Just The Facts: The Difference Between Large & Medium Steelband Categories - That ‘Share’ Button

Venture Capitalists + Steelband Categories - NOT!

by WST

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Global - Just the facts - the difference between Large and Medium National Panorama Finals where it is key: in the minds and hearts of the People, the all-round supporters of the art form. And what does it mean for the future of Panorama?


It has been just over four days since WST (When Steel Talks) put up the results for the Large and Medium steel orchestras and there is a sizeable difference in the most visible of stats - ‘Shares.’ 2.3k for the Large steel orchestra results and 645 shares for the Medium band category. That’s a sizeable difference - the volume for the interest in medium competitors shares is a mere 28 percent of those for the bands which were in the large category. Regardless of how one chooses to look at it, those are very stark and powerful stats indeed.

Exodus Steel Orchestra

Medium and Large band Panorama competitions took place on the same evening, immediately following each other - in the same arena on the same stage, with no break in the competition, just bands setting up one after the other. Both competitions were ultimately won by the same arranger.

Therefore - the sustainability, profitability and cultural significance of the Medium category comes into question. What causes the huge difference in interest? Size (big sound of large band)? Use of old tunes? Lack of the star power of the ‘legacy’ big bands - i.e. the “Big 5” Renegades, Trinidad All Stars, Desperadoes, Phase II, Exodus? And others who are as big, and also have a sterling musical presence?

Exodus Steel Orchestra

A “share” is like advertising something on your front lawn, if you choose, depending on your privacy setting on your social media platforms. Moreover, a “share” is almost always an emotional response, something that strikes a chord within. In this case, Facebook alone currently accounts for two thousand.

The “like” button has become almost an innocuous reflex - but the “share button” brings a level of energy, passion, and engagement. It means you want to bring attention to something and more importantly you want others to see it. They are emotionally invested? And in this regard the large band steelband category is ‘it.’ The medium band category - NOT.

So who cares, you might ask -- government policy makers, investment capitalists, financiers, program directors, banks, fortune tellers... Let’s take one - going where the ‘money’ is - as far as a ‘backer’ or prospective business associate...

In the eyes, and from the perspective, of a venture capitalist, the annual National Panorama in Trinidad & Tobago could be considered a no-brainer - put money into it, or....

For those who immediately begin to yelp it’s not about ‘the money’ and it’s about the ‘culture’ and national instrument - here’s a blunt, yet poignant reminder. Pan players, from those who stand on boxes to reach their pans, to those who have been playing in the national festival for generations - it hit just as hard. The declaration that after being promised their stipend, as had been the case for the last several years - and AFTER putting in their time for the 2018 Panorama season - they would NOT be paid. Just deal with it. Tough. They can’t take the phrase - it’s our ‘Culture’ and pay the taxi or bus fare to reach the pan yard to play the national instrument, etc., for weeks on end - night after night.  There’s no ‘national bus pass’ for pan players. That’s a fact. And there are other attendant expenses beyond travel.

So let’s start again.

From a point of financial logic of a venture capitalist - why is there still expenditure in “categories” in Panorama - when even the steelband community itself isn’t there for the categorization... via viewership, in-person attendance—(in past years, some attendees customarily give the Medium category a “miss” on finals night, but ensure they arrive by the time the Large steel orchestras hit the stage, even though their ticket gets them in for both competition segments)—and “Sharing” the data with chums?

So -let’s continue the reality check right now. It’s now just over four days - March 7. And the stats on the Final night results in two respective articles -with the most important facts that everyone cares about - the data, the SCORES. The large category - 2,300 Shares; the medium category - 645 Shares. And obviously not everyone is on social media to express with a ‘click,’ of ‘share’ in some fashion. However - these figures are illustrative of the ‘real-feel’ temperature on the ground - and of the pan world in general, if you will.

And the Small category has not even been brought to the table here; suffice to say, the numbers are even more dismal; that competition took place two days earlier on February 28. Need one be reminded again, also, that the same arranger won all three categories? If there is such love and support for the steelband art form in Trinidad and Tobago, why does it not extend across all “categories?”

And there was no such thing as a “category” in 2003 and prior.  The small, medium and large category phenomenon was apparently the brainchild of former Pan Trinbago president Patrick Arnold and came into being for the 2004 Panorama season.

Regarding the steel orchestra - ‘Size’ matters?  And what about who is featured in the ‘Prime time’ viewing slot? Is it the “draw” - meaning - those who eventually get those coveted “Shares”?

Now - asked another way: which ‘horse’ would that venture capitalist back?

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