$100,000 — one hundred thousand dollars — that’s what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is soliciting from big names, VIPs and rock stars for their big Madison Square Garden shows on Oct. 29 and 30. The shows — billed as the 25th Anniversary Concerts for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, not the I.M.Pei-designed Museum in Cleveland — feature Bruce Springsteen, U2, Metallica, Simon and/or Garfunkel, Eric Clapton, Crosby Stills Nash & Friends and, in a nod to soul music, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin.
The Rock Hall is offering four VIP packages priced at $100,000, $50,000, $25,000 and $5,000.
This is all “to support the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation” in New York, run by Rolling Stone magazine publisher Jann Wenner. There is no mention on the solicitation of the Museum in Cleveland, except to include one-year memberships as part of all the packages.
The $100,000 package is the best. It includes 10 premium seats for each night located either on the floor or in the loge — no guarantees, though. Just best seats available. But it also buys an invitation to Wenner’s private dinner on Oct. 28, another pre-concert dinner for VIPs, and rehearsal tickets. The best thing in the package: “Exclusive gift items and collectible laminates.” The total deductible amount is $84,750.
That the Rock Hall has become big business is no secret to readers of this column. The Foundation lists $14 million in assets already, and pays its chief staffer, Joel Peresman, a former exec at Madison Square Garden, more than $350,000 a year in salary.
But the foundation has come under fire in recent years for who it inducts into the Hall of Fame and who has been left out. That’s a list that begins with Chubby Checker, inventor of the the Twist, to artists like Neil Diamond, the Hollies, Neil Sedaka, Rufus & Carla Thomas, Donovan, Carole King, Chicago, Dionne Warwick, Hall & Oates, the late Billy Preston, Linda Ronstadt, Carly Simon, the Moody Blues, Cliff Richard & the Shadows, and dozens more who for some reason Wenner and his nominating committee don’t consider “hip.” Two years ago the Foundation was embroiled in a voting scandal when Wenner ripped up a ballot inducting the Dave Clark Five so he could include Grandmaster Flash instead.
For years, the Rock Hall also paid close attention to rock’s roots, mostly because of the presence of Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun. But insiders agree that since Ertegun’s death in December 2006, Wenner is working without anyone to modify his behavior. Most of the nominating committee consists of rock writers who have either worked for him in the past for work for him now. It’s funny to think that the original 1986 committee included ’60s deejay Norm N. Nite and the blues musician John Hammond, giving it ties to rock’s origins. That notion must seem quaint now.