Friday, August 17, 2018
Business

Taylor Swift made lots of money on Tampa concert; taxpayers, Bucs made some, too

TAMPA — By all appearances, Taylor Swift made gobs of cash on her Halloween concert at Raymond James Stadium.

The show was a sellout at 56,987. And the Tampa Sports Authority had said Swift would receive 100 percent of ticket sales. That would amount to nearly $4 million for the singer, including a $2.75 million guarantee, authority figures suggest.

The singer may still receive that much cash. But the details are suddenly a bit mysterious.

The authority made an 11th-hour change to the way the show's finances were handled, allowing the touring company used by Swift to promote the show. In so doing, the exact tally of the money paid to Swift is no longer a matter of public record.

The agency said it made the change to save insurance costs. The net impact of the change, the authority said: $48,000 in savings.

This decision, made by the authority's board on Oct. 26, comes months after the authority's chief, Eric Hart, loudly complained to the Tampa Bay Times about his public agency having to release concert financials to the newspaper. Hart said it put the authority at a disadvantage competing for acts against nonpublic venues, and that it angered artists.

The Messina Touring Co., which handled the concert for Swift, received the $5.8 million generated by ticket sales, the authority said Friday. But now, how much of that goes to Swift is unclear.

It would seem unlikely that Swift would agree to take less than the $3.9 million she would have gotten had the authority not made the change. Messina officials could not be reached to comment, and the authority said it has no idea. Bobby Silvest, authority spokesman, said Hart was on vacation and unavailable to comment.

One thing that is clear is that the concert appears to have made money for everyone involved.

The show earned $843,947 that will be split between the authority — hence taxpayers — and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs get half of the profit under the team's stadium agreement with the authority.

Swift's fans bought $40,784 in merchandise during the show. They sipped and gobbled $244,626 in drinks and food at concession stands. The parents of fans and those old enough to drive paid $124,798 in parking.

The authority profited from other revenue streams, including sponsorships and suite ticket sales that don't go to Swift.

But a final accounting on concert expenses and revenues will not be available for several weeks, the authority said.

Hart, the agency's executive director, has previously said the agency and taxpayers greatly benefit by promoting shows, rather than leaving it to third parties. The risk is higher, Hart has said, but the profit is greater.

When the authority does not promote a show, it essentially rents the facility out and is not involved in paying an act directly.

But if the agency doesn't make as much money when somebody else promotes a show, its own figures say otherwise.

The $843,947 profit is actually fairly close to what the authority would have made had it promoted the show itself, according to its figures.

Why did the authority make a late decision against promoting the show? Silvest, the agency spokesman, said it balked at the high cost of insurance.

"While initially the TSA agreed and received approval to be the promoter, when options for event cancellation insurance were pursued, the fees were found to be quite expensive," Silvest said in an email. Such insurance is often called weather insurance because the main danger of a concert being called off is a storm.

That explanation does not appear to be supported by discussion held at previous authority board meetings. In fact, such insurance was talked about as being a good deal and Hart indicated the authority would move forward with buying such insurance at a cost of about $48,000.

Hart said at a July meeting that weather insurance was a good idea, saying, "It seems like a prudent measure, based on where we're at financially with the event."

Contact William R. Levesque at [email protected] or (813) 226-3432. Follow @Times_Levesque.

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