The barber behind Saint Lucia’s best known box-office venue explains just how the ticketing business can boost – and even clip – clipping.
STEVE’S Barber shop, run by Steven Augustin, has been in operation for over 35 years. (Can you imagine?)
Indeed, quite a few men — and some women — in the Castries area have had some dealings or other with this particular business place, at some stage or another.
Fact is, this establishment is known not only for cutting and styling men and boys’ hair (and women too), but also as a sorta local Box Office where tickets can be bought for (almost) any event taking place on the island.
Hence why: whether it’s to have a haircut, pick someone up, or collect a ticket or two to attend a concert or show of whatever type and wherever, the ‘show crowd’ in Castries (and its environs) naturally end-up drifting to Steve’s Barber Shop, now situated on Peynier Street.
So, how did a popular barber become a Box Office ticket-master?
According to the clipping ticket master, “As a keen musician and leader and drummer of the band NX, I first started buying tickets for myself and other band members, staff members and a few close friends, so they could go to enjoy themselves and support fellow artistes.”
But despite purchasing a larger-than-normal number of tickets, there was no agreed percentage discount on the sale. Hence Steve went into the business himself – and with a cut (no pun intended).
How does it work out and what are the advantages?
The barbering box office agent will tell you there are the normal expected advantages, but in effect, “The transaction is conducted mainly on a trust basis, which can have its disadvantages.”
Case in point: “When shows I have sold tickets for are cancelled, people naturally but unfortunately expect me (from whom they purchased the tickets ) to refund the money.
“In some cases, I’ve had to settle – to avoid unnecessary stress or distress — leaving me ‘out of pocket’ in a few, thankfully a minority.”
Steve’s honest enough to admit that as the need for tickets increased, he saw it as another way to help promote the (original) barbering aspect of his business.
As the entertainment scene expanded and the number of shows skyrocketed over the years, the demand for tickets grew to the extent that over 15 years later, Steve can easily be called St. Lucia’s best-known ticket-master.
However, he notes that there has been “a markable change in the number of tickets sold today and how they are sold.”
According to the popular local clipper, “There has been a change in the way most shows are promoted and held.”
“This might help in cutting-down on the number of no-shows,” he explains, “but shows can be cancelled for a number of reasons which can include not having a work permit, or police permission where those things are needed.
“And still in other cases, there are times when performers are let-down by sponsors who pull-out at the last minute, for whatever reason.”
Regarding the times when ticket-holders have been disappointed because a show had been cancelled – some at the very last minute – Steve says, “This is not only a local issue.”
He explains, “The thing is, in some cases people come to the island from overseas, hoping to put on a show by linking-up with any promoter on the island. But that is not good enough.”
Steve laments the fact that although — in the main – “there are good promoters, there are also the few who take the money and leave without putting on a show.”
He recalls a recent incident where he sold tickets – “and even now, people are still calling me to find out what is happening about their refund.”
Steve’s quick to add that most of the no-shows involve “foreign promoters”, unlike their St. Lucian counterparts, who, according to the ticket master, “have a much higher success-rate.”
Mr Austin (Remember: That’s his real name!) however has some ideas too on how to make things better for all.
He feels that “One way to cut-down on the number of no-shows is for there to be some form of regulation in place.”
As he sees it, “It may be that the promoters have to register with some local authority and put down a deposit, so that if things fail, at least there is some form of redress for ticket-holders.”
One of the worst cases Steve recalled was that of “a well-known Jamaican reggae artist who refused to get on stage to perform to a waiting crowd, unless he got paid.”
As far as Mr Ticket Master is concerned, “Anyone wanting to put on a show here should register their company with, say the CDF (Cultural Development Foundation), pay-down a deposit — or something to that effect — and they should also be screened, to see if they are financially able to host a show.
“That would put them in the situation to be accountable, if something goes wrong.”
He continued, “In some cases, these are the people who leave with the ticket money and leave the ticket-holders with no show to go to’
“It can be the promoters to be blamed in most cases, as they like waiting for ticket sales returns to pay the artistes and other expenses.”
Steve is quick to add, however, that “This not in all cases, as there are a few times when artistes postpone shows and do perform at a later date.”
Despite that, though, the barbering businessman is still willing to put his reputation on the line — as is the case right now, with his establishment being one of the ticketing venues for the upcoming show in Fond Saint Jacques, with ‘Midnight Groovers’ from Dominica.
Just like his first haircut, Steve can well remember his biggest ticket sale – “Back in the 1980s, when I sold tickets for BujuBantan and Beenie Man.”
In fact, Steve’s memories of his earliest days as a ticket master go as far back as “The first performance of Third World here.”
And when did he sell his first box office ticket?
The greying clipper admits he “can’t quite remember the exact year.”
But Steve will quickly assure you that “All these early shows were held at the Mindoo Phillip Grounds in Marchand” in Castries before Pigeon Island, Samaans Park and the Darren Sammy Cricket Ground.
And, as if to demonstrate just how brisk the ticketing business is, just as I ended this story an unsolicited text popped-up on my screen:
‘Kassav Performs Live! JounenKweyol. Saturday 27th Oct. $100 General & $200 Premium. Ticket locations: The Cell, KeeBee’s and – (yopu guessed right!) Steve Barber Shop.’
See what I mean?