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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Robbie Williams : Feeling Real Love From the Taxpayer

Robbie Williams in Tallinn : The Taxpayer Comes Undone


Is this what he thinks of the taxpayer? (Photo Credit)
The Estonian press was busy last week with full coverage of Robbie Williams' concert in Tallinn. Every little detail was covered, including photos of him arriving at his hotel with a towel draped over his head (Muslim chic?).

By all accounts, this was an excellent concert. Despite some back pain, Robbie put on a great performance, to an audience of more than 60,000 fans, in the historic Lauluväljak (Song Festival grounds). Even the weather was nice!

Candy from the Taxpayer

So why are we bellyaching about the concert? Because we as taxpayers paid for part of it. Let's have a look:
  • 300,000 euros from Enterprise Estonia (EAS)
  • 90,000 euros from the Tallinn city government (60,000 and 30,000)
So what does 390,000 euros of taxpayer money buy? This was part of an elaborate campaign where the live concert would be broadcast at movie theaters throughout the world, with a DVD of the concert to follow. There would be images of Estonia shown during the intermission between songs, as a way of encouraging tourism.

Was it worth it? To start, let's make a few assumptions in favor of this. Let's assume Robbie Williams is a popular singer with people who would be potential tourists to Estonia. If a DVD were produced, would anyone buy it?

Advertising Space for Sale 


Official Robbie Williams Sun Visor - Popular among Swedbank employees

Robbie Williams didn't end up with a net worth of $160 million just by selling a couple CDs. He knows how to sell and market everything Robbie. His online store has everything from the usual Official Robbie Williams t-shirts and Official Robbie Williams posters to Official Robbie Williams iPhone cases and Official Robbie Williams coffee mugs.

Official Robbie Williams Dog Tags - Popular among troops in Iraq
Official Robbie Williams Skullcap - Popular among violent gangsters

So as far as we can tell, if Robbie were to release a concert DVD, people would buy it. They might even pick up an Official Robbie Williams shot glass and Official Robbie Williams scented candle and make a drunken yet romantic evening out of it.

How We'd Do It - Making the Deal Pure

Again, why are we bellyaching about this? Sounds like we have a popular singer, who's going to sell a lot of DVDs with great views of Estonia. Isn't that a good thing?

Actually, we think it may just work, but we don't think the taxpayer should pay the bill on this.

Here's our guess about how the conversation went at Robbie's record label (Universal):

Slimy Record Executive 1: "Hey boss, you're not gonna believe this. Remember our plans to make a DVD of Robbie's concert?"
Slimy Record Executive 2: "Sure. We were going to film one of the concerts, sell the DVD, and make millions from all his adoring fans. We'll make nearly as much money as we'll make from selling the Official Robbie Williams scented candle!"
Slimy Record Executive 1: "Yes. Well get this. Some Estonians called me and they want us to film it there. I checked out the place and it looks really nice. But here's the best part: they're going to pay us nearly 400,000 euros to make the DVD!"
Slimy Record Executive 2: "Get outta town! They're going to pay us to make a DVD we planned to make anyway? Do we have to give them a cut of the sales?"
Slimy Record Executive 1: "Nope! We keep all the revenues from the sale. We just have to includes a few scenes of Estonia, which we'd do anyway if we filmed it there."
Slimy Record Executive 2: "Wow! I have no idea why the Estonians agreed to that -- that's a sweet deal! Hey, I heard the Official Robbie Williams scented candle contained some hallucinogens. Perhaps the Estonians were sniffing those when they thought up this idea?"
That's the thing. We think the DVD would have been made anyway. They have been selling live CDs from every concert he did on this tour, so surely they had plans to make a DVD to go along with it.

Would they have picked Tallinn anyway? We think they would have, based on the list of venues where the concert took place. Let's face it - Lauluväljak is unique and picturesque compared to places like the Veltins Area in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.

Perhaps it's risky to assume that they would pick Tallinn. Maybe the DVD producer has an ex-lover in Gothenburg so he'd prefer to spend a few days there.

There's an easy way to structure this deal to ensure it's filmed in Tallinn, while saving the taxpayer some money. They should have told Robbie's people that they'll pay the money up front, but then get 50% of the profits from the DVD, until all the taxpayer money is recouped. It's a good deal for both sides, as EAS takes the financial risk (making Universal more likely to agree), but also gets its money back if the DVD sells well.

Sadly, it didn't work out that way. Instead, Universal and BDG (the local concert promoter, who made a tidy profit from ticket sales), get a government handout from the taxpayer.

Lessons Learned - Think Different

This is one of those cases where government fails to think creatively. We think EAS is so used to just handing out money that no one stepped back to realize they're basically paying a major corporation to make a product that would have been made anyway, and then reap all the profits from it. In the future, if EAS wants to embark on such promotions, they should look at ways to do them as partnerships (known as PPPs) instead of just handouts.


  1. Dumbass govt and their waste of our money. Where does the author get that info of the 390,000 ?

    1. Click the links for each number above to take you to the source of their data.

  2. Delfi is reporting ERR (Estonian National News Service) got only 8,000 euros for filming, as a secondary support team. Nearly all of the filming was done by a team that came from abroad. I guess the only people who made out well are Robbie, BDG, and the foreign camera crew!


  3. Fucking idiot. Go open your fucking wallet and check exactly HOW MUCH money did you lose? That's right. YOU didn't lose any money. So shut your fucking mouth and stop whining and moaning like a little bitch.

    1. Ahh, so if the government wastes less than 1.3 million euros of taxpayer money on a project, nobody should care because that's only 1 euro per Estonian? That's nonsense.

      My child is waiting for a place in the kindergarten in Tallinn, because all the spots are full. Yes, I do care how every euro of my taxpayer money is spent.

  4. Let me guess, you work at parliament of estonia?

  5. Good point, useless spending of money on those stupid concerts, only brainwashed people go there screaming and cryng like stupid fucks

  6. In addition to Edward Lucas of The economist, it is worth mentioning another journalist: Ben Rooney of the Wall Street Journal. Rooney was bought off by the president of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, a couple of years ago and since then has been producing articles/blog posts/vidoes about the "greatness" of Estonia at regular intervals. Ilves is the main architect behind everything relating to tech stuff, incl. the over-rated over-paid high-risk start-up scene.

    Check out Ilves's Twitter feed. It reveals too frequent interviews with Rooney and too many articles by Rooney that just happen to promote Estonia's tech "miracles".

    Rooney's sycophantic rants about Estonia are an embarrassing read and are fed directly by Ilves.

    Fortunately Rooney does not have a good reputation as a journalist and his corrupted journalism is not taken seriously by the readers of WSJ. Comments below his articles and blog posts prove this point.

  7. EAS, the state-owned body that funds "worthy causes", has been corrupt since its foundation.

    Bribes and nepotism within its board is rife. If Estonia were democratic, which it is not, EAS would be thoroughly investigated and criminal charges brought against its board members and decision makers. The several attempts by members of the public to launch an investigation into EAS's inside dealing have been repeatedly thwarted.

    The unnecessary funding of Robbie Williams's private concert video is just one of many examples. The corporate media, as usual, has largely ignored the subject, printing only the pro-EAS articles. Estonia is becoming a fascist state.

    Thank you for the great analysis of EAS!

    1. Chill down dude :) .

      I guess the go-to excuse on behalf of the decision makers about this is the one given by one EAS executive during the 2008 economic pinch. He said to the public (paraphrasing from memory): "You shall not cut OUR budget because we are the one of BIGGEST import businesses in Estonia!" . Referring to the fact that good portion of the money invested was coming from other sources than Estonian taxpayer. No idea if that was/is still correct but that was the claim.

      So chill out dude, they are just waisting every 2-nd EUR of our money and every other EU-s. No problem to see here, don't cut budget, resume ;) .

  8. Three years ago the Children's Hospital in Tallinn wanted to buy a Pediatric Locomat (robot-assisted walking therapy machine for children with walking disabilities). It would have been the only one in the country and would have helped thousands of children to walk again. The price was 280 000 euros. The Estonian government said it did not have the money.

    In the end the Swiss government funded part of the purchase and the rest came from dirt-poor Estonians, many of whom earn only 300-400 euros a month.

    The 390 000 euros of tax-payers money for the Robbie Williams's video demonstrates perfectly the immaturity and idiocy of EAS and the Estonian government.

    It is not surprising that Estonians of all ages have been emigrating in great numbers for years.

    No one wants to live in a country where funding a pop video ranks above investing in health care.

    Keep investigating and analyzing EAS. Their actions deserve to be brought under spotlight. Name names, if you can. EAS operates also abroad, where it is equally corrupt and useless.

  9. This blog should expand into all other areas of the Estonian life. The corporate media, including the state-run ERR, is not free nor intelligent enough to cover Estonian life. A new independent space is badly needed. Or perhaps guest-blogging here?

    That Estonian media is not free was demonstrated a few days ago by other Nordic countries. The editors-in-chief of the most respected newspapers in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland sent an open letter to Britain's prime minister David Cameron. The open letter was published in the Observer (the weekend Guardian).

    In the letter the four editors expressed their concern over the illegal arrest of David Miranda (Glenn Greenwald's partner) and asked for the criminal charges against him to be dropped. All four editors stressed that journalism should not be confused with terrorism and demanded that journalists have complete freedom to carry and process their material (through Heathrow airport).

    Estonia is rightly considered to be part Scandinavian because the cultural and linguistic heritage. Yet none of the Estonian media editors was asked to be signatory to the open letter.

    The reason for this is that the Nordic countries do not consider the Estonian media to be free, open and intelligent. The Nordic countries have the most free and democratic media in the world. In Estonia, all media, including the state-run ERR, are yellow, shallow, dictated by some high-up official or businessman and often factually incorrect or skewed.

    There has been no analysis of EAS's funding in the media, nothing but an occasional interview with some EAS's funding recipient praising EAS sky-high. A funding body with millions of taxpayers money to spare needs a thorough scrutiny. It is done regularly in the Nordic countries, yet Estonian media are not democratic enough for a critical article. We need more blogs like doteebubble to make up for what the Estonian media is actively surpressing.

    1. _That Estonian media is not free was demonstrated ... _

      I can only see one demonstration here - you're an idiot.

    2. Only thing that was demonstrated here is the known fact that Estonia is small and unfortunately also marginal internationally in some/most areas of life.

  10. Why is everyone here Anonymous?

    1. How is TRex with a random pic different from anomymous? :D

  11. I usually agree with the articles written here but for that one I would argue that at least the funds were used for something useful. Why would RW choose Estonia? yes it's nice and Lauluvaljak is special.. but is it to him? Not sure they would even consider Estonia. So for once they moved their asses to get something that will really promote Estonia. Hundreds of thousands of people will watch the DVD and get to know Estonian. Definitely not wasted money in my opinion.

    1. I think they would have picked Estonia anyway, even without Estonia paying them to do it. It looks a lot nicer than most of the other places he performed, from a cinematic perspective.

      RW was already set to perform in Estonia when they chose to make the DVD.

    2. Just based on an assumption. What if another country offered money? At least they secured it.

      I prefer this to money being waster on some of the other useless companies you have previously featured on that blog ;)

  12. Cause they are afra! Afraid of what - thats a good question :-)

  13. Seriously, I think it is one of the weakest analysis here. But not because it is good thing to promote Tallinn with EAS money. Exactly the opposite- with the same money we should have promoted (in case we want to give money to music promotion) young estonian bands or producers who promote young promising estonian artist. Now we just gave it to another "establishment". ASI or BDG the same thing- people who know how to talk EAS out of money, who already made money and now are making more money--- using resources which should go to people who have ideas, and huge enthusiasm to learn and create (and even make mistakes), not to people who merely try to prove that they have good connections with established industry players.
    Why the analysis stops saying that government should do PPP? Why do you think that experienced greedy promoter do not know how to manipulate poor inexperienced EAS clerk out of money. I would say that while in EAS we have some experience in IT (although clearly less than ASI etc. have), milking EAS out of music promotion money is like taking candy from the child (at least for fat-cats like BDG boys).