LOS ANGELES -- It's almost like a secret club -- a ceremony to which the public hasn't been invited, a fantastic concert only a few select people get to see, and a tribute for a place that doesn't exist.
The actual hall hasn't been built.
The hall's nominating and voting members themselves don't know how they were chosen to be part of one of rock music's greatest honors.
No wonder it leaves those on the outside somewhat confused. The public hears about the legendary music jams and wonders exactly how these performers -- from the Beatles to Ma Rainey -- get chosen for the honor.
"It's not televised. The public can't vote. The closest the fans get is seeing the photos in Rolling Stone a month later," said Goldmine magazine editor Jeff Tamarkin, on the hall's nominating committee.
But that's changing as the hall reaches out more to the public. The eighth annual gala is set for tonight at the Century Plaza Hotel ballroom in Century City, Calif., the first time it has been held outside New York City.
The talent lineup is perhaps the best so far. Inducted this year are Creedence Clearwater Revival, Van Morrison, Cream and more.
And organizers are making it more accessible to the public to drum up more support -- and funds -- to build the hall.
For the first time, the average Joe can buy a ticket and attend.
"Because we're doing it in a bigger venue, we're making some tickets available to the general public," spokeswoman Linn Tanzman said.
Make that the richer-than-average Joe. As of Friday, tickets for the black-tie event were available -- starting at $750 each, with good seats going for $1,500.
The purpose is to raise money to build the actual hall in Cleveland. So unless you're inducted or introducing an inductee, you pay.
"Everyone pays, including the artists," Ms. Tanzman said. That means Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and all the other musicians there to jam coughed up the money for a seat. "They always have," she added.
What will you get for your money? An evening that many describe as a once-in-a-lifetime event.
The performances are legendary. While having 50 musicians on stage at once can often bog down the show, the lineup of talent cuts across all boundaries.
In past years, ceremony regular Mr. Springsteen has performed a duet with John Fogerty on "Born on the Bayou" and "Long Tall Sally;" Mr. Springsteen, Mr. Fogerty, Mr. Young and George Harrison jammed on "Like a Rolling Stone" with Mr. Dylan; Mr. Springsteen and Mick Jagger joined for a rousing "Satisfaction." The list goes on -- Mr. Harrison and Billy Joel on "I Saw Her Standing There," Yardbirds reunions, the Who roaring through "Won't Get Fooled Again," Tina Turner helping Mr. Jagger and Keith Richards on "Honky Tonk Women."
"Because it's not broadcast live, there are always a lot of wonderful, unexpected things that happen," Ms. Tanzman said. Jam sessions last until late in the night. "And that's OK. We're not on TV. We have no timetable. It's just very impromptu, a fun night for the artists."