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Fees Are Fees and Donations Are Donations and a Spade Is a Spade Or Is It?

By Martin L. Macintyre

From the Office of the Mayor: Dave Matthews Band Gives $1 Million to Bay Area Charities

From the San Francisco Chronicle: Band gives $250,000 to rebuild playground

It is wonderful that the Dave Matthews Band gave $1,000,000 to charity as reported by Rachel Gordon in the Feb. 2, 2005 SF Chronicle. But la Paul Harvey, "Now, here is the rest of the story," or la The Bad Reporter, "The LIES behind the TRUTH and the TRUTH behind those LIES that are behind that TRUTH," here is how I see it.

When the Dave Matthews Band had their concert last Sept. 12, 2004, the Rec and Park Dept. was going to charge their commercial promoter only $5,000 (the non-commercial rate) but the Band was going to chip in an additional $45,000 donation plus costs to be determined later. Never mind that the commercial fee would have been $5,000 per 1,000 in attendance ($300,000 for the est. 60,000 attendees) and never mind that they were kicking the Youth Soccer League off the field for a week in the middle of their season. RPD said that the low fee was because it was for charity and the tickets were free, although limited to 60,000 because of the limited space.

By accident, I was at the Commission and complained that the fee was low and not according to the Park Code fee schedule. When I went to a second meeting and complained again, the fee (uphs! the donation) went up to $100,000. This only proved that it wasn't simply a charity event, because if it were, the amount wouldn't have had to be raised beyond the required $30,000 and it would have been a fee, not a donation.

All this is assuming that the tickets were really free, as advertised and only 60,000 were going to be allowed to attend. When I asked how he tickets were going to be distributed, there was no response. I said to myself, if it were truly a 100% charity, why was a commercial promoter requesting the permit and not Dave Matthews' 501(c)3 Foundation? The same Dave Matthews Band gave this concert in Central Park on Sept. 11, 2003, and NYC received a $2,000,000 FEE, $1 million for the NYC R&P and $1 million for the NYC Dept. of Ed. I'm sure there were additional donations on top of that. So why was SF only getting $5,000 plus a donation of $45,000 that was upped to $95,000 when I complained? 

SIDE BAR. Definitions. A donation is something given freely but often with a specification for its use, e.g. a neighborhood playground in a housing project. A fee is what is required by law or contract, in this case for renting the City's Polo Field. The youth soccer league, co-opted for a week, was supposed to receive approx. $50,000. Somehow they were left out or perhaps they weren't PC enough to be mentioned in the press release? I'll check to see if they received their donation and report back.
There were many commercial sponsors, such as Budweiser and Clear Channel stations. Oh, by the way, the tickets weren't free because you had to buy them on the Internet at $9-25 each for "S&H" or pay $250 for VIP tickets. You could buy (uphs, get) four early bird tickets by joining the Dave Matthews Fan Club for $35. I tried to get tickets the day they were made available to the public on the Web and they had sold out (uphs, were given away) between midnight and 6 am, only to reappear later on E-Bay for $50-$75.

The Dave Matthews web site said there were 75,000 people at the concert that was limited to 60,000, but sometimes those estimates are a little over blown, or maybe there were really 80,000, who knows? And Dave asked those in attendance to make donations, especially because they were the lucky ones who got the "free" tickets.

At a third Commission meeting, I complained about the "free" tickets that weren't free and the unknown number of $250 VIP tickets, because the free tickets were the justification for the low, non-commercial FEE. I complained that I couldn't get the free tickets for my daughter or even pay for them, unless I wanted to pay a scalper. Guess what, two days before the concert, RPD calls to say they had 4 complimentary tickets for me and would deliver them to my house! I wonder how many more "complimentary" tickets RPD had. Sounds like payola to me. I accepted the tickets for my daughter and her friends, much to my wife's chagrin, thinking my credibility was being bought (backdoor payola). I tried to convince her that the tickets were supposed to be "free" in the first place so I wasn't getting anything that I shouldn't have been able to get for free, but she wasn't buying it. It looked like a buyout to her no matter what I said. Wherein lieth the truth behind the lies behind. . . .

But, here is the rest of the story.

Since no one was counting, let's say that 75,000 people showed up. The Taylor Family Foundation, the stated primary charity beneficiary of Dave's concert, was supposed to make all the profits from the sale of alcohol, in accord with the ABC regulations. Anyone knows that the profit from alcohol sales couldn't come out to exactly $250,000.00, the amount the newspaper article says the Taylor Family Foundations received. By my reckoning, over a six-hour period on that nice sunny day, the profits from drinks alone (none could be brought in) was at least $10 per person x 75,000 = $750,000, all of which by law they were supposed to go to the Taylor Foundation, three times what they received.

According to the city's Park Code 12.22 fee schedule, the commercial FEE should have been at least $375,000 plus the cost of security, cleanup etc., and not the paltry $5,000 they asked for or even the additional $95,000 they actually said they got as a DONATION.

Add up this $375,000 FEE plus the est. $750,000(+ or -) DONATION that the Taylor Family Foundation should have gotten for drinks and you're already over $1,000,000. This doesn't count profits from the sale of food, shirts, caps and CDs and non-alcoholic drinks plus the profit, if any, from the sale of "free" tickets on the Internet and $250 VIP tickets (which they said was a donation but couldn't be deducted by the donor as a donation on their income tax) and finally, I'm sure the attendees made generous donations, which alone could have raise a million dollars.

We will never know what was collected from all these sources and exactly what the expenses were unless an enquiring reporter finds the TRUTH BEHIND THE NEWSPAPER ARTICLE. Or was it an ADVERTISEMENT?

I'd like to think that my repeated questioning of the $ figures helped to increase the amount of money the city eventually received as a DONATION, even going past what they would have been charged as an unencumbered commercial event FEE. So all's well that ends well? The City gets $500,000 for the homeless and $250,000 for a playground for a total of $750,000, and the Taylor Family Foundation gets $250,000, which isn't $750,000 but is a lot more than $0 and who knows, this could be in addition to the $750,000.

On second thought, that would have been in the article. And, let's not forget, Dave got good free press and maybe enough $ left over to pay something to the members of the band and for rental of all the equipment and security and traffic police and clean up and the promoter. Oh, Id better do a Sunshine request to find out if the promoter paid for these additional items as required or if it came out of the $10,000 FEE or the $90,000 DONATION. Oh, I also must check to see if the Youth Soccer League received their donation.

According to my daughter, Dave's concert was excellent (not her expression) and Dave is a good guy with a good heart. I don't doubt it but why can't things be above board and according to the rules? That would make the TRUTH so much more believable.

P.S. NYC has a committee overseeing large events like this to make sure things are on the up and up and the noise regulations are enforced. Maybe that's why they get more moolah and less noise complaints.