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Toward A Sustainable Steelband Modell By Andre Moses

Many steelbands don't have security of tenure much less a home for themselves. The patronage steelband model is based on inflows of funding from the private sector through sponsorship, or from the public sector through grants and the proceeds of competitions.

A third model that is emerging more strongly, is a sustainable model that facilitates the development of autonomous income streams from business ventures. For this later model, security of tenure opens up a capital base from which steel bands can build. All Stars and Birdsong are examples of steel bands that are actively exploring this third option.

Pamberi, also, is working towards its version of a more sustainable model. Siparia Deltones is another active experiment that embodies a more sustainable approach. Fonclaire, too, has recently been sharing some information about its business initiatives.

The entertainment industry in a relatively small economy like Trinidad and Tobago probably cannot generate the level of turnover to support 100-plus steelbands as year round organisations, and generate the level of funding needed for their sustainability, so the scope of the steelband business portfolio has to be more creative and broader-based.

Even before Covid the Trinidad and Tobago energy-based economy was shrinking, as the impact of the global transition to alternative energy options has become more manifest. While a popular default position is to look to the State to underwrite the funding gap, the reality is any sustainable steelband model that is based primarily on substantial public sector funding, addresses primarily the expenditure side of the economic equation, but conversely, underemphasizes the revenue generation side of the said equation.

Certainly, in this regard, there is an urgent need to maximise the steelbands’ revenue earning capacity at Carnival time, but undercapitalisation of steelband operations is an issue that must be addressed.

Too much of the funding inflow to steelbands at Carnival time, goes back out to various service providers such as Tee Shirt manufacturers and printers, transportation entrepreneurs, chroming facilities, caterers and paint shops, because steelbands have historically been consumers of these services and not producers. To stem that leakage, and ensure that more of that inflow is retained for sustainable steelband development, requires an investment in machinery, equipment and training.

While if the building of a Steelband Headquarters is conceptualised and organised as a collective enterprise involving all steelbands, it can become more realisable, it is also true that it is difficult to focus on external matters when utility bills and Panorama debts are so much more immediate and pressing realities for many steelbands.

We must applaud the professionalism and projection of the ‘Big Five’ of the steelband world, because they set the standards of excellence. We must, at the same time also, recognise that the prevailing community steelband model is in need of a rethink and fundamental reorganisation if it is to survive in an economic sense. Every single panyard is a music school, that collectively, creates and has created a massive critical mass of panists, arrangers, composers and a mind-boggling collection of orchestral music.

The issue is now that oil and gas are increasing becoming a part of our history, how can we strategize and organise to make the steelband industry an integral component of our future wellbeing?

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Great article - I. have been thinking about this same issue for bands here in my area, I totally agree that the traditional "Panyard" has to really put thought into how they raise funds, the cost of maintaining a steel band/steel orchestra is only getting more costly as the years go by and raising funds with Food Sale or relying on Gigs is not enough.  I still feel that a regional/national steel pan organization (501c) would help tremendously by giving guidance and support.  

The BIG FIVE and a few other sponsored bands have evolved into national organisations with commercial potential.  The steelband movement and the communities in which they are rooted must now not only rediscover its beginnings as local community organisations, but realise its full potential to create stronger communities.

"Every single panyard is a music school, that collectively, creates and has created a massive critical mass of panists, arrangers, composers, and a mind-boggling collection of orchestral music."

Panyard leaders should be hired as government employees for their leadership role in their communities.

Tell Moses he will NOT...I repeat will NOT see that "promise land". That slave ship already left the dock, once George "Sonny" Goddard was removed by the Doc-loving useful idiots. THEY created a domino effect that will continue until the last piece falls. The ONLY path to success is the one that leads to "righteousness", because regardless of the methodology, as long as you have corrupt and evil men/women at the top, the MASSES of panmen and panwomen will remain in perpetual servitude and dependency! BIG 5 is part of the problem, because "when we move, we ALL move as ONE BODY" (Portrait of Trinidad.). This exclusivity in Trinidad and Tobago (mostly based on race, class, and/or social status) is the major hinderance of our inability to live up to our proclaimed ideals of "together we aspire, together we achieve". BTW - This selecting of a few, is EXACTLY what caused the division between the steelbands' union (YES, pan had one) leader and the leader of the country, Goddard and Williams, respectfully. Of course, the historically-handicapped or -apathetic would neither know nor care about those aspects of history. I know ONLY because I happened to either witness these historic events, or refer to Goddard's writings. Finally, here is a link to ALL of the discussions that I presented over the last decade under the sobriquet "Pan'tum - The Ghost Who Talks". Again, the WST ownership know my value, even if, over the years they may have come to dislike me somewhat. lol. "When an elder dies, a library burns to the ground!" (African proverb.) 

The Ghost Writer: A Collection Of When Steel Talk's Discussions.

Andre Moses is to be applauded for his thoughtful focus on calling for a broad strategic approach that would ensure the advancement and sustainability of the musical steel industry in Trinidad and Tobago (T&T). He makes no pretentious claims to know the answers, or even a pathway to achieve an ideal state of operational effectiveness. The article however infers a need to rethink and reimagine creative approaches to maximize the business potential of T&T's musical steel industry. It should surprise no one that the latter will require a serious business model approach predicated on a comprehensive strategic plan. In pursuing such an approach, the question arises by whom, when, where, or how will such a bold comprehensive strategic planning approach be undertaken. Perhaps, as suggested, part of the answer lies in individual steel orchestras assuming a grassroots planning role; however, while individual initiatives are of value, (by themselves) such an approach could hardly be an adequate and sufficient response to the much larger issues facing the musical steel industry in T&T.

On a separate but related point, reportedly musical steel instruments are beginning to be fabricated and mass-produced in  foreign countries. If T&T is not careful, it might not be long before those foreign business interests succeed in improving and enhancing the quality of the musical steel instruments through aggressive research/development and marketing programs. What would be even more regrettable, is if T&T is consequently left with the option to purchase foreign produced instruments at a much lower cost of production compared to instruments produced in T&T. Think about the implications of T&T musical steel industry operating and competing within a global market which could be brutally uncompromising. There is much to ponder. It is perhaps redundant at this point to speculate that the stakes are enormously high for the economic viability of T&T's musical steel industry and by implication for the larger economy of T&T. 

It is precisely situations like this that call for capable effective leadership to assume bold action. Hopefully, may we look forward to appointed representative leadership issuing a formal declarative statement of intent to address this issue. 

Thanks Andre #cultureliveshere 


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