Moncton clamps down on mega-concert information

Moncton is refusing to disclose how much public money has been spent on any of its nine outdoor mega concerts, any financial analyses done on the impact of the summer events and is only releasing severely redacted copies of the concerts' contracts.

City is refusing to disclose full concert contracts and financial analyses

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band is one of nine bands to have played in Moncton since 2005. (Michael Dwyer/Associated Press)

Moncton is refusing to disclose how much public money has been spent on any of its nine outdoor mega concerts, any financial analyses done on the impact of the summer events and is only releasing heavily redacted copies of the concerts' contracts.

CBC News requested information in September relating to how much the city has spent on attracting some of the world’s biggest concerts – from the Rolling Stones in 2005 to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in 2012.


Click here to see redacted copies of the contracts for the nine concerts

The information was requested when New Brunswick’s Right to Information Act began covering municipalities on Sept. 1.

The city agreed to turn over copies of the various concert contracts. But officials blacked out large portions of the documents, saying disclosure could harm third-party interests or the "economic or financial interests or negotiation position of the City of Moncton."

The concert contracts that were partially released are:

  • The Rolling Stones (2005)
  • Country Rocks the Hill (2006)
  • Faith Hill and Tim McGraw (2007)
  • The Eagles (2008)
  • Bon Jovi (2009)
  • AC/DC (2009)
  • U2 (2011)
  • Nickelback (2012)
  • Bruce Springsteen  (2012)

While Moncton did hand over sections of the contracts, it blocked access to any lists of funds paid by taxpayers to the bands, promoters or organizers, as well as any pre- or post-concert financial analyses.

The city, again, cited provisions in the act that allow public information to be withheld if it could hurt third-party interests or the economic or financial interests of the city.

CBC News has appealed the city's decision to the Office of the Access to Information and Privacy Commissioner.

Kevin Lacey, the Atlantic director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said citizens should be suspicious whenever a government withholds information on how taxpayers’ dollars are spent.

"It sends a message that there is a complete disregard for taxpayers’ money, but more importantly, it raises questions about where the money is going and what it is being used for in regards to this concert," he said.

"Any time a government holds back information, especially when it is the taxpayers’ money it is spending, I think taxpayers are rightfully suspicious."

Lacey said the city’s rationale for withholding the economic impact of the events or a list of public funds spent on the concerts doesn’t hold up.

"When you are dealing with a public body, there is an expectation that information regarding the expenditure of public money is public. All involved need to recognize that," he said.

"If a concert promoter was to go into business with private investors, all investors expect to know the terms of the deal. In this case, the investors are the taxpayers in the city and the province. There may be more investors, but the same expectation applies."

Previous concert concerns

Moncton refused to disclose full copies of the various contracts of bands, such as U2. (Andrew Vaughn/Canadian Press)

Moncton’s series of outdoor concerts have been popular with music fans and many local businesses.

A group of businesses purchased a newspaper ad in the fall, thanking the city for the concerts.

But some Moncton politicians have raised questions about the need to get a better financial arrangement with the federal and provincial governments regarding revenue raised by the concerts.

Coun. Daniel Bourgeois said in 2011 the city receives $1 in funding back for every $6 it invests in the concerts. At the time, he estimated the city was "about $5 million to $5.5 million in the red."

However, Bourgeois said the federal and provincial governments made roughly $13 million each between 2005 and 2011.

The city has paid about $5 million over the years to improve the concert site.

Bourgeois said later in 2011 that some of the outdoor concerts have lost money, including the Bon Jovi concert in 2009.

Moncton isn’t the only Atlantic Canadian city to have financial hangovers after hosting mega concerts.

A concert scandal in Halifax cost the municipality $359,550 and ended up causing a senior bureaucrat to quit.

In 2010, Harold MacKay, a concert promoter, was advanced $400,000 — without the consent of Halifax council —before two summer concerts on the Halifax Common. Tickets sales were poor and the municipality ended up losing $359,550.

Meanwhile, Summerside, P.E.I., paid a California promoter $1.3-million for a Michael Jackson tribute concert that was supposed to take place in July 2010, but never happened.

The taxpayers federation official said the concert scandals show the importance of full disclosure to taxpayers.

"I have to say both the Halifax and Summerside situations were awfully painful, they were painful for the politicians and for taxpayers, but we are better for it," Lacey said.

"There are better systems in place today and people are more knowledgeable about the risks than they were before."

Blacked-out contracts

Many of the contracts contained similar language and had many of the same paragraphs blacked out.

The first contract was signed between the city and The Next Adventure Ltd., a firm in Toronto, that represented the Rolling Stones.

The contract agreed the site capacity would be 85,000, even though some estimates of the actual concert attendance have been as high as 89,000.

The remainder of the contract for the Rolling Stones concert is legal information that discusses the time of the event, liability issues and the protocol for recovering costs if the event had been cancelled.

Seven years later, the contract language for the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band was very similar.

There was a small change in terms of the concert capacity.

"[It] is understood that the site has a pre-approved capacity of a minimum of 100,000 spectators," the contract said.

The Springsteen concert ended up drawing roughly 30,000 spectators, which was more than the estimated 23,000 fans that showed up for the Nickelback concert earlier in the summer, but a much smaller crowd than some of the other mega concerts that had previously performed at Magnetic Hill.

Previous contract details released

The Rolling Stones held Moncton's first mega concert in 2005. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Moncton’s decision to black out large swaths of the concert contracts stands in contrast to previous decisions to be more forthcoming in disclosing the documents.

After the Rolling Stones concert in 2005, Moncton released a copy of the contract to CBC News without any revisions.

The unredacted concert contract shows Moncton rented the Magnetic Hill concert facility for $1.

The previously-released contract also outlines how the concert promoter was to provide the Rolling Stones and any "support groups," design and install the massive stage, provide trailers for the performers, cover travel expenses and accommodations and pay for promotional material.

The two sides would share in the proceeds of food, beverages, alcohol sales, on-site parking and any sponsorships.

The contract sets out how Ticketmaster will distribute the tickets and the promoter will set the pricing structure and the number of general admission and VIP tickets. The city was given 150 tickets "with provisions for VIP positioning and hospitality."

Moncton also provided copies of the concert rider, which had specific details about how the event would be organized. But the city did not disclose that information when requested under the Right to Information Act.