Brad Kava of The Mercury News spoke to Ozzfest promoter Sharon Osbourne by phone on Tuesday (February 6) about the organizers' announcement that admission to the 25-city heavy metal tour will be free this summer. Sponsors will pick up the tab for the tickets, bands will not be paid to perform and expenses will be covered from sales of food, drinks and merchandise. It will be the first national tour ever to do so. "We needed to change something and we didn't want to change the format," Osbourne said. "We were putting offers to all these bands we wanted to tour with and they were coming back to us with exorbitant prices that would have meant we had to put the ticket prices up, which I won't do. With Ozzy's audience being younger, they can't afford any higher prices." Gary Bongiovanni, analyst with Pollstar, the concert industry trade magazine, said: "I don't think this will become a new business model, but it is a great marketing tool for them." "They want $300,000 plus to do an hour's work onstage," Sharon Osbourne said of some young bands. "I'm just not doing it. Last year nearly destroyed us, paying, paying, paying, and we just can't do it again." Tickets would be paid for and distributed by sponsors, such as Jägermeister, which will present acts at the second stage, located in amphitheater parking lots. Osbourne, 54, said she plans to upgrade the festival's midway atmosphere, losing the tattoo parlors and cheesy carnival games and replacing them with interactive booths sponsored by technology and video game companies. "There has to be another way to do it,'' she said. "If you get the sponsors that believe in you and you get new great cutting-edge bands that just want an audience, we'll give them the audience and we'll let everyone in free." Last year, though, she said, the fees earned by bands, including about $325,000 a show for the group SYSTEM OF A DOWN, almost sank the festival. "They're taking four years off, we paid them so much, and we're still working," she said. "I'm not doing that again."