Inquirer Editorial: Music festival price unknown

Concert promoter Jay-Z
Concert promoter Jay-Z
Posted: September 01, 2012

Mayor Nutter skipped an important beat in planning the star-studded Made in America music festival for this weekend.

The two-day extravaganza on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway will attract as many as 50,000 people to the city. The featured line-up includes entertainers Jay-Z, Pearl Jam, Run-DMC, Jill Scott, Drake, and possibly a surprise appearance by Beyoncé.

But how much will it cost this cash-strapped city to host such a spectacular event? There has been no indication whether the city will make or lose money on the venture. Philadelphia will likely be on the hook for an increased police presence and cleanup costs, at the least.

But Nutter says those figures will not be available until the end of September. It's hard to believe that the city, which spent months negotiating the Budweiser festival and working out its logistics, can't provide details about the financial arrangement.

Nutter owes the public a better explanation than his vague promise that the promoters will pick up the "lion's share" of the costs. It seems like they should pick up more than that, since they also get to keep the ticket-sale profits.

The music festival will be the first ticketed event on the mile-long Parkway. One of the city's most famous streets, it was the site of the Live 8 concert in 2005, and of Welcome America, the annual July 4 celebration that draws half a million people.

The $75 admission fee for a single day may make the Jay-Z event a tough sell for Philadelphians accustomed to free outdoor celebrations. Two-day tickets will cost as much as $175. Fencing that has been strategically set up around the venue will likely make it impossible for anyone outside the area to hear or see the shows for free.

Nutter says he hopes the concert will generate goodwill and set "a new standard in live entertainment in a big-city setting."

There have been some encouraging signs that the concert may provide an economic boost, including a spike in hotel bookings on what is typically a quiet Labor Day weekend. This city certainly knows how to throw a party, and the Made in America festival should be a good one. But Nutter should know what it's going to cost.

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