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Question: Who Paid for the Rolling Stones to Play Cuba? [UPDATE]

By all accounts, the Rolling Stones gig in Havana Friday night was a massive success both in terms of a spectacle (one report say the gig was attended by 1.3 million people) and politics and pro-Western propaganda. The event was also logistical triumph given that the

The event was also logistical triumph given that the Stones had to bring in literally everything to make the show possible. All the crew and all the gear, right down to the generators and porta-potties had to be imported. It’s not like Cuba is equipped to handle concerts like this. Damn, this must have been expensive.

Question: Who paid for all this?

The show was free. No tickets required. The only reference I can find to arranging the show comes from Billboard: “Rolling Stones manager Joyce Smyth and AEG Asia/Concerts West worked with the Cuban government to make the show happen.”

And although the Stones could easily afford to underwrite something like this themselves, I have a hard time believing they did. If you know anything about Mick, it’s that he’s an extremely savvy businessman and “free” is very much a four-letter word. They usually won’t show up for less than $5 million a gig.

What about sponsors? Maybe. Anyone who has ever been to Cuba knows that it’s a country devoid of advertising. Was their sponsor placement–signs, announcements, etc.–at the gig? Anyone know? Could the US government have had anything to do with it? After all, the show did come at the end of a historic visit by Barack Obama. Or is the timing of the Stones show just a coincidence?

We do know that the Stones led a charity initiative where musical instrument manufacturers–Gibson, Pearl, Zildjian, Gretsch, Roland, BOSS, RS Berekely, Latin Percussion and Vic Firth–were asked to donate gear to Cubans of all ages. They’ve been very public about that. But as for the price tag of the concert itself…

Well, maybe the Stones did absorb all the costs–at least up front. The publicity alone was worth millions. Playing in Cuba was a historical triumph for them, too, cementing their reputation as The World’s Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band™.

And maybe all the money is coming on the back end. The show was filmed, of course. Director Paul Dugdate, who was behind Sweet Summer Sun – Hyde Park Live in 2013, was in charge of the production and will apparently be called Concert for Amity. That can be sold to HBO and other networks worldwide and then on DVD, which would provide a nice return.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s fantastic that the Stones managed to play this show. I’m just curious about how the financial end of things was handled because it must have been uber-complex.

UPDATE: Pamela (via Twitter) did some digging on our behalf and came up with this from The Curaçao Chronicle:

This entire event is being made possible by the benefaction of Fundashon Bon Intenshon on behalf of the island of Curaçao. Fundashon Bon Intenshon initiates and supports international charitable projects in the fields of education, athletics, cultural literacy, healthcare and tourism as well as other attempts to mitigate the impact of general poverty.

It is being promoted by AEG’s Concerts West and Musica Punto Zero who extend their gratitude for the support provided by the Institute of Cuban Music in bringing this event to the people of Cuba.

Thanks! That helps a lot. Interesting, though, that we haven’t heard more about this initative.




Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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4 thoughts on “Question: Who Paid for the Rolling Stones to Play Cuba? [UPDATE]

  • Alan, You only have to go back to Live Aid where the Stones didn’t play as a unit because Kieth didn’t really believe in “charity”. A radical position by him but one I respect him for.

  • Pingback: A Journal of Musical ThingsVideo from Rolling Stones' Havana Gig Now Online - A Journal of Musical Things

  • I attended the Havana concert with my then girlfriend Hazel who sang for the Rolling Stones the night before at the Casa da Musica. In my view there were around 400,000 watching with maybe the same again unable to see on the streets. Although publicised as FREE those close up had to pay around $20 to enter – the bribes were paid to the military in attendance

    • Does not surprise me. Nothing is free in communism, someone always pays – those who actually work and earn.


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