BY TEINO EVANS, Staff Reporter
( L - R )George Nooks, Ken Booth and Barrington Levy - FILE PHOTOS
THE RUMOURS MAY not be exact, but Michael Barnett of MKB Productions, responsible for Heineken Startime, has confirmed that there are in fact some problems that might adversely affect the regular showing of the event.
"What people are hearing about sponsorship withdrawing, absolutely nothing like that," Barnett said. "As a matter of fact there are sponsors who are interested in coming on board. Heineken is still the title sponsor and I had a discussion last week with them and they have reconfirmed their sponsorship support for 2006. What it depends on is how many shows MKB decides to do, for this year and depending on how many we do they will be title sponsors," Barnet said.
This was confirmed by Maxine Whittingham, communications manager for Red Stripe Jamaica Limited, under which the Heineken brand falls. "Yes we are in fact still a sponsor of Heineken Startime. We are in the first year of a two-year contract with them and we have had an ongoing relationship," she said.
However Barnett says the number of shows that they put on might have to decline due to cost issues.
"We are looking at cutting the number of shows this year; usually we have four, but because of the number of oldies shows that are now in the marketplace and the lessening demand to see these artistes, we are definitely going to restructure and look at the number of shows we do in the year," Barnett said.
Barnett explained that because many of the mainstay artistes on the oldies show now appear regualrly on other shows, the demand to see them perform has lessened. "The John Holt, Alton Ellis, Gregory Isaacs (three most used artistes on Heineken Startime) are even appearing on dancehall shows now," Barnett said. "Finding new names that the public want to see that will bring out the crowd so that you can cover your cost and make a profit is the real issue and that is why we are back at the drawing board."
Other factors such as bad weather last year and a failed project that MKB attempted last year contributed to a heavy financial burden.
"Last year we were heavily affected by rain, and one (Heineken Startime) was cancelled and that put a dent in our ability to put out our regular four shows this year. In addition to that, we also tried a gospel event (It Soon Be Done) that didn't do well financially and so that placed a heavy burden on us. We lost quite a bit of money, but all 10 artistes were still paid in full," Barnett said, pre-empting the query that some artistes from perious shows were not paid adequately.
"In our 17 years of putting on Heineken Startime, we have done over 120 shows and we have never owed an artiste a cent and we would never put on a show without ensuring that the artistes would be paid. We always pay our deposits and our balances," he said.