Partying for profits

A handful of aggressive entrepreneurs are learning there's money to be made in managing entertainment festivals around the globe--but corporate sponsorship is still the key to success

Summertime has its rituals. For some, that means a romantic Memorial Day picnic for two on the shore. For others, it’s an all-you-can-eat Labor Day cookout with a horde of family and friends. And now, for an increasing number of African Americans, summer rituals are slowly expanding to include a long-weekend getaway to attend a music festival somewhere across the globe.

A report conducted by Target Market News found that African Americans spent $2.5 billion on travel and lodging in 1995. And 15% of all African American travelers according to the Travel Industry Association of america, took trips specifically to attend a cultural event or festival. For anyone who sought a quick getaway this year, the options were plentiful. If you wanted to stay close to home and had a craving for gumbo or jambalaya, then perhaps you rolled down to the “Big Easy” to check out the Essence Music Festival. Or, if you were a bit more daring and had a hankering for, say, ’70s soul music, maybe you ventured to Aruba to partake in Sinbad’s Soul Music Festival.

Events like these, big and small, have sprouted up as black entrepreneurs realize that a growing number of African Americans will pay big to play big. As these events grow in popularity, relative newcomers are jumping on the bandwagon. Take Chris Latimer, who, for the past several years, has been hosting an exotic getaway event of his own geared toward the Gen X crowd, the Cancun All-Star Fiesta. whether you wanted to rock steady to the Whispers or bump and grind to R. Kelly, somewhere there was a music fest with your name on it.

Now truth be told, it doesn’t exactly take a lot to plan your everyday party. Many have successfully managed small social events for friends or family that have gone off without a hitch. But what if you’re planning to party, not for 10, but for 10,000? And to help subsidize your party, what if you’re trying to attract Coca-Cola or Texaco to help pick up the tab? For the organizers of events on this grand scale, there’s no surefire test to predict whether their affair will be a smash or a dud. But a critical key to making these events successful is corporate sponsorship to underwrite costs. Without it, these potentially lucrative affairs can quickly turn into costly ordeals.

A SOULFUL ’70s AFFAIR
Now in its fourth year, Sinbad’s Soul Music Festival island-hopped from St. Martin to Jamaica before finding a comfortable home in Aruba last year. The late May show, which has a soulful/funk emphasis on ’70s music, featured artists like Stephanie Mills, Rose Royce, the Emotions and Earth, Wind & Fire.

The Sinbad event is unique in two respects. It gets international publicity, thanks to its airing on HBO, and it has a celebrity draw. Not only is Sinbad’s (a.k.a. David Adkins) name prominently attached to the project, his production company, Afros and Bell Bottoms Productions, is the sole manager of the event. And while outsiders may wonder

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  • Thomas Wright

    I am searching for the issue which published 500
    corporate sponsors from A to Z across the US.