Posted on 29 November 2009.
While die-hard Sting fans do all the possible permutations and combinations for a clash between Vybz Kartel and Bounty Killer and its outcome on December 26, Isaiah Laing is juggling figures as feverishly as a deejay preparing for the big night.
Laing, head of Sting organisers, Supreme Promotions, has said there is a $10 million shortfall in the budget
, which he is trying to constrain under last year’s production figure of about $30 million. With no major sponsor on board this year, he was hoping for the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) to inject some cash.
The sponsorship hoped for has not found substance and, with less than a month to go to Sting 2K9, Laing looks back to earlier days of putting on the show, saying “I have lost so many houses to the banks, but the half has never been told”. He said that has happened more than four times.
Among the major costs for putting on Sting, which Laing said pulled in over 25,000 people to Jam World, St Catherine, last year, is security. “The stage Sting is at you have to run big bucks to do it properly. Last year security cost us almost $2 million. That is nothing to ensure the security of our patrons,” he said. Apart from a stampede at about 3 a.m., which Laing said was due to pickpockets, the concert was peaceful, even with a highly charged clash between Vybz Kartel and Mavado.
There is also a heavy advertising cost of between $4 million to $5 million and Laing said although the event is established he leaves nothing to chance and is always looking for new markets.
It is not the first time Sting has sought sponsorship from the JTB, the first submission made in about 1992, and last previous attempt about five years ago. “I can tell them that Sting brings more visitors than any other show,” Laing said, pointing to a number of Jamaicans abroad actually booking their holidays around the concert. There is also an annual charter flight from Bermuda, which will carry in about 280 persons this year, and persons from as far as Australia, Europe and Japan.
Even at this late stage, he said, he is not giving up, saying “I would love to get even US$100,000 from them”.
There is, of course, the matter of Sting’s gritty image, and Laing said “the image can be changed”.
However, “every time we do clash we get a nice turnout and we see a profit”. When The Sunday Gleaner asked if he would put on Sting without a clash, if that was a sponsorship condition, Laing said “if they are giving me the kind of money they are giving to the other festivals, fine”.
This year’s Jamaica Jazz and Blues got US$500,000 in sponsorship from the JTB, but was turned down for similar support in its 2010 staging.
“I would go into the show making a profit,” Laing said, adding that he could then do things that he knows would bring out the crowd. “Right now it’s the only viable way,” he said of the clashing or ‘face-off’. “It gets intense sometimes but I don’t believe people have to take it literally.”
He puts his sponsorship plight in the wider social context. Laing said “these are the things, when I look at it, that help to make the crime rate so high. We have two Jamaicas. We have Jamaica up the top and Jamaica down the bottom. How I’m seeing it, it’s either you’re rich or you are poor”.
“I would put myself in the poor category. This show is coming from way back when it is poor people who supported it. I can’t put it out of their reach,” Laing said, adding that by and large they cannot afford to go out of Kingston
for major music events and he tries to keep the price affordable.
He is reluctant, though, to add a sponsor’s name to the show’s title again. “I don’t want to give up my title again. When you have a title sponsor and they leave it is like a vacuum. Magnum came and left, Guinness came and left,” Laing said.
“It is going to be just Sting.”