Freedom of Information request for the Machel Montano/Going For Gold contract, Part I

going for gold (2)
Going For Gold: Machel Montano shakes the hand of Minister of Planning, Sen. Bhoe Tewarie in the presence of PS Arlene McComie. Photo courtesy http://www.tnt50.gov.tt/

After almost one year of correspondence on my Freedom of Information request for the formal contract between the Ministry of Planning and Sustainable Development and Machel Montano for the creation, marketing and distribution of the Going For Gold CD/DVD package, I received, by hand, from the Ministry a copy of the contract together with a supplemental agreement, as requested. My pursuit of this contract valued at TT$5 million and dated 18 July 2012, was to ascertain the details of this project that was to yield a Trinidad and Tobago Music Investment Fund to catalyse the music industry in line with government’s policy to diversify the economy into a knowledge-based one including the creative industries.

Machel Montano noted at the launch of the first single in July 2012 that the project, his initiative, was a template for the Government to work with other artistes. The criteria for government doling out the people’s money was unclear, and I might add seemingly unfair, noting that another artist, Denyse Plummer received funding for her Christmas CD. I have been told by a number of music artistes that there seems to be no clearly defined criteria for accessing funding for CD projects from any ministry. There are rumours, innuendos, hints and allegations that emerging artists would not be recipients to money in the same manner as two of the most noted and revered artists in the calypso/soca arena. This appears uncompetitive. The lack of transparency in the dealings and accountability of this project doesn’t give comfort either.

I will be posting the full contract and supplemental agreement online as well as a more detailed analysis shortly. In the mean time, I am posting the appendices to the original agreement (below) that outlines the Going For Gold project, and defines the terms of reference and scope of services. The original contract was signed by the Permanent Secretary, Arlene McComie representing the Ministry and Machel Montano representing Going For Gold Limited (the company) of which he and his mother are directors.

Appendix A – GOING FOR GOLD: The Golden People Project PDF_button

Appendix B – Terms of Reference: The “Going for Gold” Project PDF_button

After a cursory look at the documents, I note a few things:

  • The album was not delivered  on time. The agreed delivery date of the album was “on or before August 31st 2012.” This was the first obligation of the company in the contract.  The album was linked to the 50th Anniversary of Independence on August 31, 2012. We know the album was launched in Trinidad and Tobago on November 22, 2012 via a concert at Central Bank Auditorium. Despite an agreed timeline for delivery of the album, we know the Minister is reported to have said at a September 12, 2012 press conference,We can launch the album in September but we want to wait until the Republic Day period passes so we will launch between October and November. We will also release tracks from the album between now and Carnival.”  That is a red flag that there were problems. There is a fundamental breakdown in the contract, and all else is supplemental.
  • The TT$5 million was for more than the creation of the Album. The budgeted expenses were for:
    1. album production and mobilization – $2,500,000,00TT,
    2. live performances fees at three definite events and potentially more, event production, travel, accommodation, ground transport, per diem –$1,500,000.00TT,
    3. merchandise design, production and distribution – $500,000.00TT and,
    4. marketing and promotions including song videos – $500,000.00TT.
  • A supplemental agreement was made on September 17, 2013. The calculation of revenue streams to fund the Trinidad and Tobago Music Investment Fund (the Fund) was adjusted to allow for a greater take by government; from 50% up to 80% “share in gross receipts received by the company for the commercial exploitation of Album.” Seemingly in the time period since the album launch, sales have been low. Desperate times call for desperate measures. The minister’s assertion back in December 2012 that, “if we sell 20,000 copies of the package, we are going to make back the $5 million that we have put into it” seems moot at this point. The confidence displayed at that time with quotes such as, “it is money very well-invested,” has been muted. goingforgold_albumNary a peep from the Minister on this subject of the quanta of the Fund. Of note is the insertion of a clause specifying that the company, Going For Gold Limited “undertakes to use its best efforts to sell the albums and merchandise manufactured under this contract.” [My emphasis.] That said, the album does not seem to attract any mention, far less “commercial exploitation” on any major digital sales platform including Montano’s own M Store. The CD/DVD package is not on sale online, just three singles in digital format. Google “Going For Gold CD” and see what you get!

It can’t be easy for the Ministry of Planning and Sustainable Development to see its “winning horse” and the TT$5 million investment product, Going for Gold fail to deliver on sales and uptake by the foreign-based music industry, all the while that Bunji Garlin  is winning a Soul Train Award, getting a song placement on a US primetime television hit show, and being the toast of the summer dance festivals with remixes of his 2013 hit, “Differentology.”

The music industry is for deep-pocketed visionaries who understand the vagaries of people’s choices that have proven time and time again to not appear to be always logical. I previously wrote on “How not to build a music industry in Trinidad and Tobago.” This contract and the outcome should be an object lesson for future investment endeavours in the creative industries whether by the Planning ministry or the Trade and Investment ministry-created CreativeTT: “One genre and one man don’t make an industry.”

Read Part II of this series with additional detail, information and analysis.

© 2014, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

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