The New York Times raises the question of just who benefits from a benefit concert at Carnegie Hall:
Christoph Eschenbach will conduct Sunday at the benefit featuring the Chinese pianist Lang Lang, top, and Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra.
Even if the event’s nearly $200,000 worth of tickets sell out, less than $8,000 from the sales will go to the cause. The concert, though, is expected to raise some money, thanks mainly to a $50,000 subsidy by the Montblanc company and $10,000 by CAMI Music, the concert’s presenter and Mr. Lang’s management agency. Montblanc had promised to help pay for the concert well before it was transformed into a benefit, a decision made at Mr. Lang’s request. The performers, including Mr. Lang, are waiving their fees.
…If anything, an examination of the Carnegie Hall concert’s finances demonstrates just how expensive it is to make music in New York, especially at the hall.
…Overhead at Carnegie accounts for about one-third of the expenses. The hall costs $13,785 to rent. Then there is $6,315 for ushers; $2,300 for security; and $42,535 for stagehand labor, long recognized as a major cost of doing business at the institution.
Carnegie is donating the $1,875 cost of a sound system and $780 for other audio equipment, both added when Wyclef Jean, the Haitian musician, agreed to join Mr. Lang in a duet. Most of the other expenses are for marketing, publicity and transportation.
…Marketing costs include $52,000 in advertisements in The New York Times at discounted nonprofit rates, Ms. Boudanoque said. The Times, a spokeswoman said, does not comment on advertising rates because of the many variables involved.
Stagehands at Carnegie make a lot of money, as insiders know. Advertising in the New York Times is expensive, which most people would probably assume. I wonder if the promoters of this concert tried to make a case to IATSE and the NYT that they should donate their services.
This story does provide a cautionary lesson to musicians, though: when donating services for a benefit concert, it’s worth asking if everyone else is donating their services as well. In some circumstances, at least, the answer should be “yes” before musicians agree to work for free.