The provincial Department of Tourism spent $600,000 on last year’s Paul McCartney concert on the Halifax Common, and floated private promoter Harold MacKay with a $3.5 million cheque to cover McCartney’s artist fee. The payments have not previously been acknowledged publicly.
Department spokesperson Tina Thibeau confirms that expenditures for the concert included $300,000 for “in kind” contributions, primarily marketing and advertising, and an additional $300,000 “loaned” to Trade Centre Limited, the provincial crown corporation charged with hosting large events, for “logistical support” of the concert. That loan, however, was not repaid. The Trade Centre Limited loan was to be paid back through ticket sales, which were handled through Ticket Atlantic, a TCL agency, but ticket sales never reached the agreed threshold for payback, explains Thibeau.
Thibeau does not know what the threshold ticket sales level was. Media reports immediately after the concert spoke of 50,000 and even 60,000 people attending the concert, but a source with knowledge of actual sales figures confirms that only 26,000 tickets were sold. The source is granted anonymity because he is not authorized to publicly reveal sales figures.
The $3.5 million cheque to Harold McKay was cut because MacKay could not privately cover McCartney’s upfront fee. The full amount was recovered through ticket sales, but the payment raises questions about the province carrying risk for a private business.
In addition to the provincial expenditures, the city of Halifax allocated $150,000 towards the McCartney concert in in-kind costs, primarily covering policing costs. Also, HRM’s deputy CAO Wayne Anstey revealed last week that the city spent $45,000 on an electrical generator for the concert, bringing total city costs to $195,000.
Not including the $3.5 million float to MacKay, taxpayer expenditures for the McCartney concert therefore totalled $795,000, or over $30 per sold ticket.
Trade Centre Limited president Scott Ferguson is out of town and could not be reached for comment for this story. Harold MacKay at Power Promotions did not immediately return a phone call for comment.
Correction 2:50pm: city staff now informs me the $45,000 generator cost were included in the $150,000 HRM costs.