Making Crop Over work for us
CARIBBEAN CREATIVITY, the kind exhibited at carnivals and festivals like Crop Over, can be a major source of the economic diversity for which the region is crying.
Trinidadian attorney-at-law Carla Parris, who operates an entertainment, sports and intellectual property (IP) law practice in her homeland, is in no doubt.
But Parris, who is producer and host of the legal and entertainment business Youtube series The Business Of Carnival, said a major hurdle was “we are also still largely importers of content from developed countries instead of understanding the value of exporting our creative talent to the wider world”.
In an interview with the Barbados Nation, Parris explained “one of the reasons for the show’s creation is due to the plethora of misinformation about the legal and business matters surrounding carnival that I encounter in my law practice every year for the past eight years, since having established my boutique law practice”.
“Once properly leveraged, carnival has the potential to provide significant investment opportunities for all of our islands and have the potential to assist Caribbean governments to diversify our economies,” she said.
We asked the lawyer if carnival in Trinidad, Barbados and elsewhere in the region was seen and treated as a business, and if not, what should be done.
She responded: “Based on my experience in teaching at intellectual property law and creative sector conferences across the Caribbean, I am of the view that creatives from all over the Caribbean all suffer the same fate. They are extremely passionate and highly skilled in their crafts but pay little to no attention to Intellectual Property law nor to the business components of their operations and as such often struggle to make ends meet.”
Parris believed “it is this lack of business acumen which prevent us in the region from being able to compete on a global scale, though, in many cases the quality of our music, fashion and literature far surpasses those created in developed countries”.
She pointed to studies from the World Intellectual Property Organisation “that demonstrate that the cultural industries are the fastest growing sectors due to the rise of the digital economy”.
“Right here at home in the region, there are a plethora of studies from regional economists like Dr Vanus James, Dr Keith Nurse and organisations like the Inter-american Development Bank which demonstrate the immense contribution TRINIDADIAN LAWYER Carla Parris entrepreneur Richard Haynes. (GP) having a discussion with Barbadian entertainment
of copyright and creative sectors to GDP in Caribbean economies.”
Despite this, Parris said “we are still not leveraging the true value of these industries”.
“Due to the downturn in many of our economies
. . . we really ought to, as a matter of urgency, position carnival as an export tool which once properly harnessed can help to promote festival tourism in all of our islands and to promote and sell our indigenous music, fashion and designs as tradable commodities globally,” she recommended.
Parris also said the model where “many of our artistes are already creating viable livelihoods for themselves in the soca music fraternity by travelling to carnivals across the region and in the diaspora year round”, was
She explained this was because it was “based on that particular artist having a hit song which is then performed in fetes for the carnival circuit for that year”.
“Globally, artistes like Rihanna have long moved away from relying on live performances to sustain a career. As you can see, Rihanna has diversified her income streams into endorsement deals, fashion lines and most recently entrepreneurship with her make-up line Fenty Beauty,” Parris observed.
“We need to educate our artistes to also create auxiliary income streams for themselves and strong brands which can be exported globally to generate long-term revenue.”
The entrepreneur also said “education is one of the key mechanisms through which a much needed ideological shift can happen in the creative sector”.
“I am actually about to embark on a speaking tour in the Caribbean in the areas of IP, music business and creative sector monetisation. I started in South Trinidad and will be in St Lucia on November 28 and in Jamaica from December 12 to16 participating in an upcoming Caribbean Court of Justice conference.”
TRINIDADIAN ENTERTAINMENT LAWYER Carla Parris with Barbadian DJ Puffy, who was featured on her online series The Business Of Carnival, sees greater earning potential for carnivals and festivals like Crop Over.