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Morris Moves Positive Productions Into Mainstream

By: Elena Sinnemaki

Date Posted: 2000-04-29

The persistent hum of barbershop clippers did little to drown out the buzz that began circulating among the four Marines waiting their turn to go underneath the shears.

Their chatter had little to do with which one was getting the next “high and tight”, but rather who among them was going to be the first in line for tickets to an upcoming concert from a super rock group. There were high fives and a lot of trash talking about mosh pits, great rock groups and the “awesome women” these groups attract. As one of the Marines noticed that the barber had finished cutting the hair of what at first appearance could have been a fellow Devil Dog, he stopped talking long enough to yell out, “Hey man, thanks for remembering us!”

The smile on the man’s face conveyed his appreciation for the kind words, but then Broderick Morris, president and executive producer of the entertainment firm Positive Productions, knows the value of deeds over mere words and is back pitching his message to a new batch of service members about to enter the barbershop he is leaving.

It’s been six years since Morris turned the Okinawa concert scene on its ear with the girl group “Total”. With that as his springboard, the promoter has brought in a succession of stars that reads like a “Who’s Who” of the entertainment industry. Try actor/rapper LL Cool J or Motown’s best selling group “Boyz II Men”. Grammy Award winner Monica and double Grammy winner Brian Setzer and his Orchestra also made Okinawa stops courtesy of Positive Productions. The list goes to include one of R&B’s hottest duos, K-Ci & JoJo, female favorite Usher, rappers Noreaga, Red Man, Keith Murray, and more.

“There is a lot to be said about walking in someone else’s shoes,” Morris began as he explained why he expanded his concert promotions from mainland Japan to Okinawa. “I was a Marine stationed here and used to gripe like everybody else concerning the lack of entertainment on the island. I felt that if I ever got into a situation where I could do something about it, I would.”

Morris remarked that he began a two-pronged strategy he felt was tailor made for Okinawa. “There is a big reason you see a lot of concerts being held in Tokyo, Osaka and Yokohama. The risk is not as great for the promoters because they have a built-in audience base of 20 million people. Many of the promoters, and to be honest, a lot of the groups, consider Okinawa out of the way. So I had to take the initial financial risks to show that there was an audience on Okinawa for concerts.”

“Then I began selling concerts to the military bases to help shoulder some of the risks. That was the case with LL Cool J and Boyz II Men and thanks to MCCS we were able to pull it off. We are all very grateful to MCCS for believing in us and giving us the chance to prove ourselves.”

Though he had successes with mostly Hip Hop and R&B groups, Morris said he started adding Latin, Country, and Rock groups to his promotions because his business evolved with the times. “I remember on one visit to Okinawa, I was a guest on ACTV’s JAM TV show. The host Alice Smith and I took several phone calls from viewers and one of them struck home. She said that she supported several of our concerts because she just enjoyed music – all kinds of music. But she wondered why we didn’t bring any rock groups over. There were other questions about Latin groups and Country groups. I told her to be patient and that we would… and you know how I am about keeping my word.”

He kept his word alright! First came The Brian Setzer Orchestra. “That was an important first step for me because Rock and Hip Hop are promoted in different ways. Brian Setzer loved the promotion we did and the reception he received here. That caught the attention of the people who make things happen in the states,” Morris continued. “So when it came time to go after the first tier groups, like Green Day, people knew I meant business for Okinawa.”

Morris said even landing Green Day for its August 8th concert in Okinawa took some additional persuading. “Green Day wanted to know about the venue (Okinawa City Zoo Park) and the aesthetics, so we had to shoot some video of the surrounding areas, the lake, the trees and the ocean. They are big on protecting the environment and they loved what they saw.”

The ticket demand for the Green Day concert, which will feature special guest “Weezer”, has been so great that Morris has set up special advance ticket sales to ensure that many in the U.S. Military community get the opportunity to buy tickets. “We’ve arranged with USO officials to hold a ticket sale on May 4th at the Kadena USO from 11am-1pm and 4pm-8pm. They will be at the Camp Hansen USO on May 5th from 11am–1pm and 4pm–9pm.” Other advance ticket sale dates include May 6th at the Naha City Tower Records from 4pm-9pm and May 7th at Sam Goody’s record shop in Okinawa City’s Plaza Mall from 4pm-9pm.

Morris commented that Positive Productions’ relationship with the Japanese and American media has been a big help. “We get outstanding support from AFN, MCCS Ch. 7, ACTV, and Japan Update, as well as from RBC, Okinawa Times, Ryukyu Shimbun, F.M. Okinawa, and many of the island magazines.”

The hype of Green Day hasn’t hurt the buzz on Morris’ other upcoming concert – the encore appearance by K-Ci & JoJo on May 14th at Dance Club Matsushita in Naha City. (Tickets for this concert are on sale at Kadena ITT, MCCS Tours Plus, Positive Productions Okinawa Office, 890-2221, and through ACTV.) The return of K-Ci & JoJo is especially poignant for Morris. He was given a Gold Record and honored by the duo’s record company last year for his efforts in promoting K-Ci & JoJo through a sold-out tour and more than $160,000 in CD sales. It looks like 2000 will be more of the same with the mainland shows already sold out. So explains his concentrated focus on Okinawa.

“There are a lot of things we want to achieve in Okinawa for 2000. We want to help bring top-notch talent as our way of contributing to the overall effort of Okinawa to successfully host the G-8 Economic Summit. I also want to reiterate the support and love I have for the military and their families here – especially those single Marines up in Hansen and Schwab,” Morris explained. He added, “I always try to enlist the help of commanders, regardless of branch of service, when trying to bring quality concerts to their troops. I’d like to get more involved in such events as AmericaFest, but that is really up to the organizers. I’m here to stay, whether they use us or not.”

While walking around well into the night with Mr. Morris as he passed out flyers for all of the upcoming concerts, it became very evident that this was only the beginning of great things for Positive Productions and for all of Okinawa. “Oh, I’m having fun now,” he commented with a smile. “We’ve only just begun to rock the island.”

And, well, he keeps proving how he is about keeping his word.

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