Say what you like about economics and economists–and I’m sure you will–it and they have a way of approaching problems. Much of the analysis done in economics is based on direct data, mainly numbers. Such as the number of eggs laid by a coop full of chickens. We may tell you the total output (eggs laid), the average output (eggs laid per hen), the average cost (eggs per hen per dollar spent), and so on. So, we can tell you how business is going on. But, economists have ways of estimating things indirectly and getting an idea to how things are doing. So, our egg counter gets sick and the farmer hasn’t time to count himself. So, he decides to look at how much feed he’s buying, because he knows how much chickens eat on average, so more feed equals more eggs. Not perfect, but maybe good enough, depending on purpose. 

It’s not so simple in other fields and in other places. 

I had an exchange yesterday about whether interest in an upcoming event was less than in other years. I’ve no idea. But, I happen to know people who are heading to the event and as enthusiastic as they ever are. That’s direct evidence that may not be clear to all. The promoters know, too, how advance sales are going. But, Jamaica’s odd: people often leave buying tickets to the last minute, even when good discounts are available for early buyers. Those I know who arrange events often pull their hair out gauging demand for events because of this tendency. Planning in Jamaica can be a nightmare.

 Now, mainline media and social media commentary give us other indications of interest, but these are tainted. Motivation to comment may be driven by many things. Promoters can buy press or TV comments. Social media may get excited about acts scheduled, venue, little back stories (eg will Macka Diamond and Lady Saw kiss and make up?), and a host of things that can randomly affect people’s reactions.

Underlying conditions matter, too, especially how people’s finances stand. Right now, trying to gauge the economy is risky business. Confidence indicators may be at higher levels. Credit card purchases may be showing record levels. A recent Don Anderson poll shows mixed messages about concerns and confidence. The country records its first current account surplus in over a decade. But,  growth numbers remain anaemic and some are calling for a ‘growth czar’, whatever that is. 

Preferences also change and economists have a tough time when old relationships don’t hold anymore. Other things come to compete for attention. New participants have different interests to those whose interest is waning. In the case of northwest coast events, people may be reacting to the sharp upsurge of violence. Hard to know.

But on the specifics, the bottom line will be how the event goes. That may be better than expected or worse. Are people going to be affected by reports they read or hear? Or is interest grounded in other things? Clashes with birthdays? I know one friend who cancelled his trip for that reason.

Going to Sumfest isn’t on my agenda, but I will be in the vicinity. I’ll listen to the chatter and also see whose money is going into the tills. Until then, I’ll watch from afar. Whose fans talk more? Jennifer Hudson’s? Lady Saw’s? Konshens? Whose pockets are deeper? Either way, talk is cheap but money buys land.