City stays in the concert biz despite mounting losses

The cost of music at Taste of Chicago and New Music Mondays

April 24, 2013

Though it isn’t particularly adept at it, at least when it comes to breaking even or turning a profit, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s reconfigured Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events is determined to stay in the concert business, regardless of mounting losses in difficult economic times.

The city this morning announced the remaining headliners for Taste of Chicago this July, with R&B singer Robin Thicke, Led Zeppelin veteran Robert Plant, neo-soul diva Jill Scott, and alternative rockers Neon Trees joining the previously announced “We Are Young” pop band fun.

 “We are thrilled to announce the headlining talent,” Emanuel said in a statement. “The Taste draws hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors to downtown Chicago and we are excited to offer attendees such a variety of recognized, energized, and award-winning quality entertainers while enjoying a taste of Chicago’s culinary scene.”

Not mentioned in the city press release: The fact that the much-ballyhooed, significantly shorter, and substantially reconfigured Taste of Chicago 2012 lost $1.3 million, topping the previous year’s red ink. The city did not break down how those losses can be attributed, but sources say the cost of concerts played a significant role.

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.”

Here are the full music schedules for Taste of Chicago and New Music Mondays:

Taste of Chicago

Wednesday, July 10, 5:30 p.m.: Delta Spirit, fun.

Thursday, July 11, 5:30 p.m.: Estelle, Robin Thicke

Friday, July 12, 5:30 p.m.: The Lone Bellow, Robert Plant presents the Sensational Space Shifters

Saturday, July 13, 11 a.m.: Chloe and Hallie, IM5

Saturday, July 13, 5:30 p.m.: Maxi Priest, Jill Scott

Sunday, July 14, 4 p.m.: The Mowgli’s, Neon Trees

 

Downtown Sound/New Music Mondays

Monday, May 27, 6:30 p.m.: Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog, Lee Ranaldo Band

Monday, June 3, 6:30 p.m.: Speck Mountain, Sharon Van Etten

Monday, June 10, 6:30 p.m.: An Evening with Glen Hansard featuring Lisa Hannigan and members of the Frames

Monday, June 17, 6:30 p.m.: Brokeback, Daniel Lanois

Monday, June 24, 6:30 p.m.: Angela James, Carolina Chocolate Drops

Monday, July 1, 6:30 p.m.: Theo Huff and the Platinum Band, Lee Fields & the Expressions

Monday, July 8, 6:30 p.m.: The Cairo Gang, Dawes

Monday, July 15, 6:30 p.m.: Alasdair Roberts and Friends, Fatoumata Diawara

Monday, July 22, 6:30 p.m.: AZITA, the Handsome Family

Monday, July 29, 6:30 p.m.: Psalm One, Dessa