Belfast Telegraph

Garth Brooks: 'This was never about greed, but about making history'

Edited version of Belfast promoter Peter Aiken's evidence to the Oireachtas transport and communications committee

By Rebecca Black

From opening statement: I accept the procedure and that the elements of process were correctly followed but I feel that the decision-making process was not 'reasonable, balanced or fair' and that the decision was wrong. I am fully aware in the licence application process for concerts that there is no recourse for review or appeal against the licence issued by Dublin City Council.

However, this has been an extremely frustrating position to be left in during the last few weeks considering the events that have come to light, specifically that some of objections lodged to the council are being investigated as fraud.

Q How did it come to be five concerts?

A Starting out, we looked at one concert, that's what we were talking about, then I met him (Garth Brooks) and his team on January 2 and persuaded him to go back up with two because two made a statement.

I never saw this coming, never saw this rolling up to being five shows the way it did, it was unprecedented, never seen it in my time promoting. It would have been the biggest event in the history of live events in Ireland. It would have been the equivalent to the time Michael Jackson did eight nights in London, it would have been the equivalent of Springsteen doing 10 shows in Giants Stadium in New York. This was our big moment. I never seen that coming. When he got up to selling five shows we built it around five shows. They were going to film it on three different nights, they were going to make a documentary about it, it was going to be massive.

Q Is there any possibility Aiken Promotions will seek damages because of this fiasco?

A I am taking legal advice over that. It's all pretty raw at the moment. (GAA said it would not be seeking damages).

Q How much has it cost you so far?

A I have paid deposits on rent, sound, lights, staging, ground cover, paid all the advertising, paid deposits to all the hotels – Garth Brooks was coming in with about 320 people. I paid all the deposits. I'll be out seven figures in this. Garth Brooks is going to be out millions, millions. We had about 520 passes for access all areas. Normally that would be around the 50 or 60 mark.

That was the amount of people that he was bringing in. The person I feel the most sorry for is Garth Brooks, the effort that he put into this and what he was going to do. People will never see a show like this again. I don't care what happens going forward in terms of technology, they will never see the show that he was going to put on.

He was putting everything into this. This was his comeback special, and if he was motivated by money he would have done the three shows and recouped something but he is right in what he did. I told him it was five shows and he couldn't leave 160,000 people not seeing the show.

Q That set has been constructed, it's hugely expensive I imagine, is there scope for an application for different dates?

A Yes, it was designed for Croke Park. He starts his tour on September 4. The problem is Croke Park is busy every weekend right up until the end of September.

He starts the world tour on September 4, it's going to go on for maybe 2-3 years.

Q Did you have any indication that you may not get licenses for the five shows?

A I've been around a long time, I've been in a few situations. If I'd have thought at any stage we have a problem here I would have flagged it with Garth Brooks. I never seen this coming.

I thought the problem I was going to get would be this injunction, this guy running around doing all the interviews. That's what I had planned my legal team for. I never seen this coming from Dublin City Council. I've never been refused a licence, I think the licence system does work.

This was unprecedented to sell this many tickets, I don't think it'll ever happen again in my lifetime.

On June 3 I still had no inclination that there was going to be a problem with this licence. They took it right up to the wire. If they had said there was a problem on June 3 I could have done something legally about it.

Q It went from one concert, to two, then three, then four, then five. Perhaps if an element of greed and money hadn't come into it, then everyone would have been happy?

A It wasn't about greed, it was about making history. This was going to be a fantastic event. No matter how good you are in business you get caught up in the moment, and I did get caught up in the moment.

I thought this was going to be amazing, it was going to be the biggest event in history and it'll never be done again. When I was selling tickets, Bob Doyle (Garth Brooks' promoter) was with me on Grafton Street and we saw the queues the length of Grafton Street when we sold out the three shows, I remember there was an interview with Newstalk and the queue the length of the street, and he was looking at them and was on the phone to Garth telling him this. The business was there, we never on the fifth show were pushing a cart up the hill, we still had demand after the fifth show. It was nothing to do with greed.

Q At this point in time is there any way we can finish this potential movie "License To Sing" and save the concerts?

A At this stage, if someone pulled the switch we could do it.

I don't know how you do that. I have been down every avenue that's open to me and come up against a brick wall. It would have to be today.

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