Jamaica’s longest running summer music festival has been acquired by a new owner who wants to slash Reggae Sumfest from its heyday high of seven days to a mere two-night showcase of entertainment talents.
The new streamlined aspect to the 25-year-old Montego Bay event was announced soon after DownSound Records (DSR) chief executive officer Josef Bogdanovich acquired the rights to the annual summer attraction which replaced the internationally acclaimed Reggae Sunsplash.
“In order to make this industry thrive, it’s critical that the home of reggae music gets its house in order.”
“Many people do not have the disposable income to spend on three nights. You have to remember that the economy in Jamaica is tough, but tourists come because of the culture and the warmth of the people and the beauty of the island. We are scaling down to two nights with top acts and three nights of parties on the week of the show,” Bogdanovich said.
Bogdanovich — an American investor in Jamaican enterprises — bought the brand from Summerfest productions, a second city conglomerate chaired by Robert Russell and comprised of principals Johnny Gourzong and Tina Davis.
“Let me make something absolutely clear. This is not a me thing,” he explained. “I am working with the founders of the festival, Johnny Gourzong, Robert Russell and the entire MoBay team, along with my team at DownSound Records, in hosting the greatest reggae show on earth to the public like never before.”
Acclaimed on the island for attracting diverse crowds yearning to see and hear pop and rhythm & blues artists from America as well as vintage Jamaican names and the hottest new reggae and hip-hop talents, the scaled down presentation will be geared to a young audience.
“There will be a restructuring of show nights as well that will compact the live entertainment to two nights and with current international act(s) that is on the cutting edge and what youth want to see.”
According to Russell, the sale was based on upgrading the brand and Bogdanovich expressed tangible ideas of renewing and revitalizing the annual music event.
“Over the years his commitment to the music and to make things happen for the industry, financially is like no other in today’s market,” Russell added.
A stake-holder in Sting, the island’s Boxing Day, marathon one-night reggae concert, Bogdanovich is also the second biggest shareholder in a Kingston sports bar known as Usain Bolt’s Tracks & Records Club.
Soon after making the purchase, Bogdanovic announced other major changes he said would take effect this July and during the next two years.
“The business model in the next two years will reflect more what is currently working in the international festival market,” Bogdanovich said.
“The aim of Reggae Sumfest is to expand its horizons to the international market. To have foreign acts that at times can be hype is one thing, but to have international sponsors is a much different thing. The difference is to have a chance at being profitable. When you bring a festival the size of Reggae Sumfest to Jamaica, you need to have the respect of the international power brokers and sponsors to finance such a mission.”
He declined releasing information about the purchase price of his latest acquisition but added that his proposals included improving the festival by capitalizing on a long touted promise from the previous owners.
“The theme of unity through music is a key factor for success in the festival business” and he said he plans to implement that factor in deciding the way forward.
He added that “artists must understand and work together as well as the sponsors and government agencies and accept the fact that reggae / dancehall is a natural resource of the country and that it is the responsibility of the country for it to be developed and protected as other forward thinking countries have done.”
The newest producer said he will also launch a ‘game-changer’ by streaming the shows in interactive 360 Virtual Reality (VR).