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First place winner now takes home $300,000
For the second time in two years, the prize structure for the Play Whe International Soca Monarch (ISM) has been cut due to a reduction in Government sponsorship.
This year’s first prize is $300,000 as compared to $500,000 last year, while the second prize has been reduced from $300,000 to $200,000.
The third place and finalists prizes will remain same at $150,000 and $50,000 each, respectively.
Speaking at the launch of the competition at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Port-of-Spain yesterday afternoon, Caribbean Prestige Foundation for the Performing Arts chairman Peter Scoon explained that the event, now in its 26th year, had to be scaled back after Government cut its sponsorship by one third.
This year Scoon's organisation received a total of $2.6 million—$1 million from the Ministry of Community Development Culture and the Arts and $1.6 million from the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB).
"Right now we would be operating at a loss, but we are cultural animals so we have to continue to put out the show and develop the entertainment industry," Scoon said as he claimed that there was also a drop in corporate sponsorship for the event.
However, he claimed that the quality of the show would remain the same.
"ISM is the Grammys of soca and as a result of that it is very difficult for me to cut the quality of the show. From the time I start to drop the quality of production, it would become just another fete," Scoon said.
Questioned whether the competition could ever be self-sufficient, Scoon said no.
"At the end of day, the Government is saying that it wants to diversify the economy but one of the ways is through arts, culture and sport," he said.
The ISM is the second private competition to be threatened by the drop in sponsorship, with Southex Event Management cancelling its Chutney Soca Monarch competition before Government clarified its position on the cut in funding.
In addition to the cut in prize money, Scoon said that the semifinals of the competition will be smaller than in previous years as it would only have 30 artists and would not feature a live band to accompany them. There will also be a reduced cast in the final with 10 artists and one breakout artist being selected to compete.
The semifinals, which has traditionally been held at the Arima Velodrome, will now take place at the Queen's Park Savannah on January 25.
Stating that the entire competition costs $5 million to produce, with the semi-finals costing over $500,000 to host, Scoon said: "That (semi-finals) was loss leader. It was really about giving exposure to younger artists."
Asked if soca artistes may boycott the competition due to the reduction in prizes, Scoon and his associate Peter C Lewis, both said no.
Lewis said: "As much as it may seem that the prize might be less, to me the prestige of winning the title is what gets you and takes you places. To look at it from that perspective means that you never came into the business to be a musician, you came here to want to win ah money."
The competition is also being sponsored by Guardian Media Limited (GML), which publishes this newspaper.
Speaking at the event, GML representative Joel Morris said: "I am really glad to see the event is happening once again. I think it is important for GML to support cultural activities especially the ISM because it is a important item on the Carnival agenda."
This year's competition will be dedicated to soca artist Devon Matthews, who died in July, last year.
Dates and Venues for ISM Competition
(Today) January 16- Online Registration starts
January 21- Preliminaries- NLCB Booth, Queen's Park Oval
January 22- Announcement of Semi-Finalists
January 23- Draw for Appearance of Semi-Finalists- Hyatt Regency Hotel
January 25- Semi-Finals-Queen's Park Savannah at 6 pm.
January 26- Announcement of Finalists
February 6- Draw for Appearance of Finalists - Hyatt Regency Hotel
February 9-ISM Finals (Fantastic Friday) at 8 pm
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