: NPR's Zoe Chace has some answers.
ZOE CHACE: This is a place you will probably never be.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BABY BOY")
BEYONCE: (Singing) Baby boy, you stay on my mind, fulfill my fantasies.
M: (Rapping) Come on, girl, tell me how you feel.
CHACE: The stage is small. The dancers are few. Beyonce's in a black leotard, performing her chart-topping songs with the kind of production you expect at Madison Square Garden. But instead of an arena audience, it's a small crowd at an exclusive supper club, sitting at tables, popping bottles. And the person footing the bill for this affair: Hannibal Gadhafi, son of the Libyan president. If it sounds a little sketchy to you, you're not the only one.
M: It is inherent in these situations that the act doesn't want to do it. So the person who has the gig always overpays. And the question is: How much can I pay so that you will overlook your inhibitions and say yes?
CHACE: Bob Lefsetz is a music industry analyst. He says private concerts like the one Beyonce played for the Gadhafi kid are going on all the time - for dictators, oil barons, big corporations, heads of state. The agencies who represent these stars usually have an entire department devoted to booking gigs like these, selling a valuable commodity.
M: The number one thing that a fan wants with a star is access. So they're providing that access.
CHACE: Frequently, these shows are in out-of-the-way places. St. Barts seems to be popular.
M: Usually, they send a private plane; you perform for an hour; you get paid a million dollars; you can be back in your bed that evening. It is very easy money.
CHACE: There is no ethical litmus test for such shows.
M: One manager told me that we don't vet the buyer so much as we vet the cash.
CHACE: Ray Waddell covers live entertainment for Billboard magazine. It's so declasse to talk about money, especially if you're very, very rich. But nonetheless, the manager will often ask for a major deposit before the gig happens, to make sure the money's good. Waddell says the top artists really do need that money.
M: They come to count on it. You know, it could be 10 to 20 percent or more of their overall touring revenue.
CHACE: Danny Goldberg does artist management for Gold Village Entertainment. He doesn't think that artists who did shows that later look controversial should feel obliged to donate the profits.
M: At the time that people did shows for Gadhafi, he was friends with the American government. I'm not sure if any of my clients would have been interested, but I don't think I would have had the clairvoyance a year ago to know that he would be dropping bombs on his own people today.
CHACE: Zoe Chace, NPR News.
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