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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rumour has it...

That the President will be in one of these sections in TRIBE which will mean that the section he graces with his presence will be in the top 5!!! Can you guess which one?

Which Section Do you Think The President is in ?
African Love Bird
Caged Canary
Spangled Cotinga
Green Honey Creeper
Brazilian Macaw
Free polls from

The Domino Effect

There is a phenomenon that seems to affect all bands in their debut year and it is the issue of distribution problems; no band is in immune. When TRIBE launched in 2005 collection of costumes at the Rosalino Street Mas Camp turned into a nightmare with long lines, long waits and too many people for such a small venue. They solved that problem the following year by moving costume distribution to a larger venue and instituted a very organized system of delivery. Island People encountered problems their first year as well, several sections not arriving on time to be distributed which led to a host of problems for masqueraders eager to collect their costume.

And then there are the horror stories one hears of certain bands that leave you without a costume or a refund for missing parts of the costume that were never distributed; Evolution and D Krewe are two of the offenders for 2008. Pulse 8 had a section disappeared their inaugural year and masqueraders had to be accommodated in another section; this was blamed on materials not arriving into the country on time.

Why all these problems in costume distribution? Some can be attributed to factors beyond the band’s control such as producers/employees falling ill or delays in shipping of costumes and materials from overseas. Other problems occur when bands do not sell many or even ANY sections until a few weeks before Carnival. What happens is that when there is slow registration everyone involved in the band becomes concerned and while some bands might forge ahead with production others take a position to minimize losses that might incur. So, they halt costume production and it becomes a wait and see game.

After the Christmas season is over and potential masqueraders get an inkling that they want to play mas the mas camp tours and costume pursuits begin in earnest, thus for SOME bands there is a sharp increase in masqueraders registering say only four weeks before Carnival. Others get so caught up in the windfall of new masqueraders that they continue to take costume registration right through Carnival week, with registration on Carnival Sunday not unheard of. While this is great for the band that has been struggling with registration numbers, it immediately puts a strain on producers as at the last minute costumes have to be rushed to be completed.

I was told belts, headpieces and other costume accessories are not a big problem when it comes to last minute costume building (not withstanding quality) however bra sizes become a major issue as the bra manufacturers do not take rush and late orders, which explains why so many masqueraders are left without proper fitting bras when these start up bands go through their melee of costume distribution. In order to accommodate irate masqueraders with missing costume pieces, unscrupulous band and section leaders simply take costumes pieces from other masquerader’s boxes not even thinking that the problem is simply transferred to another masquerader.

The last part of the domino effect is that when bands take registration up until the very last they cannot adequately cater to the number of masqueraders that signed up to play with them. When do you give the caterer a listing, for example, if you registered a group of ten on Carnival Sunday night? How do you budget for drinks or even drinks trucks AND security needed? These are all road management and proper planning practices that have to be put in place in advance, so as a band leader you can ensure having adequate drinks trucks, drinks, meals and security. I know several masqueraders were hopping mad when lunch ran out this year and their drinks truck was a mini drinks cart in comparison to what other bands had!

So, how do you the masquerader protect yourself from these problems? I would say choose a band that has a solid reputation and that has been around a few years but problems do occur even with the best of them, however if you do have an issue be sure that the band in question DOES have a reputation of compensating you fairly. Beware of bands that are accepting registration even after they have posted their costume distribution listing; chances are they will not be able to whip up a costume for you magically within a week.

Get a feel of how well a band is doing in terms of registration by visiting their mas camp or checking to see if they have sold out any sections at all. If bands are producing costumes in spite of low registration they should be able to have costumes for you to try on and/or view, especially if it is after the costume distribution date. When buying a costume at the very last minute do not wait to collect on another day, buy a costume that is already made. I would also advise masqueraders that waiting until the very last minute to get a cheap costume is doing a disservice to yourself as well, it is better to register in advance and ask for a discount than to go looking for a dirt cheap costume on Carnival Monday unless you do not mind a costume with a missing bra or headpiece !

It is also in your best interest to ask bands straight up what their registration has been like, if they tell you "we have sections sold out", ask how many people are signed up in the sections, if they tell you we have sections “going fast, close to selling out” again, ask how many people are signed up. Put your ear to the ground, listen to what the public is saying; ask friends and people you know what band they are playing with. Join the band's facebook group, stalk their "roll call" sections or even their disccusion board to see how much interest there is in the band you are contemplating playing with. If their facebook groups are dead, chances are interest in the band is dead as well; if you know no one playing in the band or don't hear the band mentioned when an informal poll on who is playing in what band comes up take that as an omen.

In conclusion, remember the longer bands take to sell out the more panic sets in for the band and section leaders; not a good sign. The longer section stay open without any indication of a favorable response by masqueraders, the more concerned you should be about if the band can and will be able to produce at the very last minute and what kind of product they will be able to offer doing rush jobs. Right now there are bands with ZERO masqueraders registered in any section and I have been reliably informed that some section leaders are even contemplating cutting their losses and getting out now. As a masquerader be careful how you wager with your hard earned money!

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