Brian Murphy, executive producer for TBA Entertainment and Rockfest’s promoter, was not about to apologize for the marketing of Rockfest. “It is what it is,” he told POLLSTAR. Under different circumstances, he probably would have written off Guster‘s actions as indie-rock exuberance. Not this time.

For one thing, the band said a quote by Murphy in the Chicago Tribune sparked its rebellion. The day before the show, the newspaper ran a story in which Murphy said that Rockfest is designed to be a “national platform for corporate sponsors to market their products.”

Miller told POLLSTAR that quote hit him hard. “He didn’t even use the word ‘music.’ I just couldn’t believe it. But what really bummed me out was, we’re part of the problem. This is about establishing a specific demographic for them to market their products to. And we’re like the light that’s drawing the moths in. That wasn’t the deal.”

According to a number of people directly involved in promoting the show, that was, in fact, the deal, and Guster knew it.

There was more to Guster’s contract with Rockfest than the concert. When the band signed on for the show, it also got a promotional package that its record company (Sire/London) would not have been able to buy for them.

“They enjoyed all the perks and benefits of being involved in the show,” one Rockfest rep said. Those benefits included getting their music video played in 105 Hard Rock Cafe locations worldwide over a 90-day period. It was also played in all 800 MusicLand/Sam Goody stores during that time.

Murphy said the corporate sponsor commitments allow the concert to be presented on television and the Internet, and that Guster would benefit from the exposure.

The band’s contract for the concert bore the Hard Rock Cafe Rockfest Presented By Oldsmobile Alero title as well as the logos of all of the corporate sponsors, and specifically stated that there would be on-site sponsor promotions and marketing.

“We will take some of the blame for thinking that the Rockfest was going to be a little less in-your-face,” Miller said. “It’s not totally their fault because we did get ourselves into this. … We were not really made aware that commercials were going to be shown. I felt it would be wrong for us to act like we were OK with that.”

People involved with the festival said Guster seemed to be OK with the promoters and the sponsors during a party the night before the show. The day of the event, the band was seen selling its records in the on-site Sam Goody store. “They hung out and watched the show until Metallica finished their set,” one source said.

Miller told POLLSTAR repeatedly his onstage antics were not meant as an attack on Oldsmobile or Rockfest. “The issue for us is, when is this going to stop? They needed sponsors for this event because there’s no way this could be a profitable event without corporate sponsors. It points to a larger problem about the music industry.”

And he had nothing but praise for Michele Bernstein, the Hard Rock International talent buyer who handled the band’s contract.

Bernstein, who by several accounts had to fight hard to even get Guster on the bill, was not feeling the love last week. “Guster was hired to play the Hard Rock Cafe Rockfest Presented By Oldsmobile Alero. If they were in any way confused as to the nature of the show and who was paying their fee, they should speak to their management,” she said in a statement.

“I think the sponsors were super-pissed, maybe even rightly so,” Miller said. “And [withholding the money] was the only thing they could do to punish us. They will have to pay us but I’m sort of glad it turned out this way because maybe a few people are addressing the issue.”

The Rockfest folks were not impressed by the band’s convictions. A representative summed up Guster’s behavior like this: “At best, it was like biting the hand that feeds you. At worst, it was like being invited to someone’s house for dinner, enjoying the wine, the meal and the dessert, and then shitting on the table.”