CONFIDENTIAL ASKED A QUESTION at the Alicia Keys MTV Crashes Manchester event on Monday (click here for the review).
“So how much money did the city council contribute to the gig to grease the wheels for MTV to bring Alicia Keys?”
The Council said they’d get back to us.
But there will be others in Manchester looking at the amounts the Council donates to other cultural celebrations and wondering at the huge figure of £425K and saying could the money have been better spent on events that have more local impact than two and a half hours in the Cathedral?
And they did, and massively to their credit they didn’t make us jump through the hoops of a Freedom of Information Act Request. They gathered their officers and they came up with a statement. Open government is key and Manchester City Council did us proud here.
But they also took our breath away.
For one gig in Manchester Cathedral, the ‘City Council contributed £425,000’.
As the Council say, part of the funding package comprised £250k from a regeneration fund that helps finance cultural events that will attract visitors and future investment to the host city, and the balance came from the existing city council events budget. In otherwords none of it came from council cuts in essential services. This was always ring-fenced for culture.
Sara Tomkins, Assistant Chief Executive (Communications Customer and ICT) at Manchester City Council, said: "This event will showcase Manchester around the world. As well as showing the concert itself, MTV are also broadcasting a programme about Manchester's musical heritage and music scene. Taking part in such world-class events strengthens Manchester's position on the world stage as a premier destination for music, entertainment and culture, boosts the local economy and increases the global profile of Manchester as an exciting destination for young adults to visit, work, study and live.
"Manchester's ability to attract such events is testament to the ambition of the city and we hope to realise further activities in partnership with MTV in the coming years. The show has generated massive coverage across national and international media, including the Washington Post, with an expected media value in excess of £6.6m.”
It's hard to work out how coverage in the Washington Post influences our economy directly but these things seem to matter. There are other stats the City Council want us to know.
Apparently MTV Networks' brands are seen globally in 642 million households in 161 countries and 34 languages. It reaches over 213 million households in Europe through 28 different MTV channels and they receive 8 million unique visitors each month to MTV Music websites. In addition to its TV channels globally, MTV has 47 websites, 19 broadband services and 17 mobile TV channels and mobile video-on-demand services, including distribution to most of the world’s video-enabled mobile handsets. 65% of MTV’s adult viewers in Europe are aged 15-34.
When Belfast hosted Mark Ronson (at least we got the far more talented Alicia Keys) they identified an economic impact of £1.6m through hosting the event.
How that was worked out is less clear.
The City Council says that ‘given the worldwide appeal of R’n’B superstar Alicia Keys - it is anticipated that the economic impact of Alicia at Manchester Cathedral will exceed previous Crashes events’.
But there will be others in Manchester looking at the amounts the Council donates to other cultural celebrations and wondering at the huge figure of £425K. They'll be asking if the money could have been better spent on events that have more local impact than two and a half hours in the Cathedral for A-grade musician?
If Manchester International Festival receives £2m for almost two weeks of events then where’s the balance? And that subsidy has always been controversial enough.
If Manchester Food and Drink Festival got £32,000 in 2010 and receives nothing for event programming now, then how can the Keys' gig be justified?
Wouldn't a re-invention of the much missed Streets Ahead festival be money better spent?
The problem is that this is part of the game of cities at the moment, where identity and profile becomes a battle that commercial organisations can exploit.
You had Mark Ronson I raise you Alicia Keys. Does this hint at a huge lack of confidence?
One thing struck me on Monday night.
I was with my son who loves football and was blown away not only by the jaw-dropping excellence of Alicia Keys, but the fact that along for the ride there was Joe Hart, David Silva, Micah Richards, Javi Garcia, Raheem Sterling, Robin van Persie, Alex Buttner and Fabrice Muamba.
I remember when I first started going to United and City in the early eighties and only Bryan Robson had world class status.
Now in Manchester in one gig there was in the audience a five-a-side squad that could probably beat any other in the world.
If you've raised your game then you have to play it at that level, or fall backwards. This is what commercial organisations can exploit for their own advantage.
Somebody must have thought that almost half a million pounds was market value for an MTV Alicia Keys gig.
Whether we as citizens agree is a different matter.
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