Jamaican born, New York based concert promoter George Crooks’ lifelong mantra is to make people happy. His success as an event promoter is not by chance, but the result of handwork, planning, foresight and executing on a well thought out marketing strategy.
“Success comes from proper planning and effective execution” he shared. “If I have been lucky in the process, I am extremely thankful.”
After an honorable discharge from the US Army in 1980, Crooks earned a Bachelors degree in Marketing from the University of North Florida in 1984. Today he is the founder and CEO of Jammins Events, an arts and cultural promotions event management company, which has evolved into a premier enterprise in the NY tri-state area. He has produced and organized some of the biggest events in the US and Jamaica including the first dancehall and reggae concerts held inside Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center and Kings Theatre.
In March, when dancehall superstar Buju Banton delivered his highly anticipated performance at the Long Walk To Freedom concert at the National Stadium in Kingston, Crooks was tapped to produce and execute the ‘Official After Party’ that was held at the Liguanea Club in Kingston. His production company has also produced the annual New York Reggae Festival, the Brooklyn Music Festival, the Soul and Reggae Legends Series at the landmark Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Singers in Action concert series, The Reggae Jazz Festival, the St Mary Reggae Music Festival in Jamaica, several Jamaican and American stage plays, amateur boxing matches and other music festivals throughout the Caribbean and the USA which have brought increased economic activities and generated publicity locally and internationally. In August, Crooks and his team from Jammins Production will present the ‘Singers In Action’ concert series with lovers’ rock King Beres Hammond on Sunday, August 4th at the Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk, Brooklyn, NY, then a week later on Saturday, August 10, he performs at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark, NJ. Joining Beres at both events will be Maxi Priest and rising star Romain Virgo,
“It’s a very different experience given the obvious differences between the two places. For me, what was most impactful and educational was the exposure to different cultures that are not in Jamaica,” he said.
He got further exposure when he enlisted in the U.S. Army Forces (Army and Navy). He shared that it gave him discipline and that ‘never say die’ attitude that he needed for the path of a successful event promoter. Speaking about business, Crooks said he learnt a lot from his life experience.
“Business to me is a lifelong learning experience. As you may already know, entertainment continues to be one of fastest growing business globally. It had an estimated value of approximately US$800 billion dollars in 2018 in the USA alone,” he shared adding that there is always a growing demand for entertainment products.
His advice to those seeking to make a foray into the entertainment business arena is to study hard, know what your patrons like an execute well. With over 30 years in the industry, Crooks can now allow himself the luxury of taking an introspective look on the industry. For him it is one that is still thriving although he admits the risks are even greater now when one takes into consideration that there is limited availability of top tier reggae artists who can legally perform in the U.S. Today, many more promoters are seeking to sign the few available /eligible Jamaican artists, which is causing a hike in performance fees, way above their market value. Another significant factor which has impacted the industry he said is the widespread use and access that patrons now have to social media.
“They can now participate and enjoy an entertainment event via the internet for free or at little or no cost” he shared.
Besides being a successful businessman, Crooks is a philanthropist whose footprints can be found in his advocacy that the arts and entertainment can be used to positively influence the youths of today. His strong views about the importance of education is well known as his organization consistently provides financial aid to students in need. His passion has inspired the New York Cultural All-Star Music Academy which he launched a few years ago. This non-profit entity exposes kids K-12 to the music and entertainment industry. He has donate part proceeds for events he has hosted to the American Foundation for the University of The West Indies (AFUWI), a charitable organization in the United States whose mission it is to raise funds to aid University of the West Indies (UWI) students. In 2015 he executed two Valentine’s weekend concerts with headliners Shaggy, Maxi Priest and Sanchez at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark and the Brooklyn Academy of Music in Brooklyn, NY.
“Partnering with AFUWI Scholarship Fund gives us the platform to assist students financially in pursuing their dreams,” Crooks told the Gleaner in an interview back then. Part proceeds were also contributed to the Provident Clinical Society of Brooklyn that advocates for, represents, and promotes the collective interest of under-represented minority students who live, work, or have interest in Brooklyn, as well as the community they serve.
“Our aim is to support students here in Brooklyn which is our home and business base, but not forget the Caribbean, where we are from originally,” he said.
Despite his busy schedule Mr. Crooks volunteers on the board of several community organizations including Community Board 17. He is also a founding member and president of Brooklyn’s Urban Night Life Association.
His love for Jamaica’s music and culture, his passion for what he does is what keeps him motivated to remain steadfast in the entertainment industry all the years, even when some of the losses have been great and when some situations have been extremely challenging. As we wrapped up the interview, I couldn’t resist asking if he has or would ever considered a career change?
“Not a chance. It is not likely that I will try something totally different at this stage. I still have a love for what I do, plus I feel that there is more to be learnt and more to be done.”