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Artistes Earn Big, Spend Big

Sadeke Brooks, taff Reporter

Money-throwing United States-based artiste Flippa Mafia described himself as the ‘Flossing King’ with expensive cars, jewellery, houses and clothes. While he may be a little extreme, other artistes, too, lead a flashy lifestyle. But what of savings, investments and their retirement?

Millions of dollars are earned in the entertainment industry yearly. While the actual figures might not be readily available and revenues are hard to track due to the mostly informal nature of the industry, it is quite obvious that entertainment is one of the big earners for Jamaica.

Among the earners is the usually colourful Elephant Man. Although he claims to invest in real estate, the artiste admits, “Yes, I am a flosser, but I floss with caution. If I have $20,000, mi floss wid $10,000 and put the other $10,000 in the bank.”

While he believes it is imperative for everyone to do less “flossing” due to the current economic landscape, Elephant Man says sometimes the liquor bill for him and his crew can reach as much as $30,000, sometimes more. In the same breath, Elephant Man says this is not necessarily a case of him squandering his money.

“It’s not really flossing, it’s going out. You work hard so you need to give your ears a breeze fi see what’s happening in the streets, stay inna di vibes a dancehall,” said the artiste whose Mercedes-Benz was seized by the Inland Revenue Department for unpaid taxes in 2010, and who was also in legal ramblings with the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) last year for abstracting electricity.

An entourage member, who wished to remain anonymous, was very vocal as he spoke about the spending habit of some entertainers. While it is not necessarily the norm among all artistes, he says on a daily basis some of them spend between $30,000 and $60,000 after they have made their rounds at the two or three weekly events each night. Making up the bill are top-shelf liquors like Hennesssy and Nuvo, as well as numerous bottles of Guinness, cranberry juice and water.

But portfolio adviser at Proven Wealth Investments, Stephanie Harris, says persons in the entertainment industry need to save for a “rainy day”. In order to advise a potential client, Harris says she would need to find out what the individual’s interests are so that she could put together a portfolio with their short-term, medium-term and long-term goals.

“Persons in the entertainment industry have to put in place a plan because their income stream is inconsistent. Usually they don’t have a pension plan so that is something that they should look to put in place,” she told The Sunday Gleaner.

In addition, she noted that most artistes don’t stay on top of the game for very long, so they also need to have a business plan. Some of the popular ventures for persons in this field are clothing lines, energy drinks, acting and restaurants.

“These can give them an income even when the entertainment dries up. Elizabeth Taylor, for instance, even after her death, her perfumes are still top sellers,” she said.

For the very long-term, Harris says it would be best to invest in things like stocks that appreciate over time.

Rebel invests

Although tight-lipped about some of his more personal ventures, reggae artiste Tony Rebel says he invests in his stage show Rebel Salute that was first held in 1994, his children and their education and his company, Flames Production.

“I think it is overly important to save. You have to save your reputation, you have to save your dignity and morals and save the money that you work because artistes will not be in demand all the days of his or her life. Save so that you can survive in tamarind season,” he told The Sunday Gleaner.

As it relates to his retirement, the 50-year-old says he has put a lot of thought into it.

“When it comes to artistes that have made good songs, that’s a wonderful retirement plan: royalties. Once your song plays, you will get paid from that,” Tony Rebel said.

A much younger dancehall artiste, Spice, says she has investments in the form of her clothing store, Spicey Couture, as well as Spicey Salon.

“My belief is that it is not what you make, it is what you save. You need to allow your money to make money for you. That is why I believe in investments, so that I can have continued income. As an artiste, today you are hot, tomorrow you are not. So when you do make that money, you have to know how to spend it wisely,” Spice said, noting that she wants Spicey Couture to become a franchise within the next 10 years.

Wiser than some, Spice says it is unfortunate that some entertainers squander their money.

“That is very foolish. Those who squander and floss, they are not thinking about the future. When you become a legend, you have nothing to look back at, you are just a name. They need to remember that they are going to get old,” she said.

See Part 2 of 3 in the ‘Dollars & Sense’ series, as we look at some artistes of yesteryear and how the financial choices they made then have impacted their lives today.

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