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Guarantees For Taste Of Chicago Music Acts Show City's Trouble With Money

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 26, 2013 10:20PM

Robert Plant took home a cool $125,000 for playing Taste of Chicago. (Photo credit: Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

We won't know for months if this year's Taste of Chicago made money, broke even or fell deeper into the red. We wouldn't hold out hope for profit or a break-even, judging from the fees some of the musical acts collected.

The Tribune reports the city paid out $562,500 to 10 performers during the festival, topped by Robert Plant's $125,000 fee and a concert rider that could have fed an Army platoon with "an assortment of hot sandwiches, no-fat yogurt, a tray of fresh vegetables with dip and tuna fish salad — "light on the mayo please." The Tribune writes:

The bacchanalian potential for the group, officially known as Robert Plant Presents the Sensational Space Shifters, was curtailed by the city's refusal to provide alcohol to Taste acts. So Plant's usual request of six bottles of wine and 42 bottles of beer for the band and the crew went unfilled. At least by the city.

The city would not fulfill the alcohol commitments of the artists' concert riders, which meant Robin Thicke had to look elsewhere for his "well-iced" Heineken, Jack Daniels, vodka and two bottles of Chardonnay. Thicke, by the way, was paid $75,000 to play Taste, which breaks down to $446.43 for each of Mayor Emanuel's 168 pelvic thrusts during "Blurred Lines."

R&B singer/poet Jill Scott was paid $100,000, but didn't receive the dressing room with black pipes and drapes she requested. If there's good news to be found here, it's that this year's totals were less than the $655,000 the city paid for last year's musical entertainment. But with Taste running lean and mean and still losing money for the city, it has critics like Jim DeRogatis wondering why the city is even in the concert promotion business.

DeRo wrote back in April that the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, as is the case with many city departments, could not break down how Taste of Chicago 2012 lost $1.3 million last year, which had him questioning why DCASE is still determined to promote musical events.

On the music end of things, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events doesn’t seem to have learned any lessons: The department is repeating the unsuccessful formula of selling tickets to pavilion seating for the concerts at $25 each while keeping admission to the lawn in front of the Petrillo Music Shell free.

Admission to the department’s Downtown Sound/New Music Monday concerts is entirely free. The bookings, handled by Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events staffer Jack McLarnan and Mike Reed of Pitchfork Music Festival promoters At Pluto, are considerably more niche and low-key. Yet costs are mounting here, too.

According to Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events spokeswoman Cindy Gatziolis, talent bookings for New Music Mondays cost $55,000 in 2011, $75,000 in 2012, and $100,000 in 2013. “As you can see our commitment to the program has grown,” she said.

As for production costs at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, “On average the concert nights cost an additional $11,200 which includes costs for Production and Sound, Security, Cleaning, Disposal, Electricians and Front of House,” Gatziolis said. “This figure has held steady.”