Just back from an interesting weekend in Waukesha WI and Elgin IL hosting two events that could not have been more different. The event Saturday called Rockesha was a debacle which has now been well documented. I have been doing this more than 30 years and what happened there was a first for me. It is not totally unheard of however so perhaps I have just been lucky. I must once again be 100% clear that I have absolutely nothing to do with any of the events I host. Like a band I am hired by promoters often through agents as a host to be there, make announcements, do meet & greets, etc. Contrary to what some assume I have nothing to do with who plays or how they are run. I had never worked with this promoter in the past and like the bands was hired through an agent to appear there. The bill consisted of Eric Martin, Firehouse, Lita Ford, Quiet Riot and Warrant and started around 4P. The weather was not great but not horrible. Light rain and drizzle mainly. First sign of trouble was when I arrived and just before I was to intro Eric some crew guys asked if I had been paid. Like the bands my deposit was paid. I usually don’t stress about when I get paid my balance as I have never had an issue in the past. Most bands however do not take the stage until their balance is paid and that is standard. Still despite the warnings I went on stage and introed Eric and said hello and Eric played his set. I briefly met the promoter when I first got there named Rob Lyons. He was stressing to say the least about the very light turn out and need for a walk up. Still I never thought what would happen would go down. Any promoter knows they assume complete risk when booking a show. The artists are paid the same guarantee regardless of how many show up. It’s simple math; cost of the show vs what is made in ticket sales. A promoter has a number he needs to sell to break even with the objective to sell more than that and make money. But in the event a show tanks all promoters know they must have the funds to cover the loss. A promoter often doesn’t know how his year will be until he sees how many winners and losers (and break evens) he had. I’ve never had a promoter not have the money on hand and need loans and walk up sales to try and pay balances to artists. And that is exactly what happened Saturday. After Eric finished Firehouse was next up, and they were not going on until their balance was payed. Again, this is standard in the business because never forget, it is called the music BUSINESS. When Rob had no funds and couldn’t come up with them the band left. Then Lita was up. She drove to the venue but same deal. No pay no play, and left. At this point maybe 2 hours went by with nothing happening on the stage and the promoter visibly upset and conflicted on what to do. He could not pay anyone, there was no real walk up ticket sales, and he had no ability to come up with anyone’s money. He sent a rep up on stage and told the crowd the show was cancelled. Quiet Riot and Warrant (outside of Robert Mason who sang with Eric one song) never made it to the gig at all from the hotel since word was out it wasn’t going to happen. For the most part the fans that were there, while upset, didn’t act out too much. A credit to them indeed since they had no idea (and still don’t) if they will get refunded and some traveled great distances. Everyone got screwed here and lost. I took on expense of a plane ticket, rental car and left a family vacation in NJ at the beach to be there.  Everyone took on expense and lost money. Just read a FB post from Rob who gave his story and took all the responsibility, as he stated himself, it begins and ends with the promoter here. I have emailed him and have not yet had a response and truly hope he does the right thing for all impacted. If you follow on Twitter you know I posted what went down as it happened. No need for BS reasons as to why this didn’t happen.  I will keep you all posted if/when I learn more.

Last night could not have been more different. The bill was Bret Michaels, Dee Snider and Tom Keifer. Nice setting in Elgin IL, pro set up backstage and on stage, great promoter and staff. Don’t mean to give so much less ink to this but it went the way a concert should go so no drama to report. Thanks to Ron Onesti and his staff for having me. Was good to see Dee and his solo band for the first time who even did some Widowmaker and covers as well. Tom sounded great and Bret closed with a fun set and had Dee and Tom join him for R&R All Night as a closer. Bret is the hardest working guy out there now and does some great things behind the scenes. He and his band were headed to Nebraska to help with tornado relief. Thanks to all the fans I met at both events this weekend. Sorry Rockesha was a disaster. Let’s hope he makes things right for everyone in the near future.

36 Responses

  1. I have seen this movie before, and have been victimized by “promoters” who fail to live up to obligations. That said, trying to put on a large-scale festival-style show is fraught with risk; I also worked at a large venue with an indie promoter, so I have seen both sides of the live music biz. There are many pitfalls, and many unforeseen expenses that can drain the account of even well-funded individuals. The downside is that we then end up with having only multi-national corporations like LiveNation or AEG be able to afford to put on these kinds of events, because they can afford the occasional poorly-attended show. My advice to would-be “promoters” is: Do some homework. One of the biggest costs is the cost of the venue, and bringing in Productions (i.e. Sound/Lights?staging) and the labor to set up, run, and take it down). Everything is negotiable, so work the best deal you can by getting multiple quotes from different vendors. Another big expense is transpo and lodging for crews, bands and so on. Again, the same rules apply. The actual performers are, naturally, going to be a huge expense, and a “hidden” cost is often what’s known as “Riders”, essentially a laundry list of amenities that artists want to make their performance and stay there easier, and generally pertain to food and beverages -although some acts do pad their contracts. Again, a lot of this is negotiable. Be smart, ask questions, learn how to cut deals, and always have more than you think need in the bank, just in case.

  2. Wehw! People at Rockesha dodged a bullet. They are LUCKY they didn’t have to listen to crap from Lita Ford’s, Firehouse, and Warrant. Second rate bands in their time, and between the three of them I don’t think have even 2 songs worth listening to!

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