Denise Jones Powers Canada with Jamaican Music and Show-Stopping Entertainment
Jamaica’s JAMBANA Festival, Caribbean Swing and Jamaican Rhythms are a few of the events Denise Jones and her team at Jones & Jones Productions have helped produce. Jones co-founded the Canada-based company in 1987. Over the years Jones & Jones Productions has become one of Canada’s premier music promotions, marketing and management companies, booking more than 150 performing artists annually and receiving a number of accolades for its work. Realizing the rewards of working with a diverse range of clients, Jones & Jones Productions helps to organize and book entertainers for nonprofit, corporate, religious and academic organizations.
MN: Describe the landscape for Canada’s event planning and marketing industry.
Denise Jones: The Canadian marketplace is embracing the event management industry on a number of levels. Coalitions among organizations such as Music Producers Institute (MPI), International Special Events Society of Canada (ISES) and the Canadian Society of Professional Event Planners (Can SPEP) are strengthening the recognition of the industry. (I have served as vice president of education and marketing at Can SPEP.)
However, competition in the industry is fierce. Jones & Jones continues to carve out our niche in the industry, offering a variety of services under one roof. We produce all the elements of events including venue and menu sourcing, program development, sponsorships and marketing and promotion. Our booking agency, Rhythm Canada, books every type of music from Bob Marley-type sounds to Mozart and everything in between.
MN: How did you first finance your business?
DJ: The company’s co-founder, Allan Jones, and I migrated to Canada from Jamaica in 1980. We used personal resources to start Jones & Jones Productions. We approached family to invest in the business, but were unsuccessful. I used [a] month’s mortgage for the float and cash flow to pay for the production of the first event we produced in December 1985. I would like to think that I wouldn’t take that startup risk in today’s economy. However, I am still driven by the love and passion for this industry and am always guided by God’s grace.
MN: What goes into producing a concert, from start to finish?
DJ: We have produced over 500 concerts to date. Our June 28th concert featured artists such as Beenie Man, Maxi Priest and Marcia Griffiths. The July 2 concert, [Scotiabank’s] CHIN Picnic featured Exco, Friendlyness and Human Rights, and Jakki James. Our August 5th concert spotlighted Myrna Hague, Karen Smith, Ernie Smith, AJ Brown and the University Singers. And finally the August 6 event we pulled together was JAMBANA. This event was selected as the Official Celebratory Event in Canada for the Government of Jamaica. The Jamaica 50 committee, a member organization of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, selected our August 6 event as an official event to help celebrate Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence.
Jones & Jones designs concerts based on the nature of an event. Jamaican Rhythms, for example, celebrated 50 years of Jamaican music, so we carefully selected one artist that represents each decade of Jamaican music and arranged the show chronologically integrating dance and talk to document the development. We marketed the event to Jamaicans and friends of Jamaica and reggae music. The experience begins as our supporters enter the line to get into the venue. To us, the artists and audience members are our friends and family. We treat them well, setting the stage and atmosphere for a fantastic show.
MN: What is the landscape like for Jamaican artists in Canada?
DJ: Good and growing. We have had the JUNO Awards [a Grammy equivalent] since 1993 and several reggae award shows. Thanks to the help of radio exposure, artists are able to work from Toronto to Vancouver and back – a difficult run, but possible. We now have a black-owned radio station in the Greater Toronto area and that has been good for the industry.
MN: Is there a large audience for Caribbean music in Canada?
DJ: It varies. We produced Jamaican Rhythms at the Sony Centre; 2,800 people attended. JAMBANA was held at Downsview Park. That event pulled in 25,000 concert goers.