Garth Brooks debacle indicates licensing system needs overhaul

Thu, Jul 10, 2014, 01:01

There are no winners in the Garth Brooks debacle, following the US singer’s decision not to perform in Croke Park, after Dublin City Council (DCC) had refused licences for his five concerts there. DCC gave permission for three shows, which Brooks found to be unacceptable. The 400,000 people who had paid to attend the concerts – with an estimated 70,000 coming from abroad – have been cheated. The refund promised to ticket holders will provide some financial compensation. But Brooks’ fans have been cruelly denied a great musical experience; one they had hoped to enjoy, and for which they had already paid some months ago.

For more than a decade such major musical events have been promoted, and tickets sold, on the basis that the promoter is seeking a licence that has not yet been secured. Therefore, an event always risked cancellation, should licence approval be refused. That – until now – has not happened. And the assumption, by the singer, the promoter and the GAA, may well have been that Brooks’ booking for five nights at Croke Park was simply too big an event to be rejected by the planning authorities, given the great economic benefits accruing to Dublin. Taoiseach Enda Kenny has claimed a potential €250 million loss for the city with the cancellation.

If you cannot build a house without first receiving planning permission, many will wonder how a promoter can sell tickets for a concert before first securing a licence to hold it. Clearly, what may have worked well before has failed to work on this occasion, and needs to be changed. Licence approval should be required before tickets can be sold.

This debacle has had costly and damaging consequences. The country has lost millions of euros in revenues, 400,000 ticket holders have been badly let down, and Ireland has suffered major reputational damage in the international music industry, from which it can only hope to recover by legislating for pragmatic changes in the licensing system for concerts.