So if it is about large scale Konpa events or Haitian cultural manifestations, it should take place at home -unless it is about benefiting some people’s selfish personal gains.

I don’t see the American Music Award, BET Music Award, the Oscars, Spring Break, etc… being held on foreign lands. I don’t see all the big-time Reggae events being held outside Jamaica. It is because these people have always tried to keep the money in their economies by any means necessary, which is the way to go. Why can’t we do the same thing?

You have something called Konpafest, which is held in Miami every year around our Flag Day, on May18, where Haitians all over the world fly to Miami to show their solidarity and spend money. Imagine if we could channel all these people -Haitians and foreigners with money in their hands to spend -to come home every year to spend in our economy. It would be the start of an economic renaissance or rebirth for the Haitian people.

I know what the excuses are going to be to justify the ridiculousness of holding these events abroad, away from home.

Excuse #1: You are going to argue that Haiti does not have the logistics (hotel rooms, restaurants, transportation, electricity, etc…) to cater to the needs of the people that will be traveling over there for the events. Nonsense!!! There may not be the need to invest in more upscale restaurants and hotels now because the demand is not there. And the demand is not going to create itself; we the people of Haiti must generate it.

Business people are opportunists, meaning wherever there is a potential demand, you can expect to see heavy investments being poured into that sector of the economy.  Why the demand is not there? The demand is not there because we refuse to create it. We rather keep our butts abroad awaiting the foreigners to come do it for us while the country is dying of a severe economic anemia.

Excuse #2: The insecurity makes it impossible to encourage people to travel to Haiti. Here is another nonsensical argument. I am not trying to dismiss the insecurity plague. It would be very dishonest on my part to argue that it is not an issue. However, in terms of crime/murder per capita, according to the nationmaster.com, Haiti is safer than Jamaica, a country with a booming tourism industry. Yet, that is not preventing the foreigners, you Haitians included, from traveling over there to spend money.

Most of the crimes committed in Haiti are what I would call “necessity crimes,” crimes perpetuated by people because they want to survive or feed their families. That’s basic human behavior when it comes to securing one’s survival. And, for the most part, they take place in Port-au-Prince, the capital city. But if money was being poured into the economy, more jobs would be created for them to make a living, meaning less of these crimes would occur.

The international media has done a tremendous job destroying our image abroad. But it is all our responsibility to prove them wrong by showing and selling a different Haiti, which must start with OUR efforts and involvement.

In conclusion, my advocacy is not to destroy or endanger anybody’s business; it is, rather, a way for us to start caring for ourselves again as we used to in the 1960’s and 70’s, which is the only way we can challenge the destructive campaign being waged against us by the international media.

They can tell us all the lies in the book about our home, but it is our choice to believe in them or not. Our home is our home. The way we care for it is exactly what is going to get the foreigners to come visit us in there. And when they do come, they come with goodies and gifts in their hands for us.

Let us stop all the baseless justifications for not investing into our economy. These big-time cultural events being held in the Diaspora are somewhat hurting the economy back home, because they are not being held there to help the economy moving forward. If we are willing to travel from all over the world to the US to attend some Konpa event, we can do the same if it is happening at home, in Haiti.

Source:

http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_mur_percap-crime-murders-per-capita

BLUEPRINT FOR SUCCESS FOR HAITIAN BANDS

Harmonik's Nicky, Sanders and Mac D

This is an eight-step document designed to help the bands in the Haitian music business to reach the threshold of success. These bands or musical formations are so poorly structured and managed that it must not surprise anyone that they are not doing as great as they should. But there is a chance for them to turn things around; they just have to be flexible and adaptive to reform.

If you are a band owner or someone who is planning on putting a band together, here are the things I think you must do to prevent your business from falling in the hole of failure and chaos most of these bands in the business have been:

  1. You must have a name to represent and identify your band in the business. Some people think that the choice of a name for a business or product is simple; it is not that simple. This could be the most difficult step. When choosing a name for a business, that name must be meaningful (it must mean something), short, easy to pronounce and easy to remember. It must also be a name you can easily use to create slogans with to help the business in its marketing strategy. If the consumer can sing or repeat the name of your business in a simple slogan, it will stick with imagery.
  2. You have to determine and identify your target markets. That means you have to ask yourself this simple question, who do I want to produce this product for or who will be interested in buying it? Unless you are a dumb investor, I don’t know one person who would invest a capital to produce a product knowing that no one in the market will be interested in buying it. This is a VERY important element. Let’s be honest with ourselves. The entertainment market is so fragmented that it tends to be extremely difficult and even impossible to try to satisfy everyone at once. It is not that there is an industry norm that says you cannot do it, but it will be way better and easier for you to zero on some specific and clear segments of the market. If you identify your target markets early in the process, that will help you to focus on your strategies to reach your goals.
  3. You must have a startup operating budget. Money is everything, especially in the entertainment world. I don’t give a damn how great your band plays; if you don’t have money to finance your operation or execute your plan, you are wasting your time. And my advice to you is to go do something else. Well, if you love being exploited or taken advantage of, you can choose to have someone finance your operation and get paid chunk change while he or she is raking all the papers. It all depends on what you want. Music production costs money -regardless your location on earth. It is a lucrative endeavor; therefore, people want their shares of the pie.
  4. Your lineup must be on point on every front -music, look and style. Try to hire professional and career musicians, not a bunch of amateurs. Experience saves you time, and time is a major factor in the entertainment world as it is an ever-changing landscape. In the look and style department, if your guys need help, and I believe they do, have a stylist on board in your staff or working for you as a consultant to work with them because they have to look appealing and mainstream to the segments of the market you are trying to target. In other words, they have to be trendy. Being trendy has nothing to do with wearing expensive clothing; it has to do, rather, with attitude, charisma, style and confidence. You can have the most expensive garments on and you look like a “gwo soulye,” a “gwayil” or a “madigra mal maske.” So you have got to get it right because what people see does impact how they think and behave.
  5. Take your time to drop a banging product. Don’t be rushing to come out empty-handed. Let your product introduce you to and position you in the business. Brand identity and brand differentiation are two important concepts in marketing. Your product is your resume. It tells a lot about who you are (your identity) and your qualifications (your potentials or what you are capable of doing). So you have to come out with your resume in your hands for the market to take you seriously. That’s how you make impact.
  6. Your marketing must be tight. In addition to points 1, 2, 4 and 5, being all elements of your marketing strategy, your promotion must be exemplary for its aggressiveness. Promotion is all about making noise by any possible means necessary to garner expected positive results. You have to use every single medium out there to promote your brand and product. If you want to maintain a competitive edge over your competitors, you must be willing to go the extra mile and do the things they are not doing. Use your imagination and your creative ability to captivate the attention of the market.
  7. Maintaining media discipline in your media relations strategy is something I often talk about. It is how you deal and interact with the media. The media is very powerful; it can make or break your business in a matter of seconds. You have to be very careful in your dealings or interaction with them. So you have to have someone in your staff or working with or for you as a consultant to be the mouthpiece of your business. You have to maintain discipline within your ranks, meaning you have to be able to control your troops. You cannot have 8 members in a band and each and every one of them thinks they can seize the podium or spotlight at any given time and say things to create PR faux pas and, as a result, place your business in a very uncomfortable position -where you will be spending countless amount of time doing damage control. That’s why you must have one person to talk on behalf of the business. Should someone have to come out to give an interview, that person must be coached and prepared for the event by the PR person. Impression is everything. If you want the market to respect your business, you start off by respecting it first.
  8. You must have a competent staff working with and for the band. I already stress the importance and role of two staffers -the stylist and the PR person.
  • You also need an event bookkeeper. That person’s responsibility is to go out there to connect the band with the promoters or event planners to find and create events for the band to showcase. That person has a huge responsibility. He or she will have to handle the band’s schedule to make sure there is no overlapping in the schedule. He or she is also responsible for making travel arrangements for the musicians so that they can be at their locations on time to perform. You can call that person the point man or woman in terms of who to call to negotiate gigs with or book the band for events. That’s a very powerful position to hold. He or she is like the band’s official salesperson.
  • You will also need an accountant to account for all the cash inflow and outflow for the administration. Whenever there is money flowing around, in whatever line of business, it is always recommended that there is an accountant on board to keep record of all the financial transactions. It is the best thing to do for accountability purposes. That person can be an in-house staffer or an outside contractor. He or she, in due time, can also play the role of a financial adviser to monitor the market and give the manager the best possible financial advice in terms of looking at the pros and cons of making a specific investment.
  • You need a knowledgeable business/entertainment lawyer. You can outsource the service of that person as it could be costly to have such cadre permanently in your staff. You will need to seek legal advice on key legal matters (issues having to do with contract litigation, copyright infringement, so on and so forth). So whenever necessary, you can always have that person to consult with in your decision making apparatus.
  • You must have a band leader, music director, maestro, or however you wanna call him or her. That person is critical for the success of the band. He or she has two important functions –administrative and technical. He or she is the one to go out to recruit musicians to bring on board to meet the vision and objectives set forth by the manager of the band. He or she is the chief of the technical staff of the business –the musicians. His or her job is to technically prepare the band’s schedule for rehearsal sessions, select the songs that will be in the band’s live repertoire, work in the studio with the musicians on the structure and making of the songs to be featured on the band’s album and outsource (if necessary) the musicians to contribute to its production, call on the dress code for the musicians for each event, and decide on the point and time of rendezvous as to where and when the musicians are to meet for a specific event. He or she is the only musician to have a permanent seat in the band’s management’s staff meetings to serve as informant or liaison between the musicians (his or her team) and management. This person must have leadership, administrative and technical skills. He or she has to be just as knowledgeable in music structure as he would be in administration and leadership.
  • Last but not least, you need an astute, skillful and professional manager.  This person’s responsibility is extremely huge. This is not someone you hire because he or she claims to have a few dollars in the band, is a good friend or relative of the band’s owner, is a “big boss,” or claims to be influential in the business. He or she must be placed in that position for his or her astuteness, skillfulness, professionalism and leadership skills. He or she plays the role of a coordinator and resource allocator to facilitate the responsibility of each and every staff member. He or she sets the path or objectives in terms of where the band should be heading. He or she endorses, approves of, or appose his or her signature at the bottom of every single administrative decision having to do with the band’s business. Nothing should bypass him or her, for he or she has his or her eyes on every aspect of the business. He or she calls for weekly staff meetings to inform his or her staff and be informed on the band’s activity and operation. Like that, everyone will be on the same sheet of music and playing the same tune. He or she is the leader or the band’s CEO. That person’s sole responsibility is to manage the band as a complete and compact entity and make sure every member of his or her staff does exactly what is expected of them.

I think we need to be doing things differently, meaning the way we are supposed to in this Haitian music business. How can we be competitive when we are doing the same old and archaic things over and over and expecting different and better results, especially when the entertainment world is an ever-changing environment? It is impossible, is it not? We are living in a very competitive global market; therefore, if we cannot be playing right and smart, we are going to be outperformed continuously. And like that, as always, we are going to hold that we are doomed and destined to not be successful in anything, when such is not true. It is our approach to doing things that is preventing us from getting ahead. There is always one right way to do anything. Let’s learn how to do things right and apply what we learn the correct way (without resorting to shortcuts); we will then be amazed to see how exponentially we will progress. I hope this blueprint for success, while it is not perfect, does help all of you to embrace the music business with a revolutionary and winning state of mind.

A FEW WORDS TO MAESTRO ARLY LARIVIERE

Maestro Arly Lariviere of the Konpa band Nu Look

Some People, including my friend Versace, may think that I have something against Nu Look, but that is quite the opposite. I love all the bands/artists, especially the ones making great music and acting for the betterment of our music business.

I do not write to destroy; I write to correct mischievousness in the business. I have written to advice Disip, one of your stark competitors, especially after the PR deal they had with JP Relations had reached a point of no return. I had advised them to revise the decision. Now, if they did not listen to me, that is their business, not mine.

Anyhow, your album is soon to hit the streets, and I have a strong sense it will score big. How could you have a guy like Pipo singing on an album to not be expecting damage? He is one of the very few best we have in the business as we speak. But do not get too hardheaded and confident to fail to do what you are supposed to do to make the best out of this production.

Do keep in mind that great products do fail if the right marketing strategy is not being implemented. So needless to say that you are going to need to engage in an aggressive marketing campaign to get the job done. Here is what you are going to do to get Nu Look back in the lead again. You need to do two things:

  1. You need an outstanding public relations staffer. I would recommend you to contract JP Relations. Listen to me… I do not know Sasa like that. I do not know her more than I know you, and I have never met you a day in my life. She has never been my classmate in Haiti and the US. But I have been watching her. She is one of the best, if not the best, we have in this business right now. GET HER!!! You do need the best to work with and/or for you; I am sure you can afford that.
  2. Part of your marketing strategy should be to have the entire band embark on a “meet and greet with the fans” bus tour from South to North and East to West coupled with semi press conferences. Have the media to follow you at every stop, where there is a huge Haitian community. Have you ever seen the politicians here in the US going on bus tours to campaign? Well, there is a reason for that. It is all about marketing yourself and the message or product you want the people to know about. It gets media attention and publicity for free. That’s what you call free press.

Marketing is all about making noise and captivating the attention of the people. Make it a week-long or a two-weekend-long event -whichever is more convenient for the band. You will be amazed to see the result. Your band would be the first to have ever gone on a bus tour to market an album. Try to be the first or the leader in everything for the followers to follow. And at the end of the day, make sure you send me the check in the mail. My advice has never been for free. Just joking… lol 😀

PIPO MUST SCORE BIG TO BE RELEVANT IN NU LOOK

Pipo left Beljazz, a band he helped put together from scratch with Ralph Menelas, his business partner, to integrate Nu Look -a band which was on the verge of total disintegration, following the unexpected and sudden resignation of the lead vocalist, Gazzman Couleur, almost a year ago.

The Pipo card sought by Maestro Arly Lariviere is by most people’s accounts, including mine, a well thought out or an astute move on the part of the maestro; I personally applaud him for that.

I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that Pipo, with his pristine vocal pitch, has the credence to meet Maestro Lariviere’s expectations and get the job done. He is one of the top lead vocalists in the business, and the league he is in has very few people of his caliber. He can navigate on any track given to him –Konpa love or up-tempo.

We all must agree, however, that there can never be another Gazzman Couleur to replace Gazzman in Nu Look. So Arly is going to have to capitalize on Pipo’s unique attributes to score big with the next album should he want him (Pipo) to be and stay relevant in the band in the years to come.

Pipo already has what is needed for him to deliver exactly what is expected of him. But that will not be enough. More is going to need to be done in terms of marketing strategy to get him to be accepted as a replacement of Gazzman Couleur in the band. It is feasible, though, but this is definitely not going to be a simple task.

While we are well aware of his strengths and attributes, we cannot overlook his flaws, which, in my opinion, cause a huge problem for him to fully assume his role of frontline superstar in the band.  

In terms of on-stage performance, it has been said that he has a connectivity issue, preventing him from connecting with his crowd (the fans). In fact, that is something he has been largely criticized for. He is not as big of a people person as Gazzman is. And that could be a major setback for him in terms of maintaining the band’s leadership position in the post-Gazzman era.

Most people who have been following him in the Konpa market would tell you that he is not a guy to fully count on; he is not someone who believes in business commitment and consistency. In other words, he does not have any sense of stability in him. Fairly so, they argue that he has a track record that could prove that to be true. He has moved around quite a bit in his career -from Passion of Montreal to D-zine; from D-zine to Hang Out; from Hangout to Beljazz, his own band; and from Beljazz to now Nu Look. So they express doubts that this marriage between him and Nu Look is going to last.

We all know that perception is reality. The perception most people have of him is that he is too stiff and snobbish to make it in the entertainment world. So he has work to do to change that perception of him; he needs to work on his public relations skills. For that, I would suggest that he hire the service of an expert in personality improvement to help him out. If he can get that heavy charge off his back, he will be insurmountable.

To the prognosis that the marriage will not last long, I would say this: however long he will stay carrying the colors of Nu Look will depend on how long Maestro Lariviere will want him to. Why do I say that?

Pipo is not the type who would allow anyone to exploit and take advantage of him. He knows how to count his money and defend his interests. His days in the band will be numbered if Maestro Lariviere is not taking good care of him like a lead vocalist of his stature deserves to be taken care of. So how long he is going to stay with Nu Look will depend on how well he is being treated by the man with all the power in his hands, and that’s the one and only Maestro Arly Lariviere.

Finally, Pipo in any band will cause wonders. That’s how great of a lead vocalist he is. I don’t know one band leader who would not feel lucky to have him in their squad. He is beyond talented. He has what it takes to get the job done. But like everybody else, he has flaws to be worked on. This is, indeed, a defining moment for him. He must score big with the band’s upcoming album. If he fails, as the pressure is mounted so high on him, that will be a major blow for him and the band.

RAP KREYOL IS NOT KONPA’S PROBLEM

This piece is not intended to come to the rescue of Rap Kreyol; I don’t think the musical genre does need Emann Joasil to come to its recue. It has more knowledgeable and more suitable people, I assume, to do the job for it. And I am not even a big fan of Rap music, whether it be American Rap or Rap Kreyol. This article, however, is going to address a very important issue that seems to have a toll on our world of music production.

Let me start off by asking this very bold and pertinent question: Why are some of our Konpa artists so panicky when it comes to the surprising evolution and revolution of Rap Kreyol? Let’s get something straight once and for all. The movement will not be put to rest or go away just because some in the Konpa world decide to engage in a badmouthing or denigrating campaign. You guys need to chill!!!! Like we say in our Creole, “mete yon blok glas sou lestomak nou.”

Just like the emergence or explosion of Rasin music during the early 1990’s did not force Konpa to retirement, Rap Kreyol will not do it either. Rap Kreyol is nothing but an add-on to the country’s musical mosaic. Instead of being resentful, we need to be receptive to it; we need to welcome it with open arms, for diversity or plurialism is always desirable or socially and economically beneficial to the consumers.

When Rap music was picking up steam in the American society in the 1980’s, musical genres such as Jazz, Blues, R&B, Country Music, Rock & Roll and others did not feel threatened. Instead, they fastened up their belts to battle through production and marketing to secure their positions in the American entertainment market.

Everybody will get a piece of the pie. So there is no need to panic. This is the time for our Konpa artists/bands to start thinking big and start thinking about leaving their comfort zones. There is no guarantee in a market of 9 million consumers with very limited purchasing power. The time is urgent for our Konpa bands/artists to be going big on exploring other markets on the international arena.

Rap Kreyol is not, has never been, and will never be Konpa’s problem. Konpa’s main problem is Konpa itself. It needs a new approach to production and marketing if it must see another fifty years. Otherwise, that genre of music, which we proudly call our musical identity, may end up in history book.

There is a law of production that says that the quality of any finished output is a reflection of the quality of raw materials going into its production process. So it is time to bring quality resources into the production of our musical outputs. In other words, we need to bring skilled people or professionals in every aspect of the business –production, marketing, distribution, etc.

These days, our Konpa musicians refuse to challenge themselves to produce the quality of music that can transcend markets and generations. Putting everything in perspective, it is fair enough to argue that in a sense we were desperately waiting for the challenge Rap Kreyol is giving Konpa today. If anything, we need to be thankful to Rap Kreyol for coming just in time to wake up Konpa from the coma it has long been diving in. The wake-up call was long overdue.

The Konpa bands/artists were getting too lazy and comfortable. Production was getting very subpar in a less demanding market -where mediocrity, charlatanism and amateurism were becoming tokens of appreciation. Almost all the bands in the Konpa landscape wanted to sound identical or like the most influential and successful ones. There was a sort of bandwagon every single band wanted to jump on. Originality was nothing but a vague and coreless expression. And what they failed to realize was that when you are a duplicate you can never get to outperform the original or real thing. So real competition, being the drive capable of making the players in the market go beyond their reaches, was basically inexistent.

Rap Kreyol is not going anywhere. So if it cannot be drawn away, it makes sense to join hands with it. To all my diehard Konpa lovers/admirers and Rap Kreyol bashers, I want to urge you to look for the enemy elsewhere; it certainly is not Rap Kreyol. To our Kreyol Rappers, keep doing what you have been doing and even better. Don’t see Konpa as a target. To do so will be to put it on a pedestal it does not even belong. Rather, see the sky of the global market as your only limit. Keep producing great music and keep representing our musical colors wherever you guys happen to be.

KONPA PROMOTERS: PROTECT THE FANS’ POCKETS

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

KONPA ARTISTS ON THE POLITICAL BANDWAGON

Choubou: Tabou Combo's lead vocalist, a Michel Martelly endorser

Political endorsement is something very serious; it ought not to be taken lightly. So far, we have witnessed quite an array of Konpa artists coming out at an unprecedented rate to publicly endorse candidates in this presidential election cycle; in my humble opinion, I think that is encouraging. I am not trying to scare anybody, but I am just hoping that you guys know that political endorsements, at times, come with backlashes and consequences -whether directly or indirectly.    

To the rest of you Konpa personalities, those of you who are still standing on the sidelines and have yet to jump on the bandwagon of presidential endorsement, I have four simple words for you: DO NOT DO IT.

Haitian politics is a very tricky and complicated field. You are dealing with an electorate not democratically cultured enough to accept the fact that you can have a say in the political process and have your political position respected. They all aspire to democracy, but refuse to understand that it cannot be possible without the creed of tolerance.  

Yes, indeed, you have your rights as citizens of Haiti to publicly endorse anybody you want in this race just like your fans have their rights to not support you anymore because your political endorsements do/did not reflect theirs.

Some people take politics very personal. Remember, you need the support of your fans to stay in business. Your fans are all you have. Once they turn their backs on you, you are game; your career is over. So be very careful with that political endorsement thing. If you cannot sustain the heat, keep yourself away from the furnace. Otherwise, you might get burnt.

Of course, Fanfan Ti Bot, Choubou, Cubano, Douby, etc… they all can come out publicly and endorse candidates; they do not have anything to lose. With all due respect to them and what they represent in the world of Konpa music, as far as this new generation of fan base is concerned, these guys don’t really matter in this business anymore. If Konpa was a structured and lucrative business, they should have not been in circulation anymore; they should have gone into retirement long ago. But you, young artists coming up, have a lot to lose. I am going to repeat the same thing I said to you earlier, and that is you need the support of your fans to stay alive in this entertainment business.

My golden advice to you all is this: DO NOT MINGLE; LET THE PROCESS RUN ITS COURSE. You are not ordinary citizens; you are people with a platform. Therefore, do not put yourselves out there for political expediency.

That’s all I wanted to communicate to you all. Hopefully, you will find my advice sound and relevant. Well, I am a nobody, why should you listen to me?

BELO: SHOW THEM HOW IT’S DONE

Belo: During a live performance at the FIAF

Belo has the momentum, and he is unstoppable!!! His EXPLOSION on the international arena is now happening, just about half a decade since he decided to take on this music career. There is nothing supernatural about his success, since most of us Haitians always try to give a supernatural explanation to anything that seems to surpass our limited intelligence or intellect.

His latest album REFERENCE, from what I could gather, was officially distributed in the United States by this distribution company called MI-5. I also found out that its promotion has been a success. This guy is not sleeping; he is on a mission. He on tour all over the world -Canada, the US, Algeria, France, Brazil, etc… -promoting the Haitian culture.

Belo is exposing our culture to the world community not because he is Jean Belony Murat, but because he has a product that is being marketed perfectly well. I had said it before, and I am going to say it again –marketing is everything. This is the discipline that can make or break your business, regardless how great your product is.

Let me explain to you how eminent marketing is for business success. Take two products –product A and product B. Product A is lousily manufactured but has a well-defined marketing strategy. Product B, on the other hand, is perfectly manufactured but has an awful marketing strategy. Product A has a greater chance than product B to make it in the market and be successful. That’s what marketing does. It has the ability to play in the psychology of the consumers to make them accept a product with initially no chance to make it.

I hope the people in the Konpa business can learn a thing or two from Belo as to what he is doing and how he is doing it. The man surrounds himself with skilled people, people who know what they are doing, how can you expect him not to breakthrough? Keep bathing in mediocrity and tell me how far it will get you. I have been telling you all along that mediocrity will not take us anywhere.

Most people in the Kompa business believe in the idiocy that our Kompa music cannot gain steam in the international market because of the language in which we sing; our Creole is the ultimate scapegoat. What a ridiculous argument!!!

I could have been making that same nonsensical argument had I not witnessed with my own naked eyes the impact of Raggamuffin music or Dancehall Reggae on both the South Korean and Japanese societies. Mind you, these societies are very conservative and reluctant when it comes to being receptive to foreign cultural tendencies.

During my time in the US Army, I had the privilege to be stationed for about two years in South Korea and Japan. When I and my friends would go to Korean- and Japanese-owned clubs outside the military installations, the Koreans and the Japanese, who may not even know anything about what Beenie Man and Buju Banton are saying in their songs, would just go crazy on the dance floor bouncing nonstop to the beats until the party is over. The young Koreans and Japanese would buy, sing and dance Ragga Muffin –a music that is not only culturally foreign to them but also sung in a language they cannot even come close to comprehend. So don’t tell me it is the language. There is something the Jamaicans have been doing that we are not doing. And I know what that is. It is called MARKETING. These guys know how to get their music out to the world.

Belo has been in this music business for not even a decade, yet he is taking the world market by storm. He is out there, folks. He is picking up steam and momentum. He is not singing in any language other than Creole for the most part, has that stopped him from being popular and going international? Has that stopped him from winning the RFI prize? The answer to both questions is… HELL NO!!!!!!!

It is not the language in which an artist sings that can make or break that artist; it is, rather, how well of a job they do in marketing their music. So stop blaming the Creole language for everything and anything that is not working with our music. The language is far from being the reason why our Konpa Direk cannot cross certain market boundaries.

We must not be producing music to cater to only the Haitian market, a market with only 8 million consumers. Our market is too narrow as it is, and the purchasing power of the consumers is already too minced. Any musician who aspires to make it big in this music business needs to go after other markets –for example, the American, the Asian and the European markets. Keep in mind that you don’t enter these markets with no preparation whatsoever to compete. If you do not sit down to do your homework prior to your entry, you are wasting your valuable time and resources. In these market environments, competition is fierce. Only the best survive.

Music is meant to be a lucrative endeavor; therefore, we must not be making music to be counting peanuts. Belo, be the Manuel of Jacques Roumain’s novel Gouverneur de la Rosee for our music so that you can show them how it’s done.

THE FUTURE OF WOMEN IN KONPA DIREK

Saida: former backup singer of Hangout

For those of you who may not know, Konpa Direk is Haiti’s most popular genre of music. It is the legacy of two great Haitian musicians –Weber Sicot and Nemours Jean Baptiste. This is the music the majority of the Haitian people play at social gatherings (parties) and blast in their cars. When these two men created Konpa, however, I am not sure they had women in mind. So the question is, after a little over fifty years since the creation of Konpa Direk, is there a future for women in this music business?

Konpa is yet to be a comfort zone for women. It is a male-dominated world with only a few women struggling, despite all the humiliations they are being victim of, to gain some degree of recognition. From Cleo, Georgie, Mei Mei and Saida of Hangout to Sandra of Zin and Stacey of Tempo, the women have not been given the respect they deserve. For the most part, they are being “sexploited,” sexually harassed and/or treated as second class artists.

I’ve heard many people making the argument that if you dream of having a long-lasting band, keep the women away; the moment they integrate the band, trouble will surface. The men will be competing against each other to see who will be the first to knock her out or sleep with her. And once you have band members competing against each other over matters that have nothing to do with music, unity and esprit de corps, essential elements for the band’s success, will be greatly impacted. That alone will suffice to place the band on the verge of disorganization, chaos and destruction.

If the aforementioned reality really exists inside the Konpa bands, I think management is slacking in its duty. The job of the manager of the band, if I may, is to set the guidelines as to what behaviors are appropriate and what are not. In other words, the job of the manager is to come up with policies that would praise good deeds and punish misconduct. When you have mediocre folks that don’t know what they are doing managing these bands, of course, you can expect the women to be treated like pieces of meat for all the men to prey on.

Is there a future for women in this business? I am very hopeful that things will change for the better for women. But that won’t happen until management can step up to the plate and lead these bands with an impeccable level of professionalism. I am also hopeful that things will get better for these women when they (the women) start realizing that favoritism can only take them this far. Should they integrate these bands, the decision should be made on the basis of talents and merit, not favoritism. If it is based on favoritism or solely on their good looks, they will have to sell their dignity by making hideous concessions only to secure their positions.