Building on a 10-year partnership, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center has signed a five-year contract for concert promoter Live Nation to continue bringing rock concerts to SPAC.
The current contract was set to expire at the end of this summer season before the two parties extended it for another five years, until 2015.
The contract allows SPAC to get up to $1 million a year from both fixed and variable fees, which depend on ticket sales at the concerts.
That’s the same amount SPAC got in the past, although the new contract doesn’t have a cap on how much SPAC can earn if the concerts are wildly popular.
“It’s structured in a way that we do well and SPAC can do well,” said John Huff, Live Nation’s general manager for events at SPAC. “The previous agreement was somewhat limited.”
The contract includes an option to expand it to an additional five years, until 2020.
“We have a very strong commitment to each other,” said Marcia White, president and executive director of SPAC. “We’re very pleased with the provisions of this contract.”
SPAC has improved as a venue for Live Nation, Huff said: “We’ve certainly seen good improvement over the past four to five years.”
But between paying the performers, security, catering, transportation, cleaning and medical fees, rock concerts are expensive, both Huff and White said.
“They’re also very costly to Live Nation because the artists drive the price,” White said.
Live Nation concerts this summer include appearances by Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band, Def Leppard with Poison and Cheap Trick, Nickelback, Jackson Browne, Phish and Mötley Crüe.
The Live Nation concerts are the best attended of any performances at SPAC and are also the most controversial.
Critics have complained over the years about the drinking and littering that occurs both inside the venue and outside in the park. Last year, state park officials began restricting parking on concert nights to certain lots within the park in an effort to curb drinking and rowdy partying and to contain litter.
On the other side, some concertgoers have complained bitterly about drinking rules that require alcoholic beverages to be consumed in the beer garden rather than in their seats. Officials made the rule to try to control underage drinking.
Officials also have discussed putting in place extra parking fees in the park on concert nights but have not reached a decision yet.
Live Nation does clean up after concerts in the park as well as inside the venue.
“We do more than I think people realize to help return the park back to the way it was before the shows happened,” Huff said.
SPAC is also finalizing the details of its first-ever recycling program, which will start this summer, White said.
The money from Los Angeles-based Live Nation helps subsidize SPAC’s classical season, since SPAC spends more money than it makes in ticket sales for classical performances, including the New York City Ballet and Philadelphia Orchestra shows.
Having Live Nation run the rock and country concerts also allows SPAC staffers to focus solely on the classical performances.