Summerfest Productions Limited, the company behind the world famous Reggae Sumfest, was created with the mission of filling the void left in Montego Bay by the Reggae Sunsplash Concert when it ended in 1993.
Formed by members of the business and entertainment community Summerfest Productions originally consisted of Hartley Morris, John Gourzong, Robert Russell, Walter Elmore, Sydney Reid, Godfrey Dyer, the late Lucille Lue, Dennis Morgan, David Lindo, Walt Crooks, Josef Forstmayer, Heinz Simonitsch, Nathan Robb, Barry Jenoure as well as other members of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA).
Since its initial presentation August 11 -14, 1993, Reggae Sumfest has had success with all of its 16 stagings, and has had the honour of showcasing some of the world hottest talent. Now regarded as “The Greatest Reggae Show On Earth” the festival draws thousands to Jamaica each year to sample its rich unrivaled atmosphere, and indulge in all the music and culture they love.
The success of Reggae Sumfest over the years has been no accident. Behind the scenes, Johnny Gourzong, of Summerfest Productions, along with his team members, starts the planning process from six to nine months prior to each show. Production of the event is no light task. In addition to the setting up of the stage and venue, the booking of artistes and sourcing of sponsorship, the show requires extreme effort to promote the event overseas as well as organize travel packages for visitors which include air fare, hotel accommodation and tickets to the show at a discounted cost. This year, hotels as far away as Negril, are being utilised, as the overseas marketing thrust has resulted in increased tourist numbers annually.
One of the challenges faced by the festival is that over the years, declining worldwide record sales has made it more difficult to contract popular artistes. With the advance of music piracy and other factors contributing to instability in the industry, it has become harder to negotiate international contracts and performance fees.
Nevertheless, the team never fails to pull off a stunning line up and please its fans. Recently, promotions of the event have taken a high-tech turn with the establishment of a website www.reggaesumfest.com. The site highlights news, ticket information, line-ups, sponsors as well as hotel and transportation details, and more. Another change this year is the inclusion of social networking entities as a strong tool to promote the festival. Facebook, MySpace, and Youtube, among others sites, have been utilized, allowing the team to reach new audiences, past previous barriers of distance and language, allowing them share their thoughts and plans for the festival.
Rounding off the high tech push this year will be the live internet streaming of the event to countries outside of Jamaica. The technical and legal aspects of such a feat are currently being organized. The immense investment in this type of marketing is proof of the Summerfest teams’ commitment to innovative and fresh thinking.
This same formula of utilizing new approaches has led to Summerfest Productions being recognized two years in a row at New York‘s International Reggae and World Music Awards (IRAWMA). They were awarded ‘Promoter of the Year’ both years, as well as copping the title of ‘Concert of the Year’, last year.
Summerfest Productions will take over Montego Bay from July 19-25 2009 for the 17th staging of The Greatest Reggae Show on Earth. Reggae Sumfest will feature performances from Dancehall’s finest on Thursday; Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Vybz Kartel, Mavado, Elephant Man, Lady Saw, Busy Signal, Spice, Kip Rich, D’Angel, Prodigal Son, Black Ryno, Jah Vinci, Charly Black, Flippa Mafia and I-Octane.
‘Conscious’ Reggae takes over on Friday with performances from Morgan Heritage, Jah Cure, Coco T, Queen Ifrica, Da’ville, Dub Tonic Kru, Ne-Yo and Jazmine Sullivan. This will be followed by a once in a lifetime international fusion on Saturday with Toni Braxton, ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley along with Nas, Inner Circle, Tarrus Riley, Etana and Rhaatid.