Tonight, a five-star cast of New Orleans’ finest musicians will convene at a sold-out Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Hurricane Sandy NOLA Pay It Forward Benefit Concert. Proceeds from the show will aid non-profit-based relief and recovery efforts currently underway in areas affected by the late-October superstorm. Performers set to take the stage (and spotlighted in the video playlist below) include: Amanda Shaw, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Irvin Mayfield, Ivan Neville, James Andrews, Khris Royal, Mia Borders, Sasha Masakowski, Stephanie Jordan, the Stooges Brass Band and the Wild Magnolias featuring Big Chief Monk Boudreaux.
For each $56.75 ticket purchased, Ticketmaster has pledged to concede a $3.90 “donation” from its $6.75 service fee to the honorable cause. For those doing the math at home, that amounts to 58% of the surcharge the oligarchical agency tacks on to $50 face-value price of each ticket at checkout, which, all told, equates to 6.87% of the grand retail total. With the theater’s 2,243-capacity attained, Ticketmaster, in its supreme benevolence, will invariably dole $8,747.70 into the New Orleans Pay It Forward Fund, pocketing the humble sum of only $6,392.55 for services rendered in evening of charitable giving. Accounting for the gift (but not the night’s expenses), the Greater New Orleans Foundation (the fund’s fiduciary) will generate a hard-fought $120,897.70 in ticket revenue. The fund itself, a child of Mayor Mitch Landrieu, first saw light in May 2011 as part of an initiative to “assist the victims [of] Mississippi River flooding and show that the people of New Orleans understand loss and the importance of helping others.” Those wishing to contribute to the philanthropic endeavor may do so online at http://www.gnof.org/donors/give-now/.
As the show will surely attest, it is clear that the government, entertainers and good people of New Orleans understand the concept of loss. Sadly, the same cannot be said about Live Nation Entertainment (the corporate spawn of the 2010 Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger), which, possessing assets in excess of $50 billion and operating at a net loss greater than $70 million, appreciates the heartfelt notion solely as a loss leader — gallantly wielding the umbrella of “corporate responsibility” in one hand as it shills out tax deductions from its customers’ pocketbooks and pats itself on the back for making it rain with the other — awash in a sea of debt.
Truth be told and all clichés being equal, business will always be business, a friend in need will be no less than a friend indeed, and the more things change, the better the odds they’ll stay the same. And while Ticketmaster’s token gesture may be (has been and will be) met with open arms (at similar such events the country over), its slight of hand should not merit a round of applause, for buried deep below the undue hardship and suffering of Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath, its fingers cling tightly to a slimy green note rooted in a wretched sense of entitlement that has plagued its purveyors, preyed upon its patrons and pushed its prospective purchasers well past the point of pacifism for longer than either care to conjure.
Certainly Live Nation has bills to pay, a payroll to maintain and shareholder interests to seek, and ethics aside, it and Ticketmaster’s exploits have contributed immensely to both the country’s music industry and economy at large. On the other side of the coin, artist uprisings and anti-trust allegations have resigned themselves to suits unbecoming for the makings of progress. But just as one hand washes the other, and crisis calls forth courage from the unlikeliest of sources, a more daunting question deserves to be raised… As the tide of a natural disaster whose wake wrought damages estimating some $50 billion across the Eastern Seaboard recedes into the public consciousness, is a hand-me-down tax write-off at the expense of an ardent lot the best an iron-fisted corporation’s profit margin can muster?
Maybe the Golden Rule is just too great a cross for big business to bear, and for Ticketmaster, the prospect that would-be ticket purchasers might spend just as graciously as they give, a line too thin to traverse given the circumstances? In the case of the event in question, perhaps squelching the modest concession it plans to pass off onto its buying public in favor of a full-fledged donation of any value would yield an untimely precedent its accountants, lawyers, executives and shareholders aren’t quite ready to swallow? In any event, it’s about damn time that the resolve many citizens, government agencies and businesses have shown, irrespective of socio-economic status, at this critical juncture sees it noble due.