Exclusive Sam Smith Winery Concert Paid by Taxpayers

An exclusive concert in a vineyard featuring a popular British singer caused a big public outcry after it was revealed that the event was financed by taxpayers.

Guests invited to Sam Smith’s private performance at d’Arenberg Cube in South Australia’s premier wine region last week included influencers, TV presenters and big names from across the country.


However, most South Australians drew the short straw as their tax payments went to fund the event without the ability to buy tickets.

South Africa’s Tourism Minister Zoe Bettison told reporters on Monday that the “exciting opportunity with Sam Smith” was part of a plan to bring tourism back to its pre-war glory.

“Obviously people have some questions about this, but what I’m looking at is exactly what we’re looking at as we rebuild our tourism economy,” Ms Bettison said.


Ms. Bettison said the 205 guests were paid for by taxpayers, including airfare and lodging, and radio stations were paid for hosting the competitions.


“My job is to develop tourism in South Australia,” she said.

“My job is to lead, my job is to go out there and look for great opportunities. This was one of those opportunities, and we’re going to go out there and promote our state and develop tourism to make $12.8 billion by 2030.”


The ticket winners were joined by 90 influencers and media representatives.

“This is a new way of marketing,” Ms. Bettison said.

“We have to go out and act differently.

“I mean, Sam Smith has 35 million followers on his Instagram and 714 million people have been reached during his time here in South Australia.”


She said the advertising cost equivalent was $14 million.

“It’s a measure of the free media you got that we didn’t pay for,” she said.


When asked how much the performance cost, Ms Bettison said there were confidentiality agreements in place, but assured that it was “much less than the $1 million offered.”

She said that over the past five weeks, people have had the opportunity to win tickets to the event.

Ms Bettison was asked about cross-state influencers flying and hosting, and said about 40 of them were paid for with tourism sector funding.

“Part of the agreement was the involvement of Sam Smith and his team, and of course the influencers,” she said.

“When we look for different influencers, we look for different influencers, people who have a lot of followers. I think they have a protocol that they follow. It’s not just about the number of followers and posts, but the interaction with those posts, so there are certain formulas that they pay attention to. But what’s really important is having a variety of talents that we’re also connected to.”

She said some food and drinks were provided, but did not give exact details of what guests received at the event.

However, messages posted on social media by one of the influencers in attendance provided enough free drinks to make them “confused”.

Frustrated Australians took to Twitter to share their disapproval of the taxpayer-funded event.

“How about highlighting other areas in the state? All South Australians obviously paid for Sam Smith, so send them somewhere else,” said one user.

“This is unacceptable!” said the other.

“How much of OUR money was spent on hosting an invitation-only event?”

Ms Bettison said Frontier Touring presented an “innovative opportunity”.

“I am focused on developing tourism here,” she said.

“It’s a new way – it’s a new way to get people here who have many, many followers, who post and have that kind of influence. This is what we have to do to get back to where we were and go beyond.”

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