Every sound system performing at Carnival is a member of the British Association of Sound Systems.
BASS is responsible for assisting with management of all of the Carnival sound systems to ensure the professional and safe delivery of these performing units at the Notting Hill Carnival events.
This no doubt involves a lot of extremely hard work and dedication from members, along with others who are passionate about the sound system discipline. These are people who volunteer their precious time to assist with the organisational, the technical, the legal, along with the logistical elements of operating static sound systems at the Carnival event.
The BASS members sound systems do not receive any substantial funding from the Carnival organisation (NHC), or indeed from any of the partners. In 2022, NHC arranged for most of the sound systems be offered a 1K stewarding grant. Our sound systems were also awarded a £500 fee from Spotify to publish their carnival playlists. Contrary to the popular belief that sound systems at Carnival receive financial benefits or at least a fee for performing, this truly is not the case. In order to perform at Carnival, the fact is that each and every performing unit has to fend for itself. Arguably, there are some sound systems that do work very hard on their own, in order to secure funding via the sponsorship route. However, the percentage of successes where measured across the total group of 38 is nominal.
Over the years there have been several instances of where a particular sound system has had to withdraw from the street festival due to being unable to raise the considerable amount of money, together with resources required. Both the smaller and largest of the sound systems have either come under pressure, or indeed have had to succumb to the financial challenges. In 2023 Rapattack, Gaz's Rockin Blues and Pineapple Tribe sound systems were amongst our traditional performance units that were forced to appeal to their revellers with GoFundMe and JustGiving campaigns to help with the huge costs required in able for them to perform.
To give you an example of what it takes for a sound system to get to Carnival here's a breakdown of some required elements as explained by Rapattack sound system in their 2023 'GoFundMe' campaign.
"Our estimated combined expenditure is around £14K. We have managed to raise over £3K so far, but still have the rest to find and cannot do it alone. Most people are amazingly unaware of the enormous costs and demands. Health & Public Safety necessitates consideration for Security and Stewards, staging, props and infrastructure- including crowd barriers, transportation, storage, maintenance and hire fees, generators, service equipment, licensing fees and insurance (to name a few)".
Please note that this list is not exhaustive.
Similarly, Gaz's Rockin' Blues appealed:
"It will cost us more than £20,000 to get our production up and running at full capacity. We will be grateful for any help we receive, even if we manage to raise £12,000 our team will pitch in and still create something memorable, albeit at a reduced scale. So any contribution would be more than welcome".
Linett Kamala (aka Thunderbird) from Disya Jeneration sound system says:
"It’s about giving back. Some people just rock up and say, “Where’s the party at?” Well first of all, it’s not a party. Yes, it’s a celebration, but for us it’s about our culture and our life, we work hard for this. No one stops to think how this all gets here. This is the challenge of funding our time".