For years I’ve heard talk about how unprofitable the International Soca Monarch was. I’ve never heard anything of the like about the Chutney Soca Monarch, but it does make sense to hear that it is/was in the same position. I also look at the heavy subsidies being put into these fetes, through sponsorships by alcohol companies, government ministries (in the past) and other types of companies.
I see the same types of sponsorships for Carnival bands, when I see photos or hear talk from friends about their gift bags received with their costumes.
Hearing that the Chutney Soca Monarch was cancelled because of the absence of Government funding however, was bittersweet news to me. My emotional brain said that the show was a high point for many of my friends and colleagues, but my logical brain said that if the country had to make a choice of what to spend its little resources on, something like soca can’t top the list.
Yesterday, I awoke to news that the Government was, indeed, going to sponsor the event causing its organisers to announced it was back on, with semifinals to be held within two weeks.
While I am happy about the event being on again, I believed, however, that this was an opportunity for progress, rather than a reason for lament. I think that we still have an opportunity before us.
In 1972 when Carnival was cancelled due to polio, we left with a better understanding of how communicable diseases could impact the festival. The lesson here is very different however.
Some of the world’s greatest companies were formed during times of economic depression. They learned how to cut over-expenditure, and keep scarce resources for important things and maintain profitability.
Our private sector has mainly done this. While the economic pundits have been biting their nails in recent years because of the predicted slide in oil and gas prices, some of our private companies have found ways to increase their profits, and smile even brighter than during the “good days.”
So why shouldn’t cultural products such as Soca Monarch and Chutney Soca Monarch be any different?
Beyond their contribution to society, many see them as private enterprise — and indeed they are privately owned.
I am confident that these cultural entrepreneurs can find excellent advice from professionals in their field of entertainment business, on various options for finding a profitable business model for these endeavours, or to adjust the current model to do so.
Perhaps this year should be a warning, sounded to our entertainment industry that basing your business on government subsidies may not be the best way to go.
I look forward to seeing a change to the business models. I envision soca and chutney lovers turning out to beautiful shows, in an amazing display of creativity and entrepreneurship.
Maurice Burke, San Juan